Categories
Album Lists Senza categoria

10 Records of 2021

Considering that this blog has started exactly 2 years ago with a list based on the best albums of the ending year, this kind of list is definitely impossible to miss here.

There is a lot of good music released this year that deserves some words, I tried to keep it more various possible and hope to inspire someone to discover some new tunes.

At the end there is also an “additional records” section like i did the previous year, if this was not enough. Enjoy!

release date: April 23, 2021

Arooj Aftab “Vulture Prince”

Third album of the Brooklyn based Pakistani songwriter and the one that gave her the biggest recognition around musical circles.

This record is one of the fresher things that came out this year with a unique atmosphere made of exotic vibes, emotional singing and beautiful songwriting; indeed this album is made with different ingredients such as minimal jazz sections, Sufi music, atmospheric pop and evocative eastern folk parts.

Arooj’s voice is also very expressive, tender and beautiful, evoking introspective poems sang in pakistani (with the exception of Last Night, with words by Persian poet Rumi, but translated in English).

Mohabbat is probably the most known track from the record, and for sure one of the most impressive moments of Vulture Prince, able to provide a real magic atmosphere drawed from a remote peaceful paradise located somewhere in Eastern Asia and far from everything chaotic.  The whole album is absolutely unmissable: from the beuatiful serenity of Baghon Main to the melancholic string sections of Diya Hai.

Music from another world.

LANTLOS - Wildhund

Lantlôs “Wildhund”

Longtime comeback from German multi instrumentalist Markus Siegenhort with his main project. 

For people not familiar with this monicker, Lantlôs have been developing a very original formula through the years, adding album to album some new elements to keep Inspiration alive and offering always big quality tunes. This new Wildhund follows the direction explored on the previous Melting Sun released 7 years before it; there’s a lot of heavy alternative rock clearly inspired by Deftones and Hum, but with such a unique vibe made of dream pop/sheogaze atmospheres, altern rock vocal solution and very delightful post-hardcore/math rock inspired moments.

Siegenhort is an excellent songwriter and this record is another proof, especially because it is the first with more “classic lenghty songs” instead of the somehow “progressive structures” used in the previous records. 

Perfect blend of heavy rock and beautiful dreamy soundscapes, absolutely recommended.

Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & The London Symphony Orchestra – Promises  (2021, Blue Marbled, Vinyl) - Discogs

Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & London Symphonic Orchestra “Promises”

Putting more musician’s efforts and inspirations together has always been an interesting way to explore different directions and avoid to do something already done. Well, this is one of the cases when simply reading the names involved you can already be sure is gonna be epic.

This is with no doubt one of the higlights of 2021 and an album that is probably going to survive through the years as an incredible masterpiece.

Floating Points is a british electronic music producer with a great talent for soundscapes and evocative ambient music, while Pharoah Sanders is a giant of jazz; a saxophonist active since the 60’s, author of several masterpieces like Pharoah (1976) and Journey to the One (1980) and collaborations with legends such as John Coltrane, Sun Ra and John Zorn.

This record is like a neverending dream, perfect and intense, permeated by a fantastic nocturn atmosphere that is gonna blow the listener’s mind through ambient visions, blissful electric piano and harp moments enriched by the incredible expression of Pharoah Sander’s sax. 

Last but not least everything is accompanied by London Symphonic Orchestra, that gives the album and absolutely epic and cinematic vibe (listen to the explosion on the sixth movement and tell me if this is not the album of the year). Amazing.

Jaubi: Nafs at Peace Album Review | Pitchfork

Jaubi “Nafs at Peace”

Yes, Pakistan again, and this time with a more obscure record, but still a very impressive jewel.

Jaubi is an ensemble from Lahore and this is their first full-length album. The music is composed by a unique formula which is a mix of modal jazz, classic indian music, raga, eastern folk and some instrumental old school hip-hop reference.

Every music piece is based around a main theme with a strong dose on improvisation developing on it; which makes this record 100% jazz. There’s a massive use of flutes, sax and piano as lead instruments as well traditional indian sarangi. Backing sections includes amospheric layhers, spiritual chants, tabla as well as enthralling drum patterns and guitar/bass lines.

This is a fantastic journey to faraway lands made of sounds from different parts of the world using both typical eastern and western musical solutions. Excellent.

Stereogum's tweet - "Godspeed You! Black Emperor's new album 'G_d's Pee AT  STATE'S END!' is out today. It's the legendary post-rock collective's first  new music in four years, and it rules. Stream

Goodspeed You! Black Emperor “G_D’s Pee AT STATE’S END”

It’s been 4 years from the release of Luciferian Towers and tons of things in the world have happen since then, first of all Covid pandemic, that has completely changed everything around us and has put in heavy crisis every government.

So there’s probably no better historical period for GY!BE’s anarchist and anti-state poetry like this critic and uncertain situation, that really seems to be the state’s end the album is about.

No Godspeed trademark is missing here: there’s their typical military rock progressions on the first gigantic 20 minutes track, which is par se divided in sub-sections, and also some apocalyptic drone and minimalist moments made of interferences, disturbed signals and radio voices.

The typical magic melancholy of the canadian ensemble is also still incredibly evocative as always, crafting magnificent sections on the beautiful Fire at Static Valley and the ginormous anti-state hymn Government Came; cathartic, theatrical and moving pieces of amazing music.

It’s incredible how the band have never lost a gram of inspiration through the years, and how their poetic and strong message has always remained intact and present to current times. Here to finish, a sentence of the band regarding the album:

this record is about all of us waiting for the end.
all current forms of governance are failed.
this record is about all of us waiting for the beginning,
and is informed by the following demands=
empty the prisons
take power from the police and give it to the neighbourhoods that they terrorise.
end the forever wars and all other forms of imperialism.
tax the rich until they’re impoverished.

much love to all the other lost and lovely ones,
these are death-times and our side has to win.
we’ll see you on the road once the numbers fall.

Dijon: Absolutely Album Review | Pitchfork

Dijon “Absolutely”

Debut album of singer/producer from Los Angeles Dijon Duenas, better known as just Dijon. 

This is another definitive highlight of 2021, a record that came out with a strong aesthetical counterpart that gives a lot of strength and originality to the whole package. This choice is mostly marked out by the fact that there is a “film version” of the whole album, where Dijon plays a live version of the songs off the record with a numerous band of friends in a fictional house with instruments and beers everywhere that instill the same feeling of an inspiring and pleasant jamming night with friends.

On a musical side I personally even prefer the “film version” which is rawest, but in certain passages even more expressive, especially regarding the vocals that in some points (Many Times, Big Mike’s) are completely driven by inner emotions and guitar tones that have a very beautiful vintage sound on every song.

However also the studio version have a strong live feeling and it sounds incredibly good giving a real sense of musicianship; there are even talking murmurs hearable in the background and amp’s hiss. 

As already said guitars have a fantastic rock blues tone, with acid and mesmerizing drive distortions, drums are also massive and good to hear, giving a raw feeling that embraces the whole sound field; but instrumentally there are a lot of great developments with solo parts played by piano, overdrive guitar and slide guitar, with also some excellent quiet moments (God in Wilson, Rodeo Clown). Anyhow the album also offers some traditionally produced tracks such as The Dress, an excellent R&B ballad with 80’s recalls.

Regarding vocals and lyrics of course everything is sustained by them; Dijon has a great ability of singing and sharing emotions, with his voice that can be pretty rough, but also tender and introspective in other parts. Definitely Recommended. 

VOLCANIC BIRD ENEMY AND THE VOICED CONCERN | LIL UGLY MANE

Lil Ugly Mane “Volcanic Bird Enemy and the Voiced Concern”

In a pretty unexpected and appreciated way, Travis Miller is back with a new full-length album as Lil Ugly Mane, a record that sounds very different than his previous works under the main monicker, which is also a weird choice considering how many aliases and related projects Miller has started through the years.

Indeed there is no mark left from his aggressive southern rap style, and this new effort takes very different directions such as a strong hypnagogic pop vibe alongside children music with some little jazz and rock influences here and there. 

Also the singing is very captivating and simple in the same time with no rapping at all. Some parts are very catchy, like the weird acid pop of Benadryl Submarine with its enthralling guitar arpeggio or the jazz-y nursery rhyme of Cold in Here.

The use of spoken words, TV-like samples and jingles is massive and it works really well on building a sort of dreamlike dimension made of child memories opposed to adult awareness. 

The instrumental work is very various, it goes from electronic to jazz and rock as well; I would mention the weird alternative rock of songs like Discard or Porcelain Slightly or the abstract pop jazz of Beach Harness as some of the best moments.

This record has been released only digitally on Lil Ugly Mane’s Bandcamp, this is probably not his weirdest release, since Miller has always been great at creating very personal and original music works, but it definitely sounds like nothing else around, and it offers a really great and enjoyable music trip to the listener. 

Album Review: black midi, 'Cavalcade' - Our Culture

Black Midi “Cavalcade”

With no doubt one of the most acclaimed and well reviewed albums of the year; the latest Black Midi’s release is a great work of music, an impressive non-linear and eccentric musical journey. Compared to the previous Schlagenheim the album has a less jamming/improvised approach and the English band has stated this even before the first single John L has been released; Indeed it is even perceptible by listening just to this one, with all its weird tempo changes and structures that sound like a post-punk version of Magma or Comus and its super catchy and captivating main theme.

However the general approach is based on massive experimentation, a very cohesive sound and production and the use of many solo instruments such as electric piano, sax and strings. Cavalcade is able to be convincing when it comes to energic math rock moments (Chondromalacia Patella, Slow) and also when it’s about doing something more tender (Marlene Dietrich, Ascending Forth). I would mention this as a perfect meeting between refined progressive and explosive punk attitude.

BBNG (BadBadNotGood) - Talk Memory Black Vinyl Edition - Vinyl LP - 2021 -  UK - Original | HHV

Badbadnotgood “Talk Memory”

Another record impossible to forget when it comes to list the best of the year. The new album of BBNG is still cinematic and breathtaking maintaining the unique impressive approach on soundscapes of the canadian jazz trio. The first track entitled Signal from the Noise opens the album with a magnificent dark and cinematic atmosphere, with the contribution of Floating Points on production, it is a gigantic 10 minutes musical piece that works as a ticket to outer space. There are tons of incredible moments, that gives to the album a very strong personality and no repetition at all, offering a very fluid listen.

The film-like orchestrations of Love Proceeding and City of Mirrors are completely mind blowing, as well as the progressive explosions of Beside April that offers some of the best rock influenced moments of the album, but also the beautiful ambient/fusion hybrid of Unfolding (Momentum 73) (With Laraaji’s collaboration) and the impressive post-bop of Timid, Intimidating are magnificent pieces of music.

Nala Sinephro - Space 1.8. Bleep.

Nala Sinephro “Space 1.8”

With 8 different movements based on free jazz improvisation and ambient sensitivity, the debut album of this talented London based belgan-carribean artist is absolutely incredible.

The journey offered by the album is mesmerizing, switching between dark and calm meditative introspection to very experimental modular synth leaded electronic fields (Space 3, Space 5), including a lot of perfect jazz sections with expressive drum patterns, nocturnal piano parts and distinctive sax leads (such as Space 2, Space 4 and Space 6).

During the trip Nala Sinephiro is accompanied by a numerous ensemble of great musicians, while she mostly plays synthesizer and harp. The conclusive track (Space 8) is a monolithic 17 minutes work of art; calm, evocative, mysterious and beautiful, with ambient magic similiar to giants like Laraaji or Hiroshi Yoshimura and tender jazz shades here and there. 

Porter Robinson - Nurture - Amazon.com Music

Porter Robinson “Nurture”

Originally announced to be released on September 2020 and later pushed back due to Covid-19, this is the second effort by American electronic music producer Porter Robinson. 

While moving mostly across dance pop fields there is a strong research of emotional tunes, mostly expressed through soundtrack-like piano parts and addictive vocal lines. Robinson is no secret fan of j-pop music and some elements are clearly hearable on many songs, alongside some dream pop/hyperpop vibes that recalls Kero Kero Bonito (collaborators on the song Musician), Charli XCX or No Rome.

Nurture is a really nice example of emotional electro pop made of dancing beats, tender singing with frequent high-pitch and a lot of mind blowing choruses hard to get away of your head; the result is both chilling and moving, definitely recommended to be enjoyed during a summertime sunset.

Additional recommendations:

PinkPantheress “To Hell With It”

Deafheaven “Infinite Granite”

Space Afrika “Honest Labour”

Black Country, New Road “For the First Time”

Wolf Alice “Blue Weekend”

Musk Ox “Inheritance”

Kayo Dot “Moss Grew on the Swords and Plowshares Alike”

Darkside “Spiral”

Low “Hey What”

Clark “Playground in a Lake”

LIghtning Bug “A Color of the Sky”

Marisa Anderson & William Tyler “Lost Future”

Portico Quartet “Monument”

Advertisement
Categories
Album Lists People's Lists

10 Records with Nathanaël Larochette (Musk Ox)

Potrebbe essere un'immagine in bianco e nero raffigurante 1 persona, giacche e albero

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.

You can listen and buy the new Musk Ox album via the following link: https://muskoxofficial.bandcamp.com/album/inheritance

NATHANAEL LAROCHETTE - Invocation - YouTube
Fugees: The Score Album Review | Pitchfork

Fugees “The Score” (1996)

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 - Punkadeka - Punk web Magazine

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 Album Review | Pitchfork

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 - Reckless Nights And Turkish  Twilights (1998, CD) - Discogs

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 - Vinyl LP - 1996 - US - Reissue | HHV

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 reviews

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 | Pubblicazioni, Recensioni, Riconoscimenti | Discogs

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 - Amazon.com Music

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.

Snow Goose | Amazon.com.br

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.

Mr. Beast | Mogwai

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.

Categories
People's Lists

10 Records with Don Anderson (Sculptured, ex-Agalloch)

Episode 39 - with guest Don Anderson (Agalloch, Sculptured) - Curated by  Mirai Kawashima (Sigh) - I Hate Music | Lyssna här | Poddtoppen.se

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.

Former Agalloch Guitarist Don Anderson on 'The White' & 'The Grey'  Reissues, Repairing His Relationship with John Haughm and a Live  Performance Video With Panopticon's Austin Lunn | Decibel Magazine

Buy Rising Force [180 gm black vinyl] Online at Low Prices in India |  Amazon Music Store - Amazon.in

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] | RockWorld.vn

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.

Original …And Justice for All Producer Explains Why He Didn't Work With  METALLICA

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.

Cover of ELP Brain Salad Surgery Album - Keep Contemporary

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.

The Royal Scam: Steely Dan: Amazon.it: Musica

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 LP - Superior Viaduct

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 Lyrics and Tracklist | Genius

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.

Categories
Album Lists

10 Amazing Italian Progressive Rock Albums

Back in late 60’s/early 70’s progressive rock has been a real cultural and artistic revolution and it worldwide influenced bands and artists to make very inspired music with the intention of expand what rock had created till then. Of course we all (i suppose) know the bigger british names like King Crimson, Genesis or Jethro Tull, bands that created solid basis for the genre; but there are also tons of less known bands and scenes all over the world, and in particular in Europe, that have given a strong contibution to the movement. There is Zehul in France (Magma, Zao, Weidorje), Krautrock in Germany (Amon Düül II, Tangerine Dream), the Canterbury Scene (Caravan, Gong, Camel), and the Italian scene: one of the most inspired, prolific and worlwide acclaimed of the entire period.

While USA and UK were experimenting new hallucinating and trippy experiences with psychedelic rock during mid 60’s (which is the direct precursor of progressive rock), Italy remained pretty indifferent to the trend since almost every band was still into beat, with the almost unique exeption of Le Stelle Di Mario Schifano and their sole album Dedicato a (1967), which is a real crazy psychedelic experience “made in Italy”. That’s why the italian prog scene evolved mostly from beat rather than psychedelic rock, sometimes showing some very tender and pop-esque moments, but without forgetting some incredibly weird and dark tunes typical of progressive rock with also many recalls of italian/mediterrean traditional music.

Italian prog season had its higher moments between 1970 and 1975, producing many impressive and incredibly inspired records that still preserves their magic today, after that short period punk had already changed the way of making rock music bringing back simplicity and killing the intricated structures of progressive rock.

This list is of course minimal, and there’s a lot of great stuff from the italian season that remained excluded, it is basically a gathering of some of my favourite ones (but absolutely not the only) according to my personal taste.

Franco Battiato – Pollution – Rock ed elettronica combinati alla perfezione.

Franco Battiato “Pollution” (1972)

Let’s start with a pretty experimental album with a strong dose of electronic music, but probably the most close to a canonic idea of progressive rock from Battiato’s discography. Franco Battiato is currently one of the most acclaimed songwriters in Italy, mostly known for his successful pop songs made during the 80’s, his love for exotic music and philosophy, and for his very eclectic personality that makes him one of the most genuine and creative artists of Italy.

His progressive period includes three records: Fetus (1972), Pollution (1972) (the more rock) and Sulle Corde di Aries (1973) (the more acclaimed and inspired according to critical reception), then there’s a more experimental period followed by a pop/new wave one during best part of the 80’s and then by tons of other records of different genres released from then till today.

This work is a concept album based on pollution, and it is a very particular journey made of unique sounds that evocates exotic and spacey vibes; there’s a very solid rhythmic section of bass and drums that gives a very enthralling touch to the music in particular on the songs Areknames (where there’s also a very distinctive harmonisation of distorted guitars) and Beta. The main ingredient is obviously still Battiato’s EMS VCS3 with its hypnotic sound, very distinctive for most of his experimental works, that here creates an incredibly entrancing atmosphere especially when mixed with the sinister guitars of Plancton. Among effects, samples, classical music references and Kafka inspired monologues, the album continues and ends, leaving the listener a bit confused, but certainly impressed.

Inferno: Metamorfosi: Amazon.it: Musica

Metamorfosi “Inferno” (1973)

Progressive rock is one of the very rare episodes in rock’s music universe where guitars are not predominant or in some cases even absent; this happens in UK with the giants Emerson, Lake and Palmer as the bigger example, but also in Italy with some cases that includes this album.

Metamorfosi is a band from Rome and this album is their second full-length. The concept is a modern re-interpretation of Dante’s Commedia first chapter based hell, indeed on the musical side the atmospheres does an excellent work of evocation, bringing some definitely “infernal” keyboards/synth sounds that may be perfect as soundtrack while crossing the Acheron. As said in the introduction that’s very surprising how a record with almost no guitars at all could bring such sinister atmosphere and how much could be solid, enthralling and intense.

There’s a lot of epicness in the vocal parts and a lot of melody on the lead key’s lines, elements that alongside a use of not extremely technical passages, contribute to give a very immediate and distinctive impact on the listener. Definitely one of the most memorable it-prog records.

√ Alan Sorrenti - ARIA - la recensione di Rockol.it

Alan Sorrenti “Aria” (1972)

Even if he’s most known in Italy as a disco pop singer for some very famous singles released at end of 70’s, the songwriter Alan Sorrenti started his carreer creating some of the most evocative, experimental and weird tunes of the italian prog rock season; His first record Aria is a real jewel absolutely worth to listen.

Permeated by a unique magical atmosphere the album should be intended as a meditative and dream-like journey; it is opened by a dark long suite (Aria) characterized by an impressive and crazy vocal performance developed on a very weird, but yet emotional, musical tapestry with melancholic violin and piano melodies, accompanied by dark folk acoustic guitars and enthralling bass lines enriched by experimental sounds here and there (you can hear synths, effects and even trumpets). With a length of 20 minutes this first side is absolutely unmissable and it is one of the most beautiful and intense things you could hear in 70’s rock in general. Withe the following Un Fiume Tranquillo, Sorrenti continues with dark melancholic folk tunes in a very intimate and meditative form, offering another amazing breathaking song, with melodies and sounds that seems coming from another dimension.

The last two tracks of the album brings some more lighter vibes, but still in a very weird and unique way, confirming this record as an incredible masterpiece absolutely recommended.

Il Balletto Di Bronzo – Ys (1992, CD) - Discogs

Balletto di Bronzo “YS” (1972)

Here we go with another uniqe masterpiece that sounds like nothing else: very dark, atmospheric, hypnotic and cosmic, YS is without any doubt one of the highest points of italian progressive rock.

Balletto di Bronzo was formed in Naples at the end of 60’s as a beat band, but it’s with the addition of the talented keyboardist/vocalist Gianni Leone that things completely changes in a revolutionary way; music becomes heavy, space rock oriented and mesmerizing, confirming YS (second album and only one with this style) as pure progressive perfection.

Gianni Leone’s approach to keyboards is absolutely unique and impressive, alternating different sounds and tones and intersecting them perfectly with powerful bass lines and some very acid guitar distortions, mixing sinister sections with pure heavy rock explosions and almost sci-fi effected sounds. YS is a peculiar trip that sounds like a nightmare where you are trapped through the deep darkness of space with no idea of how to come back. Absolutely amazing.

Arbeit Macht Frei" - Area - Artovercovers

Area “Arbeit Macht Frei” (1973)

One of the most interesting, original and acclaimed rock bands coming from Italy, known for their absolutely unique approach to music; Arbeit Macht Frei is their debut album, considered by best part of the critics not only their best one, but a foundamental block of the whole italian progressive rock season.

The album starts with a female spoken word in arabic recorded in Cairo, Egypt by the band’s drummer Giulio Capiozzo and used as intro of the song Luglio, Agosto, Settembre (Nero); a wonderful track that later evolves in a fantastic table composed of prog rock, jazz, fusion, Soft Machine-esque recalls and a huge variety of mediterrean musical reference from north african music to greek, balkan and obviously italian folk. The album indeed sounds like a magic voyage made of different places and cultures, which is a sort of trademark of Area’s music, also able to push with no limits jazz and avant-garde contaminations played with an incredible sensible approach to the instruments (listen to Arbeit Macht Frei if you want to drown in an ocean of fantastic sax and drums solo expolosions with wonderful organ and guitar melodies). The music is composed by keyboard player Patrizio Fariselli and it is definitely close to perfection especially because it’s performed and often improvised by extraordinary musicians.

Lastly it’s impossible to talk about Area without tributing the singer Demetrio Stratos (died at 34 in 1979), an artist that have become a strong influence all over the world among experimental musicians for his impressive vocal work reached with unique studies on human’s vocal range and singing tecnhiques.

Jumbo – DNA (2006, Gatefold, Vinyl) - Discogs

Jumbo “DNA” (1972)

Formed in Milan in 1969, Jumbo is one of the most interesting bands part of the italian progressive rock movement and this album with the following Vietato ai Minori di 18 Anni (1973) rappresent the peaks of inspiration of their career.

Opened by a long 20 minutes suite on the side A (the wonderful Suite per il Signor K.), this record is a perfect mix of pure hard rock with even blues/country references (especially on the scratchy vocal work and some guitar parts), very impressive flute driven progressive rock parts (needless to say a big Jethro Tull influence can be heard) and baroque sections with piano and acoustic guitar.

DNA is the perfect example of an album that results incredibly cohesive and well crafted mostly because of the band’s great ability of playing and composing music together, perceptible through the ability of assembling different lines and sections to build an incredibly convincing blend.

Here there’s basically the best of italian prog rock: from classical music inspired and acoustic instrumental sections to very heavy guitar driven parts and many emotional melodic moments leaded by piano and guitar; but there’s even a very strong dose of originality, i mean, how many other bands have mixed epic italian hard prog with blues and country out there?

Music Tips: Premiata Forneria Marconi – Storia di un Minuto | 1977

PFM “Storia di un Minuto” (1972)

Certainly the most famous italian progressive rock band and probably the most famous album of the period. PFM (short name version of the complete Premiata Forneria Marconi)  have reached an extraordinary success, way bigger compared to all the other bands, that brought them into international music festivals and music charts and let them survive to the punk period.

This is their debut album and it’s a great lesson of progressive made in the italian way; on first production is absolutely perfect for the years and sounds like a very well recorded and mixed album still today, on second it is an absolutely great record, but i guess this last part was quite obvious.

PFM is able to offer introspective italian 70’s pop inspired moments (Impressioni di Settembre, La Carrozza di Hans), enthralling folk-like tracks (È Festa), hard prog euphoria (La Carrozza di Hans) and even medieval/baroque compositions that reminds the masters of the Canterbury Scene (Dove… Quando). This album shows an almost perfect approach to songwriting and musical execution and La Carrozza di Hans is probably the highest moment, showing very technical but yet emotional classical and electric guitar compositions with magnificent violin and organ solo moments. This formula is also repeated in a very well crafted way on the following album Per Un Amico (1972) recommended as well.

Alphataurus – Alphataurus (1994, CD) - Discogs

Alphataurus “Alphataurus” (1973)

Alphataurus emerges apparently from nowhere back in early 70’s, just time to release this wonderful LP and then completely disappearing the same year (and come back around 20 years later). This is an epic journey and it can be imagined already from the fantastic cover art, very sci-fi-esque, there are synth driven parts that reminds a bit Emerson, Lake and Palmer (Dopo L’Uragano, La Mente Vola) and some more melodic rock tunes (Peccato d’Orgoglio).

There’s a lot of atmosphere here, and very singular soundscapes emerge from the melodies generated by the band’s keys and synths, the song La Mente Vola is probably one of the highest points of the entire record with its unique mysteriousness. Impressive.

Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso – Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso (Vinile Colorato) – Sky  Stone and Songs

Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso “BMS” (1972)

One of the most iconic records from the period released by a legendary band as its first album ever. Everyone interested in italian prog knows and appreciates this, and it is one of the most original, emotionally intense and unmissable albums of that time.

Banco del Mutuo Soccorso is from Rome and beside the incredible and very original voice of Francesco Di Giacomo (1947-2014) the band is known for its very rich compositions made by founder and pianist Vittorio Noncenzi accompanied by his brother Gianni at the keyboards (who played in the band until mid 80’s, when whom role will be replaced by various second guitarist); so, “very extensive male vocals and piano and keyboards played simultaneously with a classical music touch” makes the Banco formula interesting without even listening their music, that omn this record offers an absolutely unique experience.

Opened by an epic spoken word evolving on a melancholic tapestry with flute and guitar the album already shows a strong personality on the first proper track RIP with a very catchy guitar riff accompanied by an enthralling piano section that marks the first part of the song that later evolves into a melancholic section that then becomes pure explosive epicness. Melancholy and epicness seems to be the more appropriated terms to describe the music on several sections of the album always marked by Vittorio Noncenzi’s piano and its unique musical sensibility. There’s also time for weird and dark moments (Il Giardino del Mago) and pure experimentation (Metamorfosi).

BTF.IT >> De De Lind Io non so da dove vengo... - Btf Shop

De De Lind “Io Non So da Dove Vengo e Non So Dove Mai Andrò. Uomo è il Nome che Mi Han Dato” (1972)

Another hidden gem from the italian prog period is the only album released by this obscure band named after a model. Formed in 1967 in the Varesotto area near Milan (where they have later relocated) as a beat band, they’ve then completely evolved their sound with progressive and hard rock contaminations and released this very particular record back in 1972.

The music is very close to the big compatriots bands of the genre such as Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso and PFM, and obviously english titans such as Gentle Giant and Jethro Tull (it’s impossible to not think of My God when listening to the flute solo part on Paura del Niente).  differently than most of the albums from the period, the band here has a lot of guitars, also played with a good distortion tone (not so obvious for the time), moreover the vocal work should be definitely mentioned, with its mellow and tender melodic pop (with even folk recalls) vibes. There are also many excellent parts of acoustic guitars and flute that makes this album a really interesting journey made of ancient memories from the early times of man, alternating contemplative parts, heavy explosions and suspensful sections.