With some of the most interesting and talented artists and bands coming from there (Rush and Godspeed You! Black Emperor are just a few example), Canada has always been a very inspiring and important land for music.
Musk Ox from Ottawa is no exception, with their unique sensitivity for creating emotional and inspired music by their beautiful blend of chamber music, neofolk, post-rock and romantic melancholia.
A little over a month ago, they have finally released after 7 years the new album Inheritance; a moving and magnificent work that confirms the incredible talent of the trio able to paint beautiful soundscapes with a cinematic thrilling impact and surprising with even more classical music and progressive influences than the previous masterpiece Woodfall.
On this article is a big pleasure for me to have Nathanaël Larochette, classical guitarist of Musk Ox, but also guitar player of The Night Wound and solo artist.
Below follows a list made by him with 10 of the most influential records of his life, as a musician, artist and of course as a music lover.
When I first got this album on cassette as a kid back in 1996 I had no idea it would eventually be regarded as one of the greatest hip-hop albums ever, I just liked the songs I saw on TV.
I still remember listening to this non-stop on my Walkman while on a family camping trip, barely able to grasp the layers of meaning and multitude of references but still completely enthralled.
Even after 25 years I’m blown away by the level of lyrical, musical and conceptual depth this album has to offer. Without realizing it, The Score laid the foundation for my deep love of concept records and cinematic musical storytelling.
NOFX “The Decline” (1999)
Punk rock will forever have the reputation of de-throning prog rock in the late 70s with its energetic and direct approach to songwriting so far removed from the conceptual epics, celestial imagery and flowing capes that had taken the world by storm earlier in the decade.
While it seemed like punk and prog could never exist together, “The Decline” manages to offer some of the best music either genre has to offer.
Koji Kondo “The Legend of Zelda – Ocarina of Time OST” (1998)
When Ocarina of Time was released in 1998 it was an event. Everything about it was epic beyond description and decades later it remains one of the greatest games of all time. Although this selection wasn’t a traditional album I listened to growing up, I probably absorbed this music more than any record I owned thanks to the hours of immersive gameplay I consistently lost myself in.
The grand sense of drama, adventure and hopeful innocence this music evokes has influenced every album I’ve released and will continue to inspire all of my future music.
Raymond Scott “The Music of Raymond Scott – The Reckless and Turkish Twilights” (1998)
Although this album was a recent discovery, when I was first introduced to Raymond Scott’s quintet music I felt like I had been listening to it my whole life. It all made sense when I discovered that his themes had been featured heavily throughout the cartoons I had grown up watching.
Although I would loosely classify this as jazz, it’s more like rhythmically intricate classical music played by jazz musicians with a progressive metal sense of inhuman technicality and tightness. It’s also worth mentioning that the drummer on these recordings is none other than the father of famed film composer John Williams, so the next time you hear the Cantina Theme from Star Wars you’ll know who influenced it.
Rachel’s “Music for Egon Schiele” (1996)
This album had such a massive impact on me that it single handedly inspired the foundation for the current Musk Ox trio lineup.
Composed for a theater and dance performance about the Austrian painter Egon Schiele, this instrumental album is both breathtakingly beautiful and heartbreakingly emotional. Composed by the group’s pianist Rachel Grimes, I highly recommend exploring her solo work as well as the rest of the Rachel’s discography.
My guitar teacher Dr. John Higney, who I studied with when I moved to Ottawa in 2005 to pursue music, introduced me to this record as well Raymond Scott’s music so I am eternally grateful to him.
Ulver “Kveldssanger” (1996)
Although it feels like each album on this list is part of its own larger list of similar, influential albums, I have to give credit to Kveldssanger for planting and sowing the magical seeds of dark folk in the soil of my musical heart.
The atmosphere and simplicity of this record had a huge impact on me as a beginner guitarist and continues to inspire and challenge me as an experienced one. The early Musk Ox demos were pure Kveldssanger worship, just as all dark folk records are and forever will be.
Agalloch “The Mantle” (2002)
When I first fell in love with metal in the early 2000s I was hugely influenced by the albums released by The End Records at the time. Virgin Black’s Elegant…and Dying, Green Carnation’s Light of Day, Day of Darkness and Winds’ The Imaginary Direction of Time could have all appeared on this list but I have to give the top honours to Agalloch’s The Mantle.
I firmly believe that metalheads can be categorized into two groups: those who swear by The Mantle and those whose friends won’t stop recommending them The Mantle. Easily their most expansive record, The Mantle is a grey sky, coastal rain and cold wind put to sound. The atmosphere this album exudes is truly timeless and although their entire discography is flawless, The Mantle is their most unique release.
Opeth “Still Life” (1999)
When discussing my personal guitar heroes, it’s difficult to place anyone but Mikael Akerfeldt at the top of the list and this album is the reason why.
Akerfeldt’s heavy riffs alone make Still Life a classic but when you add his unique and evocative acoustic fingerstyle playing the results are absolutely singular. Learning Benighted note-for-note was one of my first acoustic achievements and playing it through now remains just as rewarding.
Camel “The Snow Goose” (1975)
When I first discovered Opeth I had yet to discover prog rock but kept hearing Mikael Akerfeldt mention the band Camel.
I was working at a record shop at the time so I picked up their first four albums and immediately fell in love with them. Camel is one of those bands that doesn’t immediately grab your attention but manage to consistently reappear in your playlist until you realize you’ve been listening to them for 15 years.
Like many prog bands, the early albums are widely regarded as their classics with The Snow Goose being the peak for myself and many a prog fan. The recent concept album An Embarrassment of Riches from my instrumental chamber metal project The Night Watch is directly influenced by The Snow Goose, even if I didn’t realize until afterwards.
Mogwai “Mr. Beast” (2006)
In 2006 I was at a friend’s house whose roommate played in an instrumental band. I recognized a Godspeed You! Black Emperor record on his shelf and mentioned that I had never heard their music before. He proceeded to play me their Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada EP and I was converted to post-rock on the spot. He then mentioned that he had some songs from the upcoming Mogwai album Mr Beast and after playing me Glasgow Mega Snake and I Chose Horses I became a lifelong fan.
While GY!BE and Mogwai were both foundational to my love of post-rock I have to pick Mr. Beast as my most influential record of the genre. Although every Mogwai album is fantastic in its own right, Mr. Beast, to my ears, represents every facet of Mogwai’s sound at its most captivating.
Musician and songwriter Don Anderson is better known as the lead guitarist of Portland based atmospheric metal band Agalloch, one of the most interesting musical outputs coming out of the metal universe at the end of 90’s and active until 2016.
Started as a studio project, Agalloch’s initial goal was mostly experimenting with melancholic music, taking influences from here and there and melting them into a unique sonic experience made of doom, black metal, early post-rock, neofolk, post-industrial, krautrock, psychedelia and progressive.
Agalloch is probably the best example of a band outside genres and speaking of Don in particular he has a very distinctive approach to his instrument providing very melodic metal guitar solos perfectly mixed with a classic rock attitude (that Gilmour/Pink Floyd influence on The Hawthorne Passage beautiful solo is evident) and folk sensitivity (the hazy EP The White (2004), the acoustic parts of The Mantle (2002), and in particular the track A Desolation Song completely written by him). His style was also complementary with John Haughm’s (the other guitar player and singer) way of playing that was more post-punk/Fields of the Nephilim inspired with some loud post-rock/GY!BE moments too (Limbs).
But Don Anderson’s music is not just Agalloch, his solo project Sculptured is another impressive band worth to listen. Started as a 90’s melodic extreme metal band with the first album The Spear of the Lily Is Aureoled (1998), he later enriched the band’s formula with some more epic and cinematic elements on the second Apollo Ends (2000) and finally destroyed all with the weird and abstract technical prog of the last album Embodiment (2008).
I’m very happy to have Don Anderson as guest for this new article, showing his personal 10 records list, which consist in albums that had a particular impact on him and his life, as a musician and as a listener.
Yngwie Malsteen “Rising Force” (1984)
If it weren’t for Malmsteen, I wouldn’t be playing guitar.
The first record I heard was actually Trilogy, but this was and still is my favorite.
To those who think Malmsteen is just a shredder, listen to the track Icarus Dream Suite Opus 4; so much feeling and a highly underrated vibrato.
Death “Human” (1991)
As I gradually got into death metal I knew the music could achieve a high level of musicianship, but I didn’t really find it until I heard this record.
I came from a formal musical background and although I loved the speed and extremity of both thrash and death metal, I really wanted a band that also had chops.
Death was that band.
Metallica “And Justice for All” (1988)
This was a gateway album for me.
My introduction to truly heavy music and thrash generally began with the gradual volume swell of the track Eye of the Beholder. That riff sounded so incredibly heavy to me. It changed my life and musical trajectory.
I stopped exclusively listening to guitar heroes and began to seek out other bands like Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax, Sepultura, and soon after death metal and black metal.
J.S. Bach “Orchestral Suites” played by The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields with Neville Marriner (1971)
Bach was also a gateway composer for me. It was his music that showed me polyphony and how multiple melodies work together.
It also helped that Malmsteen constantly talked about him.
These suites are so powerful and perpetually revealing, as all of Bach’s music is. After Bach I went straight to the 20th century and listened to Stravinsky, Shostakovich, and the experimental ones like Xenaxis, Nono, Cage, Ligeti, and Penderecki who I all love.
But, if you were to ask me about the composer that matters the most to me, it’s J.S. Bach.
Maurice Ravel “String Quartet in F Major” played by The Emerson String Quartet (1990)
Yet another gateway work.
As I said, I went from Bach to the 20th/21st century and skipped all the classical, romantic, and late-romantic composers. I wrote many of them off as too “ornate” or “excessive” in their lush orchestration.
Honestly, I was just being close-minded and overly dogmatic about contemporary classical music with its atonality, inaccessibility, and difficulty. But, this string quarter is simply brilliant. The 2nd movement with the plucked strings is the most famous part and for good reason.
This led me to devour all things Ravel like the piano works and especially Tzigane. In his music I can hear the work of many 20th century composers like Reich and Glass; he really is a red thread leading to the minimalists of the 20th century.
From Ravel, I finally opened up to Debussy, Saint-Saens, Borodin, and others.
Emerson, Lake, & Palmer “Brain Salad Surgery” (1973)
And this record was my gateway into progressive rock.
I was a music theory student in college when I discovered ELP and found in them, as I did with Death, the perfect combination of musicianship and rock music. There was also enough weirdness to captivate my rebellious side as well.
From here I discovered Van Der Graaf Generator, all the great Italian Prog bands, and finally prog from Germany, France, Belgium, Scandinavia, and South America. I became a total prog-head.
Steely Dan “The Royal Scam” (1976)
The title track is a doom song. I could see Bell Witch covering it.
But, more importantly the guitar solo in Kid Charlamagne is easily one of my favorite guitar solos of all time. Larry Carlton’s note choices and intervallic relationships are always surprising and pure ear candy.
I’m a huge fan of the Dan with their precise recordings, hip lyrics, and again, incredible chops. They simply sound like no one else.
Various Artists “Grindcrusher: Earache Records Sampler” (1989)
So, to risk sounding like an old man… “back in the day” we didn’t have the Internet or the ability to literally hear anything, anywhere. And if you were a 12–16-year-old kid, you didn’t have much money.
So, I spent my money very carefully which meant maybe buying a tape a week. Having access to a sample like this one allowed me to hear a whole lot of bands for the price of one cassette.
So from here I got into Carcass, Entombed, Nocturnus, Carnage, OLD, Naked City, and many others. This comp is so important to the history of death metal simply because it offered an affordable way for people to hear all these crazy bands.
Charles Mingus “Mingus Plays Piano” (1964)
Everyone knows Mingus as a composer and double-bassist, but not enough folks talk about how great of a piano player he was.
I don’t think he played the piano that much, but this record reveals just how intimately connected he was to the piano.
What you have here is an incredibly personal recording of Mingus improvising on the piano. It’s captivating and inspiring. Along with all the other great Mingus albums, this one remains in my top 3.
Current 93 “Of Ruine or Some Blazing Starre” (1994)
During the mid to late 90s, I was really exploring outside the confines of metal.
Current 93 was a group that wildly expanded my idea of experimental music, especially with the combination of electronics and acoustic guitar.
I was also taken by David Tibet’s whole worldview: the combination of religion, the apocalypse, the occult, and childhood innocence.
From here I explored what me and my friends all referred to as the “World Serpent Family” which was the label/distro at the time that released groups like Coil, Nurse with Wound, Legendary Pink Dots, and many others. That whole post-Industrial scene was really inspirational.
With their unique blend of decadent post-rock, emotional shoegaze and goth rock recalls, Klimt 1918 is with no doubt one of the most innovative and interesting bands active nowadays, contributing to enrich with impressive records the already wonderful roster of german label Prophecy Productions.
Born in Rome in 1999 by musicians who already played in several local metal and rock bands (the brothers Marco and Paolo Soellner with bassist Davide Pesola), Klimt 1918 have started crafting their own musical formula initially with an interesting demo (Secession Makes Post-Modern Music), but above all with the foundamental following albums Undressed Memento (2003) and Dopoguerra (2005), where they paints a cinematic world made of melancholic and nostalgic feelings evocated through excerpts of 80’s and 90’s music, liquid guitar soundscapes and enthrallic melodic vocal lines.
The formula is enriched and never repeated in the same way on the following record Just in Case We’ll Never Meet Again (2008), where they added a solid and consistent dose of post-rock nostaliga and then on the mastodontic double album Sentimentale Jugend (2016), where Klimt shows a darker, louder and even more dreamy side.
On this article, written in both italian and english, it’s my pleasure to have founder, composer and singer/guitarist Marco Soellner here to selected 10 records that had a particular impact on him, as an artist, as a songwriter and as a person.
Tears for Fears “Songs From the Big Chair” (1985)
Songs from the big Chair fu la prima musicassetta che io e mio fratello comprammo quando eravamo bambini. Ricordo che mio padre verso la metà degli anni ottanta cominciò a spronarci ad ascoltare musica che piacesse a noi, diversa quella che potevano scoprire nella sua collezione. Ci dava ogni tanto una cifra destinata appositamente all’acquisto di dischi, così comprammo questo album i cui singoli (Shout, Everybody Wants to Rule the World e Head over Hill) erano in heavy rotation su Videomusic. Ascoltammo questo disco tutti i giorni per mesi e poi per anni imparando ad amare anche brani intimisti meno conosciuti come The Working Hour, I believe e soprattutto Listen che è una perla assoluta, a metà strada tra synthpop e dream wave malinconica. Riascoltandoli dopo 35 anni mi sembra evidente che abbiano avuto un’influenza determinante nel mio modo di scrivere canzoni.
Songs from the Big Chair has been the very first cassette that me and my brother have ever bought when we were kids. I remember that my father around mid 80’s started to encourage us to listen to music we liked, different then the one we could discover from his collection. Sometimes he used to give us some money intended specifically for the purchase of records, so we bought this album whose singles (Shout, Everybody Wants to Rule the World and Head over Hill) were in heavy rotation on Videomusic. We listened to this record every day for months and then for years, learning to love also lesser known songs such as The Working Hour, I believe and in particular Listen, which is an absolute jewel, halfway between synthpop and melancholic dream wave. Listening to them again after 35 years confirms to me in a very clear way that they had a decisive influence on my way of writing songs.
Vangelis “Blade Runner OST” (1982)
Un tempo ascoltavo questo disco per sfuggire all’insonnia e immedesimarmi in una dimensione remota, un futuro/passato bloccato tra i ricordi della mia infanzia e la malinconia per il domani che non ha mai trovato compimento. Continuo ad ascoltare la colonna sonora di Blade Runner nel cuore della notte, a bassissimo volume, quando non riesco a dormire e non trovo altra soluzione se non quella di aggrapparmi ai synth monofonici di Vangelis; anche se ora è come percorrere tutte le strade perdute delle mie aspirazioni. Blade Runner Blues, la canzone che più di tutte evoca la nostalgia lacerante per il non vissuto attua in me una sorta di disconoscimento: un Marco diverso, in un luogo diverso, in una città diversa, un lavoro diverso, persone diverse attorno a me come se da qualche parte nel passato, la linea del tempo fosse stata deviata in una tangente creando un oggi alternativo. Quella tangente è l’unica realtà percorribile, adesso. Del mio vero futuro rimane lo spettro, un aura ectoplasmatica, il segno di un quadro lasciato sul muro per decenni che non mi ricordo di aver mai appeso.
In the past I used to listen to this record as an escape to insomnia identifying myself in a remote dimension, a future/past stuck between memories of my childhood and melancholy for the future that has never found fulfillment. I still listen to the Blade Runner soundtrack in the middle of the night, at a very low volume, when I can’t sleep and I can’t find any other solution than holding myself to Vangelis’ monophonic synths; even if now it feels more like walking all the lost paths of my aspirations. Blade Runner Blues, the song that most of all evokes the piercing nostalgia for the unlived, implements a sort of disavowal in me: a different Marco, in a different place, in a different city, a different job, different people around me, like if somewhere in the past, the timeline had been deflected into a tangent creating an alternate today. That tangent is the only viable reality now. Of my actual future remains only the specter, an ectoplasmic aura, the mark of a painting left on the wall for decades that I don’t remember ever hanging.
Dead Can Dance “Within the Realm of Dying Sun” (1987)
Within the Realm of Dying Sun è un sogno ombroso, una suggestione neoclassica fuori dal tempo. Ha il potere di astrarre l’ascoltatore dalla realtà che lo circonda e proiettarlo in una dimensione di sospensione e rarefazione. Ogni volta che lo ascolto mi sento come un archeologo che trova nel terreno le tracce di un antico dromos sepolto sotto le radici degli alberi. È tangibile la tensione verso il disseppellimento e il rinvenimento. Come se la musica fosse una discesa nella terra, fino alla soglia di una tomba ricavata nel tufo vecchia di tremila anni.
Within the Realm of Dying Sun is a shadowy dream, a timeless neoclassical suggestion. It has the power to abstract the listener from the reality he’s surrounded by and project him into a dimension of suspension and rarefaction. Every time I listen to it I feel like an archaeologist who finds in the ground the traces of an ancient dromos buried under the trees’ roots. The tension towards excavation and discovery is perceptible. As if the music was a descent into the earth, up to the threshold of a tomb carved into three thousand years old tuff.
David Sylvain “Secrets of the Beehive” (1987)
Secrets of the Beehive è uno di quegli album usciti nella seconda parte degli anni ottanta che diluivano l’esperienza new wave nella sperimentazione cameristica, come stava succedendo all’altrettanto seminale Spirit of Eden dei Talk Talk. Un terreno sonoro che poi avrebbe dato i suoi frutti post rock all’inizio del decennio successivo. Sylvian lo registrò quasi per caso mentre stava collaborando con Holger Czukay dei Can a Plight and Premonition l’album ambient che i due fecero uscire alcuni anni dopo. Si tratta quindi di un’opera discontinua, scaturita dall’improvvisazione e da un’incessante ricerca. Lo considero difatti un album di appunti di viaggio. Una sorta di collezione di oggetti sonori raccolti qua e la, ognuno impregnato di sapori diversi ma accomunato dalla stessa aura malinconica e nostalgica. La splendida copertina di Vaughan Oliver che ritrae un arenile marino dove giacciono oggetti trasportati dalla risacca, ha poi indubbiamente influenzato questa mia percezione.
Secrets of the Beehive is one of those albums released in the second half of the 80’s that diluted the new wave experience into chamber experimentation, alongside the equally seminal Spirit of Eden by Talk Talk. A sound ground that would have then created the roots of post rock at the beginning of the following decade. Sylvian recorded it almost by accident while he was collaborating with Holger Czukay from Can on Plight and Premonition, the ambient album that the two released a few years later. It is therefore a discontinuous work, resulting from improvisation and incessant research. In fact, I consider this an album of travel notes. A sort of collection of sound objects taken from here and there, each imbued with different flavors but united by the same melancholic and nostalgic aura. Moreover Vaughan Oliver’s splendid cover, which portrays a seashore where objects transported by the surf lie, has undoubtedly influenced this perception I have on the album.
Fields of the Nephilim “Elizium” (1990)
Ho ancora i brividi se penso alla prima volta che ho ascoltato questo disco, ormai 25 anni fa. Quello che mi ha subito colpito di Elizum è il lavoro straordinario svolto dai due chitarristi Paul Wright e Peter Yates. Le canzoni sono infatti disseminate di feedback, loop concentrici di tremolo, droni ambient e rumori che rendono il sound dell’album tridimensionale e affascinante. La lunga coda di At the Gates of Silent Memory è magia pura: una sorta di liquida, ripetitiva oscurità sovrastata dalla voce indimenticabile di Carl McCoy che declama testi criptici influenzati dalla mitologia sumerica. I brani poi sono tutti collegati tra loro, fusi in un unico stream emozionale. Nascono e muoiono in lunghe scie soniche. Trip totale.
I still have chills when I think about the first time I listened to this record 25 years ago. What immediately struck me about Elizum is the extraordinary work done by the two guitarists Paul Wright and Peter Yates. The songs are in fact soaked with feedbacks, concentric tremolo loops, ambient drones and noises that make the album’s sound three-dimensional and fascinating. The long At the Gates of Silent Memory is pure magic: a sort of liquid, repetitive darkness dominated by the unforgettable voice of Carl McCoy who declaims cryptic lyrics influenced by Sumerian mythology. The songs are also all linked together, merged in a single emotional stream. They are born and die in long sonic trails. Total trip.
Talk Talk “It’s My Life” (1984)
Ho amato tutte le incarnazioni dei Talk Talk: dal synthpop romantico degli esordi, passando per la svolta acustica intimista, fino alla definitiva destrutturazione post rock. Ma il mio disco preferito rimane It’s My Life forse perché mi ricorda l’infanzia negli anni ottanta e poi il periodo dei primi anni universitari in cui cominciavo ad approfondire seriamente la conoscenza dell’universo new wave. It’s My Life è sostanzialmente un album pop concepito per dominare le classifiche. Eppure in esso, come anche nel precedente omonimo debutto sono presenti in nuce tutti gli elementi che avrebbero poi contraddistinto la proposta musicale di Mark Hollis e Paul Webb, ovvero accordi minori, lirismo malinconico e un certo sotterraneo rifiuto dell’edonismo ottantiano.
I loved all the incarnations of Talk Talk: from the early romantic synthpop period, through the intimate acoustic turn, to the definitive post rock deconstruction. But my favorite record remains It’s My Life, perhaps because it reminds me of my childhood in the 80’s and then the period of my first university years in which I began to seriously deepen my knowledge on the new wave universe. It’s My Life is basically a pop album created for dominating music charts. Yet in it, as well as in the previous homonymous debut, all the elements that would later distinguish the musical proposal of Mark Hollis and Paul Webb are present in a nutshell; namely minor chords, melancholic lyrics and a certain rejection of 80’s hedonism.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor “Slow Riot for New Zerø Kanada” (1999)
È sempre arduo preferire un album nella discografia dei GY!BE. Io li amo tutti e non smetto mai di citarli nei miei ascolti. Stavolta scelgo Slow Riot for New Zero Kanada, un EP uscito nel 2000 che contiene Moya quella che io ritengo la loro più bella canzone di sempre. Si tratta di una reinterpretazione della terza sinfonia (Symfonia pieśni żałosnych) di Henryk Górecki sviluppata su un unico, imponente crescendo. Alla fine del settimo minuto, dopo un lungo climax il brano esplode in una cavalcata epica e tristissima. Uno dei momenti più alti del post rock cameristico. Come tutti i prodotti Constellation anche SRFNZK ha un layout semplice ma elegantissimo con scritte e disegni dorati su carta nera opaca color antracite. In copertina è riprodotto il Tohu VaVohu (Senza forma e vuoto) un passo/pittogramma della Bibbia tratto dalla Genesi, nel retro invece lo schema per la realizzazione di una bomba Molotov in italiano. Una sorta di sistema simbolico sulla condizione umana compresa tra la creazione e la rivolta, ovvero il suo momento culminante. La commistione di citazioni religiose/spirituali e politica militante è un tratto della poetica dei GY!BE che ho sempre trovato molto affascinante. Trovo completi la dimensione ieratica e solenne della loro musica.
It’s always hard to choose a favourite album from GY!BE’s discography. I love all of them and I always mention them when I talk about my listenings. This time I choose Slow Riot for New Zero Kanada, an EP released in 2000 that contains Moya, which is according to me their best song ever. It is a reinterpretation of Henryk Górecki’s third symphony (Symfonia pieśni żałosnych) developed on a single, imposing crescendo. At the end of the seventh minute, after a long climax, the song explodes into an epic and very sad section. One of the highest moments of post rock chamber music. Like all Constellation releases, SRFNZK also has a simple but very elegant layout with golden lettering and drawings on matt anthracite black paper. On the cover there’s a reproduction of the Tohu VaVohu (Without form and void) a passage/pictogram of the Bible taken from Genesis, on the back instead there’s the scheme for the realization of a Molotov cocktail in Italian. A sort of symbolic system on the human condition between creation and revolt, in other words, its climax. The mix of religious/spiritual quotes with militant politics is a trait of GY!BE’s poetic that have always fascinated me.I think it fulfill the solemn dimension of their music.
A Silver Mount Zion “He Has Left Us Alone but Shafts of Light Sometimes Grace the Corner of Our Rooms…” (2000)
Nati da una costola dei GY!BE, gli A Silver Mount Zion hanno sviluppato nel tempo uno stile più punk e sperimentale rispetto a quello della band madre. Nonostante tutto, però questo disco, che rappresenta il loro esordio discografico, risulta ancora legato alla matrice post rock/cameristica anche se con qualche eccezione/divagazione vocale, che poi diventerà l’elemento caratterizzante degli album successivi. Mi riferisco soprattutto a 13 Angels Standing Guard ’round the Side of Your Bed, un brano costruito su delle tracce di cantato fatte suonare al contrario che donano alla composizione un atmosfera fantasmagorica assurda. Forse la canzone più spettrale e malinconica che abbia mai ascoltato.
Started by three members of GY!BE, A Silver Mount Zion have developed over the time a more punk and experimental style compared to their parent band. But even so, this album, which represents their discographic debut, is still linked to the post rock/chamber style even if with some exceptions/vocal digressions, that will later become characterizing elements of the following albums. I am referring in particular to 13 Angels Standing Guard ’round the Side of Your Bed, a song built on vocal tracks played backwards that give the composition an absurd phantasmagoric atmosphere. Perhaps it is the most spooky and melancholic song I’ve ever heard.
Explosions in the Sky “Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever” (2001)
Sono molto legato a questo disco perché l’ho ascoltato per la prima volta di notte, in treno, mentre tornavo da Parigi nel lontano 2003. Ricordo che all’improvviso il convoglio si è fermato in mezzo alla campagna e il personale ci ha fatto evacuare a causa di un incendio. Ho ancora chiara in testa l’immagine delle fiamme altissime che si sprigionavano da una delle carrozze e illuminavano i campi avvolti nell’ombra. Io avevo ancora le cuffie con Those Who Tell the Truth che girava nel cd player portatile. Mi sembrò quasi un segno del destino, una sorta di predestinazione aver ascoltato per la prima volta una band con un moniker così perfettamente armonizzato a quella visione assurda e affascinante.
I am very attached to this record because I’ve listened to it for the first time at night, during a train travel, on my way back from Paris back in 2003. I remember that all of a sudden the convoy stopped in the middle of the countryside and the staff evacuated us due to a fire. I still have a clear image of the towering flames rising from one of the carriages and enlightening the fields shrouded in shadow. I still had headphones on with Those Who Tell The Truth running through the portable cd player. It seemed almost a sign of destiny, a kind of predestination to have heard for the first time a band with a moniker so perfectly harmonized with that absurd and fascinating vision.
Burzum “Filosofem” (1996)
Scelgo di inserire Filosofem nella mia lista per due motivi: per testimoniare la mia lunga appartenenza al movimento death/black metal, iniziata nei primi anni 90 e conclusasi due lustri più tardi, e per ricordare a me stesso come quell’esperienza dello spirito non sia stata casuale ma invece legata a un preciso modo di stare al mondo. Qualcosa che non si perde mai del tutto con il passare degli anni ma si trasforma in una sensibilità differente e complementare. Burzum testimonia molto bene questa circolarità. I sui riff sono concentrici, come droni che catturano il pensiero e lo fanno girare e focalizzare sul trascendente. In virtù della sua natura meditativa questo black metal è eterno. Si è adattato a stagioni diverse della mia vita e continua a fare parte delle mie giornate. Brani come Gebrechlichkei e Rundgang Um Die Transzendentale Saule Der Singularitat sono scivoli verso l’infinito, strade di accesso alla religiosità, anche se si parte da solide basi laico materialiste. Non mi sono mai preoccupato di approfondire troppo la poetica norrena di Varg Vikernes. Non mi interessa il suo modo di vedere il mondo. Non ho mai considerato il suo personaggio politico/messianico. Ascolto da 25 anni la sua musica unicamente per foraggiare la mia personale, privata psichedelia.
I decided to include Filosofem on my list for two reasons: to testify to my longtime membership in the death/black metal movement, started during early 90’s and ended two decades later, and to remind myself how that experience of the spirit was not random, but instead linked to a specific way of staying in the world. Something that you’ll never completely lost over the years, but that becomes a different and complementary sensitivity. Burzum testifies this circularity very well. His riffs are concentric, like drones that capture thoughts and make them spin and focus them on the transcendent. By virtue of its meditative nature this black metal is eternal. It has adapted to different seasons of my life and continues to be part of my days. Tracks like Gebrechlichkeit and Rundgang Um Die Transzendentale Saule Der Singularitat are slides towards infinity, access roads to religiosity, even if everything starts from solid materialistic laical basis. I’ve never been interested to delve too deeply into Varg Vikernes’ Norse poetics. I don’t care how he sees the world. I’ve never ever considered his political/messianic persona. I have been listening to his music for 25 years solely to feed my personal, private psychedelia.
First article from this new format which consist in 10 influential/important records lists made by guests.
This time is the turn of vocalist and songwriter Giuseppe Emanuele Frisone, also known as Heliogabalus or G.E.F., known among the italian underground to be mastermind of several projects with a very strong and particular conceptual imaginery, which is a trademark of his musical creations and artistic awareness.
If you don’t know his bands i can’t forget to mention Thecodontion and their pretty good album Supercontinent released last summer, which is a very original and unique project with a concept based on prehistoric geology, palenthology and jurassic creatures; and i don’t even already mentioned the musical side, which is extreme metal with only bass and drums and no guitars at all, with a few strong and inspiring atmospheric passages (i don’t remember to have ever heard bass guitars to sound so spacey and melodic).
In this list you’ll find 10 Records that had a particular significance on him both as artist and as person, that, mentioning his words, don’t necessarily correspond with his absolute favourite records of all time.
A last thing to add about this article is the fact that i was initially planning to write it in Italian (my first language), but since this artist is making music for an international audience, i will keep both italian and english versions; next times for personalities known in Italy only i will probably keep the whole article in italian.
Franco Battiato “Patriots”(1980)
Ho sempre amato Franco Battiato e i suoi brani li ricollego alla mia infanzia e ai viaggi per andare dai parenti. Di lui mi piace sia il periodo sperimentale sia quello più pop, ma ho scelto in particolare l’album Patriots perché è pieno di citazioni e riferimenti a posti reali, fatti storici, elementi culturali, e penso che questa cosa mi abbia influenzato particolarmente. Oltretutto pur essendo un disco già del periodo pop l’ho sempre trovato molto sperimentale e innovativo.
I’ve always loved Franco Battiato and i usually link his songs to my childhood and the travels i used to do to reach my relatives in that period. I like both experimental and pop period from Battiato, but i’ve chose the album Patriots in particular beacuse it’s full of quotes and reference of real places, historical events and cultural elements; i think this component influences me in a solid way. Moreover, even if this record is already part of his pop period, i’ve always considered it a very experimental and innovative album.
Fabrizio De André “Non al Denaro Non All’Amore Nè al Cielo” (1971)
Per De André vale un po’ lo stesso discorso fatto per Battiato, dal momento che anche lui lo collego alla mia infanzia. Scelgo Non Al Denaro Non All’Amore Nè Al Cielo perché contiene le canzoni di De André che mi sono rimaste più impresse e in cui secondo me la sua espressività narrativa è al culmine.
For De André is basically the same of Battiato, since i link him as well to my childhood. I’ve chosen the album Non Al Denaro Non All’Amore Nè Al Cielo because it contains his songs that have been stucked with me the most; i also consider them the highest point of his narrative expression.
Bathory “Hammerheart” (1990)
Hammerheart è il disco che mi ha fatto capire che amo il metal, mi ha sempre fatto emozionare come un bambino e ricordo ancora oggi la prima volta che l’ho ascoltato. Da quel momento ho anche avuto una fascinazione per i vichinghi che negli anni è andata un po’ scemando, ma nonostante questo riesce sempre ad esercitare la stessa magia su di me.
Hammerheart is the album that made me realize i love metal, it has always been able to move me like a child and i still remember the first time i’ve listened to it. Since that moment i also started to have a fascination for vikings, which has been fading through the years, but beside that i still always feel the same magic.
Sonic Youth “Dirty” (1992)
Ho conosciuto i Sonic Youth dopo i 20 anni, quindi non ero proprio piccolissimo. Con Dirty mi si è aperto un mondo, perché è stato il primo disco dei Sonic Youth che ho ascoltato e da lì sono diventati rapidamente una delle mie band preferite. Tra l’altro su Dirty c’è Theresa’s Sound World che è praticamente un brano antesignano del post-black metal (e sì, è del 1992) e questa cosa mi ha sempre affascinato.
I’ve discovered Sonic Youth after i turned 20, so i wasn’t that young. Dirty was the first album from them i’ve ever listened, it really blew my mind and they started to become fastly one of my favourite bands. Among other things on this record there’s the song Theresa’s Sound World which is basically a precursor track of the post-black metal genre (yes, it’s from 1992) and i’ve always been fascinated by this fact.
Portal “Outre” (2007)
Quando ho iniziato ad ascoltare metal estremo, amavo il black metal ma non il death metal. Se oggi ho cambiato idea una buona parte del merito è di Outre dei Portal, perché mi ha offerto un’idea differente su come concepire il genere. Da lì in poi ho riapprofondito il genere e sono riuscito a capirne meglio le fondamenta, tanto che oggi preferisco il death al black metal.
When i initially started to get into extreme metal, i was in love with black metal, but not with death metal. If today i’ve changed my perspectives it’s because of Outre by Portal, that gaves me a different approach to the genre. Since then i started to get more into it and i started to understand its form of expression, so much that now i prefer death metal than black metal.
Cocteau Twins “Treasure” (1984)
Quando ho ascoltato per la prima volta i Cocteau Twins mi sono innamorato della voce della cantante Elisabeth Fraser e delle loro atmosfere eteree. Sono stati loro a dare il la per farmi conoscere meglio il dreampop e lo shoegaze, proprio con Treasure.
When i’ve listened for the first time to Cocteau Twins i immediately fell in love with Elisabeth Fraser’s voice and their ethereal atmospheres. It’s because of them and their album Treasure that i started to know more about the dream pop and shoegaze genres.
Primus “Pork Soda” (1993)
Come strumento mi ha sempre affascinato il basso. Quando ho ascoltato i Primus per la prima volta non avevo mai sentito il basso venire utilizzato in questo modo, con un ruolo così da protagonista. Ma non è tutto qui perché Pork soda mi ha saputo trascinare con le sue canzoni che ho sempre avvertito come strane, diverse in tutto e per tutto.
I’ve always been fascinated by bass guitar. When i’ve listened to Primus for the first time i had never heard before a bass guitar used in such a lead way. But there’s more, since Pork Soda has been able to fascinate me with its songs that i’ve always considered weird and different than everything else.
Ved Buens Ende “Written in Waters” (1995)
Sin dai miei primi approcci con il black metal mi piaceva l’idea di andare oltre, di capire se un genere così estremo ed oltranzista potesse essere fuso con altri elementi. Written in waters è stata la prima risposta che ho ricevuto, che mi ha fatto avvicinare al cosiddetto avantgarde black metal, con le sue forti venature progressive amalgamate con la violenza del black metal.
Since my first approaches with the black metal genre i was fascinated by the idea of going over and mixing such an extreme and uncompromising genre with diverse musical elements. Written in Waters has been my first answer regarding that and it started to drag me into the so called avantgarde black metal, with its strong progressive vibes perfectly merged into the brutality of black metal.
Big Black “Songs About Fucking” (1987)
Discorso simile a quanto fatto per i Sonic Youth. Ho conosciuto le varie band di Steve Albini solo negli ultimi dieci anni, e tra queste i Big Black mi sono rimasti impressi soprattutto per Songs About Fucking. Mi ha stupito il connubio di noise e punk e le tracce intrise di nichilismo fino al midollo, insieme a un’interpretazione singolare di The Model dei Kraftwerk.
With Big Black my approach has been similiar to Sonic Youth. I’ve discovered Steve Albini’s bands only during the last ten years, and among them, Big Black impressed me in particular with their album Songs About Fucking. I was astonished to hear this mix of noise and punk and this tracks totally steeped in nihilism, there’s also a very singular interpretation of The Model originally by Kraftwerk.
Behemoth “Demigod” (2004)
Non ascolto più i Behemoth da diversi anni, ma con Demigod c’è stato il mio primo incontro con il metal estremo. All’epoca non ritenevo possibile che potesse esistere della musica così “malvagia”. Questo mi sconvolse e mi mise quasi paura ma al tempo stesso anche fascino: fu proprio da quel momento che decisi di approfondire quel tipo di musica, per cui a distanza di anni rimane un album indimenticabile.
It’s several years i haven’t listened to Behemoth now, but with Demigod i got in touch for the first with extreme metal. At the time for me was impossible that such “evil” music could exist. This shocked me and i was almost scared, but fascinated at the same time: It was in that moment that i’ve decided to get more into this type of music, for this reason after many years this is still an unforgettable record.