Monday, 20 September 2021

FROM A DESERTED BEACH

I Giullari di Corte (the name means “the court jesters”) took form in Bologna in 2002 on the initiative of bassist Matteo Balestrazzi, drummer Alessio De Angelis and violinist Michele Poggio. After a first, immature demo, in 2003 the band went through a long period of hibernation due to the departure of Michele Poggio. In 2017 the project came back to life with a renewed line up featuring, along with the original rhythm section, multi-instrumentalist Paolo Zacchi and in 2020 the band self-released an interesting debut album entitled Presa di coscienza, a conceptual work about a story of spiritual rebirth where they blend vintage sounds and original ideas... 
 

The opener “Nautilus” is a good instrumental track inspired by seventies sounds. According to an interview with the band, it tells of a smuggler thrown overboard from a ship by his accomplices who awakens on a deserted beach and begins his spiritual path thinking about his past. The piece starts by the dark sound of the sea, then a bass solo pattern and obscure organ waves take us on the empty land...

The following “Vent'anni spesi così” (Twenty years spent like this) begins by a slapping bass line and an electric guitar riff, then frenzied organ surges and a pulsing drumming add tension and deep purple colours. It’s another good instrumental piece that leads to the jazzier, reflective “L'ombra di Sherlock Holmes” (Sherlock Holmes’ shadow). According to the band, here the music tries to evoke a sort of introspective journey in search of useful clues to understand what does really matter in your life, to evolve and become a better person... 
 

Next comes “La cicala e la formica” (The cicada and the ant) whose title was inspired by a famous Aesop’s fable while the music alternates relaxed atmospheres and darker passages, all sprinkled with a pinch of jazz. It leads to the excellent “Viaggio in treno senza biglietto” (Journey by train without ticket) whose melodic lines every now and again could recall Genesis’ White Mountain. It’s the first sung track of the album, the music and lyrics evoke the image of a military train leaving the railway station directed to the front, a one way journey without ticket for many soldiers and their heavy burden of broken dreams and lost memories. Nonetheless, for the survivors a new awareness will rise...

“Presa di coscienza” (Awareness) opens with a nice piano passage and an atmosphere that could recall Il Banco del Mutuo Soccorso. In the second part of the piece a disquieting, almost out of tune vocal melody describes a rainy night where a new hope is growing... “Il prezzo” (The price) follows in the same vein complaining about the cost humanity has to pay for a war. What’s the truth behind the conflict? 
 
I Giullari di Corte on stage, 2019
 
 
The instrumental “Il messicano” (The Mexican) is lighter and mixes the atmospheres of seventies Italian soundtracks with reggae and a carefree attitude. Then it’s the turn of “Dolcetto o scherzetto?” (Trick or treat?), a lively track full of energy that resumes the experience of a man who tries to follow the flight of the angels and falls down betrayed by his vanity and a trick of the devil. Then the instrumental “Sabbatho Nero” closes the album paying homage to Black Sabbath...

On the whole, a nice home brewed work although, in my opinion, the vocal parts are not always up to the task.

You can listen to the complete album HERE

More info: 

Wednesday, 8 September 2021

A STRANGE SUBMARINE KINGDOM

Il Buco del Baco (the name means “the bug’s hole”) is a strange, mysterious project based in Milan. According to their website, the band came to life in 1970 under the name Gli Altri and disappeared soon after the recording sessions of what should have been their first album. According to their biography, in 1971 the band escaped an unlikely plane crash, got hibernated in an iceberg and woke up in 2016 emerging from a long cryogenic sleep... Then, in 2018 they changed their name into the current one and in 2021 released a concept album entitled Sotto il segno della lampreda (Under the sign of the lamprey) on the independent label Lizard Records with a line up featuring Carlo Mastrangeli (drums, vocals), Gianni De Scalzi (bass, vocals), Fabrizio Nocenzi (Moog, piano, vocals), Daniele Graziani (Hammond, keyboards, vocals), Gaetano Trionfanti (guitars, vocals) and Saverio Silvani (flute, vocals). Are the names of the musicians listed in the booklet nothing but pseudonyms hiding their real identity? I don’t know. Are they serious? Maybe not... Anyway, although Il Buco del Baco might look just as the parody of a seventies Italian prog band reunion their music is worth listening to...
 
 
The opener “Lo scafandro di Sandro” (Sandro’s diving suit) introduces the subject matter of the concept, a surreal submarine journey where the protagonist is looking for his sweetheart, a kind of siren called Rosalisca. The music draws unashamedly on vintage sounds and seventies influences while the lyrics tell of the protagonist who borrows the diving suit of his friend Sandro and sets off for his quest into the deep see...

“Mi immergo negli abissi” (I dive into the abyss) and the following “Dimmi, calamaro!” (Tell me, squid!) describe the first impact of the protagonist with the submarine world and its creatures. He meets some scared mackerels and a squid... A man who talks with the fishes asking for information? Well, the atmosphere of this concept is that of a funny comic strip full of irony and double meanings!

“Il disprezzo della sogliola” (The contempt of the sole) recalls Franco Battiato and tells about the meeting with a monstrous, raging sole. Next comes “Un dedalo di corallo” (A coral maze) where the protagonist gets lost into the coral reef, under the mocking glares of a sawfish. Despite the difficult situation he keeps on looking for his goal... Here the music reminds me slightly of BMS.



“Forse è lei” (Maybe it’s she) blends Jethro Tull and Lucio Battisti and tells about the distorted visions of the protagonist who think he sees his sweetheart among swordfishes, sharks, sea urchins, sea anemones, crabs, cuttlefishes and other creatures... But he’s wrong!

Then it’s the turn of the long “Nel regno delle lamprede” (Into the lampreys kingdom) where the protagonist meets a hammerhead shark, a pearly razorfish, a spine trumpet fish, a clownfish, a triggerfish, a blowfish and finally enters the palace of the great lamprey. Here he realizes that Rosalisca doesn't love him: the great lamprey submitted her to his own power reducing her into a state of subjection and there’s no way to bring her up back home with him...

The last track, “Il plagio di Rosalisca” (Rosalisca’s plagiarism), is the weakest of the lot, a clumsy patchwork made of quotes from Lucio Battisti best known songs. Eventually the protagonist emerges from the sea alone and ends up to get drunk at the Milly Bar...

On the whole, a funny exercise of style with some ups and downs that deserves a try.
You can listen to the complete album HERE

More info:
https://www.facebook.com/IlBucoDelBacoOfficialPage/