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(41:54 / Mellow Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Chiaroscuro 5:18 2. Il Temporale E l’Arcobaleno 5:02 3. Corte Aulica 5:35 4. Tixiana 5:14 5. La Principessa dei Parco 4:13 6. Via Rua Sovera-19 5:24 7. Zwanenbeek 2:22 8. Grazie a Te 4:17 9. La Ragione d’Autunno 4:25 LINEUP: Luca Saccenti – guitar Emanuele Jaforte – bass Gustavo Pasini – drums; vocals Nicola Gasperi – keyboards; b/v
Prolusion. CORTE AULICA is an Italian quartet who, unlike many other contemporary progressive rock artists (some of their label mates included), were lucky enough to launch their official debut only some fifteen months after they gathered together to hold their first rehearsal, which took place on the 7th of January of 2006. “Il Temporale E l’Arcobalene” was recorded the same year and was released in spring of 2007, by Mellow Records.
Analysis. The disc’s opener, Chiaroscuro, is classic symphonic Art-Rock with elements of quasi Jazz-Fusion striking for its strong similarity to late ‘70s Camel (at times sounding as if Andy Latimer has granted Corte Aulica a license to play in the style of “Raindances”), and let me assure you things don’t get much variety in this respect as the recording progresses. This is not a censure though: while following Camel’s musical recipe quite strictly, these youngsters don’t borrow any thematic storylines from their benefactors, nor do they imitate their performance techniques. As logically arises from what’s been said, Corte Aulica’s debut is stylistically quite a uniform album. The first six tracks, Chiaroscuro, Il Temporale E l’Arcobaleno, Corte Aulica, Tixiana, La Principessa dei Parco and Via Rua Sovera-19, have especially much in common between them, both in style and overall sound, the matter having no connection with the fact that all of them are instrumentals. Like Camel, the music ranges from detailed and ornate to mellow and melodic, with a fairly good solo work on each of the instruments involved. There is no lack in dynamic interactions between guitar and varied keyboards (piano, organ and synthesizers, few of which are modern-sounding), which are supported by the tight rhythm-section, though the bass quite frequently leaves its post at the bottom end so to burst at the fore as another lead voice. It would be also unfair to set aside the band’s own finds despite their relative scantiness. Besides a brief episode with only bass and drums in the arrangement, most of the said pieces contain some fine synthesizer-driven moves reminiscent of symphonic Space Rock. I’m not sure if what will follow now is a valuable observation also, but the title number and La Principessa dei Parco are each respectively slightly mellower and rockier than the other four. The - titled in Dutch - seventh track, Zwanenbeek, is a Classical-like piece for piano, beautiful and fully original, the only composition that falls completely out of the disc’s prevalent picture, perceived as a kind of divide between the first six tracks and the remainder - partly because the last two tunes, Grazie a Te and La Ragione d’Autunno, both feature singing (in Italian, the vocals being delivered in the group’s native prog-rock traditions as well), partly due to their heavier sound, though much of the music on each still combines art-rock writing and arranging with fusionesque solo sensibility, typical of most of the instrumentals. Nevertheless, the Camel influence is somewhat less obvious on the songs, so it should be safe to mention that Corte Aulica reveal more originality closer to the end of the act.
Conclusion. I wouldn’t put this quartet on the same level as Camel, but they’re certainly on a par with Mirage (whom I regarded as the most successful followers of Mr. Latimer’s quadruped until now), as well as many their contemporary countrymen. Despite its quasi-derivative nature, this is quite an outstanding debut release and very decent recording in general, definitely worthy of your attention if you lack anything new in the style of Camel while awaiting your idols’ return from their prolonged vacation.
VM=Vitaly Menshikov: February 13, 2008
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