Monday, 3 December 2018

SOLE SURVIVOR

Panda Fight Club come from Meda, a town located in an area called Brianza, not far from Milan. The band came to life in 2009 and immediately started to work on a concept album telling the story of the last panda, an animal of rare beauty condemned to extinction by the ruthless laws of natural selection, a bit like progressive rock. The musical palette of Panda Fight Club mainly draw on seventies influences and bands such as Premiata Forneria Marconi, Biglietto per l’Inferno or De De Lind, but they're not stuck in the past and you can hear in their sound also elements of metal and hard rock mixed with a good deal of irony and freshness. The current line up features Christian Colombo (drums), Dario Errigo (keyboards, Moog), Federico Nespoli (guitar), Lorenzo Nespoli (bass) and Simone Pagani (vocals). Their debut album, entitled Ultimo (The last one), was digitally self-released in 2015 while the physical copy on CD followed in 2016. In my opinion it's an amazing work and it's really worth listening to. 


The beautiful instrumental opener “Heihe 2058 (Overture)” sets the atmosphere and takes us in the dreamy world portrayed by the beautiful art cover painted by keyboardist Dario Errigo. There’s an excellent interaction between guitar and keyboards perfectly backed by a brilliant rhythm section… Let’s go! China, year 2058. In a forest on the mountains still lives a Panda, the last one… 

With a sudden change of scenery “Fame senza fine” (Endless hunger) takes us in the middle of a banquet. The theatrical, almost operatic vocals play the role of the master of the house: a powerful, unscrupulous, voracious tycoon whose richness and haughtiness seem to have no limit. His greediness and gluttony are enormous, Pantagruel or Gargantua if compared with him were just picky people without appetite, he can have everything but he wants more, something particularly rare and precious... For his next banquet, the main course has to be the last panda on Earth! 

Back to our hero! “Ultimo” (The last one) begins by an electric guitar arpeggio, then soaring vocals come in to play the role of the solitary panda wandering in a forest with no borders. The atmosphere is tense and melancholic, the mood of the protagonist is blue while the forest is compared to a cage without bars nor locks. Desperate, downhearted, sole survivor of a species on the brink of extinction... Ultimo is the name they gave to him, a name that sounds as a sentence to death.


The sarcastic “Animalisti” (Animal activists) marks another change of scenery and introduce us to another kind of danger that threatens the poor animal. The music here every now and again recalls Area and Magma while the frenzied vocals play the role of some intransigent, crazy animal activists speaking up for animals rights. They want to capture Ultimo to compel him in some way to breed and extract from him some blood and DNA samples to clone him and preserve in this way his species... 

The aggressive “Caccia nuova” (New Hunt) describes another threat for the panda, a merciless hunter. Here the vocals play the role of the human predator and try to express the feelings of the hunting man and the reasons that push him set off on and adventurous journey just for the pleasure of killing his prey. The predator comes to life where the prey dies, a new hunting trip begins...

Panda Fight Club 2016

Back to our panda! “Braccato” (Chased) is a frenzied piece that describes the last moments of freedom of Ultimo and his breathtaking efforts to run away and escape from all the people who want to capture him. Eventually, who is the winner? We don’t know. The track ends by the sound of a shot...

The psychedelic, almost mystical “Sogno alla chetamina” (Ketamine dream) tell us that the gun used to shoot at the panda was loaded with a powerful narcotic. In fact, ketamine is a medication mainly used for starting and maintaining anaesthesia that provokes a trance-like state while providing pain relief, sedation, and memory loss. Now the poor animal is dreaming, and in his dream he changes into a blue mammoth with the wheels, a bus, a dodo, he’s falling down in a deep abyss... You can hear also some voices speaking around him, speaking to him. There are some doctors who try to wake him up...

The surreal “Il risveglio” (Awakening) ends the album with a coup de théâtre. Slowly the silence is broken by the rain, the fog clears, the protagonist emerges from his state of unconsciousness and… Surprise! The panda is not a panda but a man who can see the light of a new, brighter day. He’s not alone any more but just a man among other men. Anyway the relief last a while since he still feels as a sole survivor in his heart... 

On the whole, a very good album with a curious storyline!


More info:

Sunday, 2 December 2018

THE OTHER SIDE OF WHITE NOISE

Side C were a young band from Verona marked by diverse approaches, mainly stylistic, with contaminations ranging from blues to funky-jazz and hard rock, always within the boundaries of progressive rock (Jim Russell). Despite some line up changes, they had been active performing live on a local basis from 2006 to 2012 and in this period self-released two demos: Stati d’alienazione (2009) and the live Andare via… (2011). The first one was recorded by a line up with Laura Bressan (vocals), Michele Zanotti (electric and acoustic guitars), Thomas Pessina (piano, organ, synth), Giulio Stevanoni (drums) and Paola Cantachin (bass, keys). It features four nice tracks, three sung in Italian and one in English. 



The opener, “L’imperfezione” (The imperfection), is an ironic piece about the endless flaws of the human race and has a solemn pace and powerful, passionate vocals. The second track, “L’altro lato” (The other side), starts with an acoustic guitar arpeggio and soaring keyboards that remind me of Le Orme, then a jazzy interlude follows and leads you through a dark, dreamy path in search for the hidden sides of the human nature driven by excellent vocal parts. “Slowly Dies” is the only track sung in English and in my opinion the less convincing one while the complex, introspective closer “Nuova speranza” (New Hope) is a kind of glance towards the sky in search for new light coming from a man who feels like a wax mask looking for new experiences… Well, if you find my words too confused or hermetic have a try and listen to this work on MySpace or YT!


All in all, despite the inexperience of the band, in my opinion on this demo you can find many good ideas and appreciate the great potential of the musicians involved. 

Side C, Stati d’alienazione (2009). Other opinions:
Jim Russell: All the tracks are for the most part simply wonderful. Side C pulls together listener-friendly progressive rock as played by many modern bands these days, using melodic music and catchy hooks to pull the listener in, but thankfully they move beyond that as well... (read the complete review HERE).



The live EP Andare via… (Going Away) was self-released by Side C in 2011 with a renewed line up featuring Laura Bressan (vocals), Michele Zanotti (guitar), Thomas Pessina (keyboards, piano, vocals), Alessandro Danzi (bass) and Andrea Sbrogiò (drums). It was recorded on June 18, 2011 during a concert at the Blocco Music Hall in San Giovanni Lupatoto, Verona. It shows the improvements of the band on stage and gives us the chance to listen to four previously unreleased, interesting new tracks that would have deserved a better fortune and a place in the set list of an official studio work. The performance was very good and the theatrical, confident vocals by Laura Bressan stand out backed by skilled musicians... 



But this line up did not last long and, unfortunately, Side C never reached the goal of releasing a properly recorded full length album before disbanding. Their legacy lies here and we can only imagine what the band would have done if things had gone differently by listening to these tracks on their Myspace or on YT...

Side C, Andare via… (2011). Other opinions:
Jim Russell: It is not easy for prog bands find gigs in Italy I'm told and I hope Side C is able to continue for a long time, and eventually records a full length studio album. This live EP certainly proves they deserve the shot. The new musicians were solid choices and the new material is inspiring. Very enjoyable, bravo Side C! (Read the complete review HERE)


Il Rumore Bianco 2013

From the ashes of Side C and on the initiative of Thomas Pessina, Michele Zanotti and Alessandro Danzi, in 2012 came to life a new band named Il Rumore Bianco that by the end of 2013 self-released an interesting EP entitled Mediocrazia with a line up featuring Eddy Fiorio (vocals, synth), Michele Zanotti (guitars, sax), Federico Lonardi (guitars), Thomas Pessina (keyboards, synth, vocals), Alessandro Danzi (bass) and Umberto Sartori (drums). According to their Facebook page, although the main source of inspiration is certainly progressive rock, Il Rumore Bianco (the name means White Noise) tried to shape a particular and personal style drawing also on jazz, electronic, ambient and post-rock and in my opinion the result is really good... 



Mediocrazia is a kind of mini concept album dealing with social and introspective themes that starts with “Tutto un sogno (Parte I)” (All A Dream, Part I), a track describing in music and words the crises of a man crushed by the daily grind, unsatisfied and downhearted, who tries to find an escape in alcohol and pills and wishes to go through his looking-glass, a bit like Alice in Wonderland, to see what lies beyond his nightmares...

Next comes the melancholic “Il vestito buono” (The Sunday dress) that tells about the efforts of the protagonist to write a letter to his ex-girlfriend who left him in the middle of his personal crises, leaving him alone, prisoner of his doubts and of his lack of self-esteem...


The introspective, nervous “Il primo attore” (The first actor) describes in words and music the reflections of the protagonist who slowly becomes aware of his condition and feels the need to change. He realizes that he lost the right way and got trapped in the perverted logic of false myths and conformism. Now he feels like a baby who wakes up to be catapulted from his world of dreams full of expectations into a dull reality…

The long, complex “Tutto un sogno (Parte II)” ends the EP. The atmosphere is ethereal and dreamy. In the abstract world of his dreams the protagonist feels confident and at ease, he does not have to tell lies to survive pretending to be what he’s not. He would like to remain in this world where he can set free his imagination but… He’s aware that as soon as the dream will melt away he’ll be again a slave of reality. He closes his eyes because he knows that tomorrow is going to be another gloomy day...

On the whole, a good work that deserves a try! You can listen to the complete EP HERE.

Il Rumore Bianco, Mediocrazia (2013). Other opinions:
Jon Neudorf: Although short, just under thirty minutes, the band packs a lot of music into these four tracks. This is progressive rock with good complexity fusing on other styles like jazz and ambient. Guitars and keyboards are both used effectively. Lots of edgy guitar riffs and a myriad of keyboard sounds creating sonic soundscapes that are at times quite ethereal and dreamy, with a definite quirkiness. King Crimson did come to mind and seems to be a big influence and while there is a retro flavour here there are modern elements as well all helping to elevate the sound... Mediocrazia is an impressive debut and I highly recommend it to fans of Italian prog and prog rock in general... (read the complete review HERE).



After the first promising EP, Il Rumore Bianco worked hard on their compositions for their first full length album entitled Antropocene (Anthropocene) that was recorded at the Sotto il Mare Recording Studios in Verona, released in late 2016 on Altrock/Fading Records and distributed by Ma.Ra.Cash Records. It features a renewed line up with Alessandro Zara (lead vocals), Michele Zanotti (guitars, sax), Giacomo Banali (guitars), Thomas Pessina (keyboards, piano, organ, synth) and Alessandro Danzi (bass). During the recording sessions they were helped by some former members of Side C and Il Rumore Bianco such as Andrea Sbrogiò (drums), Umberto Sartori (drums), Federico Lonardi (electric guitar) and Eddy Fiorio (synth) while Carlo Cappiotti is credited as a guest backing vocalist on one track. The title of this work refers to a proposed epoch dating from the commencement of significant human impact on the Earth's geology and ecosystems, including, but not limited to, anthropogenic climate change (definition taken from wikipedia) and the art cover by Davide Zuanazzi gives an idea of the musical and lyrical content of the album...



The nervous opener “Al crepuscolo dell’anima” (At the dusk of soul) tells about the contrast between the tendence of humanity to self-destruction by means of wars and violence and men’s need of love and self-respect. The piece ends with the noise of a shot after a quote from a speech by J.F. Kennedy (Address before the American Newspaper Publishers Association, April 27, 1961). Confident that with your help man will be what he was born to be: free and independent...



The caustic, abrasive “Mediocrazia” (Mediocracy) depict the loss of the sense of identity of a man who feels lost among other people and reflects about how difficult is to get rid of the sense of mediocrity that rules in the modern society and emerge from the mass.

The jazz-rock “Il capitale umano” (The human capital) every now and again could recall Area and tries to convey a strong criticism against consumerism and all the behaviours that can transform a man into a member of a herd without personality. Programmed obsolescence of creation, dictatorship of money and selfishness, structural classism, drugs and tobacco addiction… Like a broken compass men get lost in a place where time stands still.



The following “Tempio pallido” (Pale temple) starts by a delicate piano passage and features a dreamy atmosphere. It depicts a kind of transcendental experience in a parallel world where you can feel really free, where there’s nothing to touch, there’s no time nor dimension, no boss nor money, no temple nor gates. Your soul can wander everywhere without limits, resting in peace for the eternity...

The dark, jazzy “Tephlon (Club)” is an inspired instrumental track that leads to the long, complex “Il giudice e il bugiardo” (The judge and the liar) that depicts in a surreal way the trial of a man who passed away, drowned in his silence. The music starts by a slow pace, the atmosphere is filled with mystery and jazzy touches. Hanged on a rope and dragged into oblivion, now the protagonist is sitting on a chair in a judgement room crowded by abstract characters, in touch with the worst part of himself, trying to reanimate what he’s not any more... Then rhythm and tension rise. The protagonist observes the scene from the outside like a fake man who observes a liar to eradicate worn out emotions, looking for hidden truths smothered by endless lies… Always trying to wake up what he is no more!


Il Rumore Bianco 2016

The title track ends the album. “Antropocene” (Anthropocene) is divided into two parts. The first one starts by delicate piano chords and dreamy vocals. A man with a bitter-sweet smile who is coming to the end of his journey takes a sit beside your opaque thoughts… The second part is more aggressive and theatrical vocals begin asking questions about ethic and morality, common sense and social networks. The tone becomes accusatory when touching issues as egocentrism and hypocrisy to stir your conscience, hoping to wake you up from your guilty numbness, sooner or later… A very good conclusion!

On the whole, a very nice album that needs many listening and a good comprehension of the lyrics to be fully appreciated.

You can listen to the complete album HERE

Il Rumore Bianco, Antropocene (2016). Other opinions:
Olav Martin Bjørnsen: Il Rumore Bianco isn't a band to inspect if you tend to favor the inviting and compelling varieties of progressive rock. But if words like challenging, quirky and perhaps even difficult finds your favor, and you enjoy bands described in this manner to explore dark landscapes and using multiple sets of genre elements, then "Antropocene" is most likely an album that will find favor with you. A dark, twisted and innovative production… (read the complete review HERE)

More info: