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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso: Garofano Rosso


1) Zobeida; 2) Funerale; 3) 10 Giugno 1924; 4) Quasi Saltarello; 5) Esterno Notte; 6) Garofano Rosso; 7) Sugges­ti­oni Di Un Ritorno In Campagna; 8) Passeggiata In Bicicletta E Corteo Dei Dimostranti; 9) Tema Di Giovanna; 10) Siracusa. Appunti D'Epoca; 11) Notturno Breve; 12) Lasciando La Casa Antica.

A soundtrack to an obscure Italian movie on the rise of fascism in the 1920s, this usually counts as a «proper» entry in the Banco discography — not only does the album incorporate several in­strumentals that were not actually featured in the movie, but most of them do not really sound much like «movie muzak». The only tangible reference to the movie theme is in ʽ10 Giugno 1924ʼ, at the beginning of which an angry crowd keeps chanting "Assassini! Assassini!" (refer­ring to the assassination of a socialist leader by fascists on that day) — but if you were listening to the album without any knowledge of its background, you wouldn't be able to guess what the hell this soundbite is doing there, other than to add a little whiff of the ʽRevolution No. 9ʼ spirit, perhaps (which would not be true: avantgarde sound collages were never on Banco's agenda).

The good news for those who, like me, are not awestruck over DiGiacomo's vocal powers (and, conversely, the bad news for those who are), is that the album is completely instrumental, with the focus placed exclusively on the Nocenzi brothers. The bad news is that it is still cursed by the typical soundtrack curse — although there are no attempts whatsoever here at «dumbing down» the sound, and from all points of view the album qualifies as rigorous symph-prog, it still fun­ctions primarily as background ambience. All the themes are tasteful and range from «pretty» to «ominous», but I was not able to spot any particularly resonant motifs. Except for one — the dark ascending piano pattern that first appears on ʽEsterno Notteʼ and then is re-introduced in ʽTema Di Giovannaʼ. Creepy, doom-laden, and... essentially, borrowed from The Beatles' ʽI Want Youʼ, once you come to think of it (the fact that they changed the last note, which only makes it less effective, only confirms the suspicion).

Overall, this is fairly mellow stuff: forty minutes of witnessing a slow, time-taking competition between the piano and the organ / synthesizer, played out according to an almost baroque code of combat. It does not strive to reach previously unexplored ground — adequately enough for a mere soundtrack, made on order — and there are no moods here that these guys had not already built up to better effect on their previous albums.

The title track, beginning with a bit of free-form «self-adjustment» and then stabilizing into a steady blues-rock jam, was deemed important enough by the band to become incorporated into their live shows — but this is really the kind of number that the Allman Brothers would have done with more spice (and more guitar! that «pastoral synthesizer» thing does get tedious after a while!) on a good day. And it is only overcome in length by ʽSuggestioniʼ, which has almost no noticeable changes in dynamics throughout its eight minutes. Ambience!

«Pleasantly boring» is what I call these kinds of records — acknowledging, at the same time, that obstinate fans of the symph-prog genre could still find plenty of minute delicacies to savor here. Unless you are really obstinate, though, don't bother — your time might be better spent reading a book on the history of the fascist movement, little as that has to do with the actual spiritual con­tent of this particular «quasi-soundtrack».

1 comment:

  1. After listening to some pieces I object placing this album in the progrock category. There is nothing progressive in this music. Endless keyboard and synth noodling doesn't count, given the very tradtional tonality, very traditional structures of the compositions and the very tradtional time signatures.
    That doesn't mean the album is bad, it only means the listener has to adjust his/her expectations. There are no limits pushed here.
    Unfortunately the result is quite boring indeed.