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(77:07, Electromantic & MoonJune Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Tarabos 5:10 2. Chloe and the Pirates 7:56 3. All White 6:24 4. The Man Who Waved at Trains 3:54 5. As If 4:14 6. Hibou Animou & Bear 3:28 7. Out-Bloody-Rageous 8:35 8. Pig 4:29 9. Esther’s Nose Job 6:04 10. Slightly All the Time 9:32 11. Leonardo’s Email 4:11 12. Moonvision 2:17 13. Many Moons Many Junes 3:05 14. Lunar Impression 1:17 15. Circular Lines in the Air 2:46 16. Moon Geezer 3:05 SOLO PILOT: Beppe Crovella – Mellotron, clavinet, organs, pianos, synthesizers
Prolusion. Keyboardist and songwriter Beppe CROVELLA is known to many as a member of the Italian band Arti E Mestieri. “What’s Rattling on the Moon?” is his latest solo release and is a kind of tribute to Mike Ratledge, an English keyboardist, a founding member of Soft Machine and one of the primary masterminds behind the legend at its creatively most successful period, from 1967 to 1973. The album is performed without using any other instruments besides, well, an array of keyboards.
Analysis. The first 10 of the 16 tracks here represent Beppe’s versions of compositions that belong to Soft Machine’s repertoire, and while the others are the man’s own creations, they come across as a logical continuation of the album’s basic material (for starts, take a notice of how openly the title of Many Moons Many Junes hints at Moon in June). The CD is subtitled “A Personal Vision of the Music of Mike Ratledge”, and it shows that its creator’s vision of the matter is indeed very personal; I’d even say it’s a highly peculiar one. Beppe’s variations on Mike’s pieces sound way different from the originals, which is not only due to the fact that they are performed by one man, but also because they have been heavily re-arranged: up to beyond recognition in some cases. What is more, while nominally playing mainly vintage keyboards, the man uses the possibilities of those in a very narrow way, but then he actively deploys electronic devices. Prepare yourselves to hear many synthetic sounds that – not too convincingly – imitate the ones of guitars, saxophones, and so on, and don’t expect a lot of those that we love the instruments for, let alone orchestral arrangements. The album’s sonic palette, as well as overall atmosphere, is far from what we’ve come to know as a vintage one, in the majority of cases suggesting ambient E-music either as it is (tracks 1 to 4 and 11 to 13) or with elements of jazz and quasi avant-garde (tracks 5 to 10). Not surprisingly, the ambient-related pieces are all smooth and cohesive throughout, albeit two of those, Tarabos and Chloe & the Pirates, are heavily repetitive, while The Man Who Waved at Trains uses an excerpt from some old-fashioned jazz tune as its finale. As to the ones from the latter category, some of those strongly lack in cohesion, revealing several contrasting features – not only musical themes, but also noises, effects and other electronic tricks – that alternate without any connection to each other or a larger composition, As If and Hibou Animou & Bear both being particularly representative in this respect. Only the last three tracks on the recording, Lunar Impression, Circular Lines in the Air and Moon Geezer, suit my taste. Involving no other instruments apart from piano, each of these is a fairly refined piece that seems to be designed to erase the border between symphonic music and jazz.
Conclusion. I’m not one to call in question Crovella’s choice to perform Ratledge’s compositions, well, in the way he did. As far as I know, however, Mike never was keen on ambient or electronic music (unlike Karl Jenkins, who played with Soft Machine from 1973 to 1982 and whose Adiemus project commercially hit big in the mid-‘80s). In any case, I’m pretty sure that neither prog lovers nor jazz heads will find this release by Beppe to be interesting.
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