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(58:50 CD + 131:10 DVD, Cuneiform Records)
Prolusion. DEUS EX MACHINA (DEM from now on), from Italy, has existed since 1985 and is internationally recognized as a cult band, if not a living legend. Unfortunately I’m not the one to guide you through their history or discography, either – of course, simply due to the fact that I was unacquainted with their work until now. For neophytes there is plenty of information about the ensemble as well as its previous releases on the Internet (in the Gibraltar Encyclopedia, for instance), so I’d better pass over replicating the content of the press kit save what concerns this particular release: “Le Triton is a world-class nightclub located in the outskirts of Paris that features a full recording studio as well as the ability to do a professional video shoot during performances. In 2006 DEM rented Le Triton for 3 days and spent 2 days recording a new studio album. They also played a concert that was filmed. The result is “Imparis”, a 2-disc release that includes the band’s new (sixth) studio album and its first ever DVD.”
TRACK LIST: 1. La Diversita di Avere Un'Anima 7:53 2. Giallo Oro 12:04 3. Il Testamento dell'Uomo Saggio 6:55 4. Cor Mio 5:12 5. La Fine Del Mondo 14:50 6. Cosmopolitismo Centimetropolitano 11:56 LINEUP: Maurino Collina – electric & acoustic guitars Fabrizio Puglisi – analog keyboards Buonez Bonetti – violins Claudio Trotta – drums Porre Porreca – basses Alberto Piras – vocals
Analysis. I am inclined to think that DEM’s closest brothers in style are their compatriots Arti E Mestieri and DFA. Besides, I find no weighty reasons to argue about theirs belonging to the Italian wing of the progressive rock genre but, nevertheless, only bands hailing from its central, Anglo-American, branch (which is its source after all) are being named here as reference points. Now, however, I must make a reservation that the ensemble’s influences, meaning those of the artists that are yet to be cited, never obscure their originality of approach to the legacy of the past or their creative personality as such, either. The music on the 6-track “Imparis” CD is essentially electro-acoustic in nature and is overall a confluence of Symphonic Progressive and Jazz Rock, though of the five primary-style pieces, three – La Diversita di Avere Un'Anima, Cosmopolitismo Centimetropolitano and Il Testamento dell'Uomo Saggio – are somewhat richer in elements of the former genre, all consisting for the most part of intense, as well as texturally dense, arrangements, additionally revealing quite a few moves with heavy guitar riffs and the driving organ leads at their fore. Instead, the other two, Giallo Oro and La Fine Del Mondo, have a stronger jazz quality to them, both alternating full-blown, dynamically evolving, maneuvers with much gentler passages that are usually dominated by the electric piano. Kansas, The Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return To Forever all can to a certain extent serve as points of comparison regarding each of the said compositions, but the influence of the former band outweighs those of the other two on the more symphonic pieces and vice versa regarding the jazzier ones, both of which, though, include some Gong-evoking landscapes, too. When playing the organ and the piano keyboardist Fabrizio Puglisi reminds me of Steve Walsh and Chick Corea in approach, respectively. Violinist Buonez Bonetti’s work brings to mind something halfway between Jean-Luc Ponty’s and Robbie Steinhardt’s. Maurino Collina’s parts can be reminiscent of Kerry Livgren’s (when the man provides heavy riffs in particular) or Al DiMeola’s, though it’s clear to me that he is originally a blues guitarist and there are quite a few corresponding patterns on the album, also. Purely instrumental arrangements cover about two thirds of the recording, but nonetheless each of the tracks has enough room for Alberto Piras to show what a superb as well as unique vocalist he is. As for the other peculiarities of the compositions, La Diversita di Avere Un'Anima, Il Testamento dell'Uomo Saggio and Cosmopolitismo Centimetropolitano all for the most part appear to be so very multi-layered in texture that it’s often hard to notice who of the musicians plays first, second, etc, ‘violin’ there, if you catch my idea. Even the parts of bassist Porre Porreca and drummer Claudio Trotta are normally different from each other, so instead of providing unison leads (which form what can only be labeled as a bottom end) the rhythm section actively participates in diversifying the music, too. The finale of Il Testamento dell'Uomo Saggio sounds in some ways like Kansas, The Mahavishnu Orchestra and Shakti are jamming together and has a distinct oriental fragrance to it. The closing track, Cosmopolitismo Centimetropolitano, is worth praising for its eclectic, positively open-minded arrangements, but specifically for the outstanding live performance by each of the players. Giallo Oro and La Fine Del Mondo both rather often slow down their pace, creating quasi atmospheric fusionesque landscapes which, yet, almost endlessly change their outlines, never repeating each other. The first of these pieces stands out for its mid-section, the music in which can be described as an exceptional complexity married with dynamism as well as angularity which, in turn, relates to RIO. Finally, Cor Mio lies almost entirely within the art-rock idiom and is additionally the sole track in the set that has an acoustic guitar in the arrangement.
TRACK LIST: Paris live concert (60 min): 1. Rhinoceros 2. La Diversita di Avere Un'Anima 3. Giallo Oro 4. Dove Non Puo Errserci Contraddizione 5. Il Pensiero Che Porta Alle Cose Important 6. Drum Solo 7. Cosmopolitismo Centimetropolitano Interviews (29 min): 1. DeM Speak 2. Fabrizio Plays Extras (42 min): 1. Paris Backstage 2. Excerpts from Manresa 3. Excerpts from Chapel Hill 4. Excerpt from Italian TV 5. Ad Montem Video LINEUP: same
Analysis. As you can see in the track list above, the DVD consists of three sections of which the one presenting DEM’s live performance at Le Triton is definitely of greater significance than the other two. The concert features seven numbers: six songs that nominally cover the band’s last decade of activity (two compositions each from their latest three albums: 1998’s “Equilibrismo Da Insofferenza”, 2002’s “Cinque” and “Imparis”) plus one ‘new’ instrumental, Drum Solo, which is in fact a kind of drummer Trotta’s personal take on the full version of Cosmopolitismo Centimetropolitano, though it can also come across as a long as well as fairly singular intro to that piece. The picture is excellent; the sound is crisp, allowing the listener to hear all instruments clearly. But it’s the band’s concert itself that, so to speak, crowns all those qualities, and is the most impressive impromptu live performance I have watched in years. The musicians stretch out from the outset, and only Cor Mio (which is properly played in the middle of the set) gives the listener the opportunity to take a breath before re-diving into what can easily be viewed as both deep and turbulent musical waters. On stage, this song is delivered in a somewhat softer manner and – at least in some ways – it sounds like a benefit performance for Alberto Piras who just works wonders with his voice here, appearing as a totally unique, one-of-a-kind singer, no matter that he is not the first to, generally speaking, impart a strong operatic sense into rock music. (While I can partly agree with those who compare him with Demetrio Stratos, the ones who assert that he sings not unlike Damian Wilson make me laugh, as also do – indeed ridiculous – conclusions about the similarity between DEM and Genesis). The band’s older creations, particularly those that are unavailable on the CD, Rhinoceros, Dove Non Puo Errserci Contraddizione and Il Pensiero Che Porta Alle Cose Important, while being compositionally similar to La Diversita di Avere Un'Anima, are noticeably heavier in sound, so the concept of Prog-Metal from time to time comes to mind when I listen to these. Only one of the two items that form the “Interviews” segment is really an interview: the band does it in Italian, but it’s accompanied with English subtitles. Then follows Fabrizio Plays: a solo piano piece which finds the keyboardist doing variations on Giallo Oro. The “Extras” include: Paris backstage, a set of excerpts: from Manresa (Spain, 2002), from Chapel Hill (USA, 1996) and from Italian TV (1996), and Ad Montem, a video clip shot in 1993. All in all, the DVD is an excellent or rather essential addition to the CD.
Conclusion. “Imparis” portrays its creators as one of those few genuinely inventive and inspired modern groups that revive the classic spirit of international Progressive Rock and which, instead of borrowing wholesale from their ancestors, as most neo bands do, use only some of their ideas, doing so in such an at once careful and resourceful way that the end result is simply fascinating, proving that our beloved music is still alive. Without such releases as this one (Top-20-2008), in these days of clowns, clones and wannabes we, true connoisseurs of the genre, would more and more often feel like we’re fishing in a bog.
VM=Vitaly Menshikov: March 1 & 2, 2009
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