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TRACK LIST: 1. Water Clock 2:31 2. White Flower 22:00 3. Fairies' Inn 3:14 4. Pilgrimage to Nowhere 44:11 5. Something Has Changed in the Happy Land of Vondervotteimittiss 2:34 All tracks: by Floating State. LINE-UP: Mimmo Ferri - keyboards & piano Michele Moschini - lead vocals; flute & recorder Grazia Stella - alto & soprano saxophones Beatrice Birardi - drums, vibraphone, & percussion Francesco Antonino - fretted & fretless bass; harp Gigi Ferri - electric, acoustic & classical guitars, mandolin With: Assia Polite - vocals Walter Zupa - saxophone Antonello Fanizzi - trombone Marcello Pattuho - trumpet Produced by Floating State. Engineered by T Cinello. Mixed & mastered by G Brugnone.
Prolusion. This is the debut of the young Italian band FLOATING STATE, and in my view, it can be easily regarded as a double album. Well, it is time to begin depicting it, and I should try not to be breathless with delight while doing this.
Synopsis. As you can see above, this 75-minute CD contains only five tracks, one of which, the monstrously long Pilgrimage to Nowhere, I can't perceive differently than as an album within an album. Paraphrasing the great Edgar Allan Poe, I would even say that this is a dream within a dream, as "Thirteen Tolls at Noon" is an album that I was just dreaming of! Almost everything about it: the composition, the performance, etc sounds like it could have come right out of the early-to-mid-seventies British progressive scene. At the same time, however, there is something new, which just could not have taken place thirty years ago. While inspired (in the best meaning of the word) by classic English Symphonic Progressive in general, this Italian band was able not only to avoid any possible bits of cliches, not to mention influences, at least in most cases, but also to breathe new spirit into our beloved genre. There are the parts of vintage keyboards (Hammond, Mellotron, Moog) on the album, but unlike those on many other works done in a similar direction, they are far from being ubiquitous, to say the least. Obviously, Floating State didn't have a purpose just to restore the classic '70s' progressive sound, and as a result, they've moved far ahead of any 'restorers'. Have a look at the band's line-up above. All of the instruments, listed there, were widely used on this recording. What's central, however, I don't remember any of the enduring Symphonic Art-Rock albums that would have featured so many brass instruments, which, in addition, would have participated in the creation of arrangements as actively as those on "Thirteen Tolls at Noon". In other words, this is maybe the only Symphonic Progressive album with various brasses being very often at the forefront of arrangements (alone and along with traditional electric and acoustic Rock instruments, including piano, and also woodwinds and harp). Of course, brasses have brought a lot of elements of Jazz-Fusion into the album's compositional basis, which is always inevitable in such cases. In any instance, Jazz-Fusion-related structures are so inventively intermixed with symphonic ones that not everybody will be able to recognize their true nature immediately. The alternation of intensive, often very harsh, arrangements and soft ones, where there are only passages of acoustic guitar and those of flute or piano, etc, is typical for both epics: the 22 minute White Flower, rich in flavors of medieval folk music, and the 44-minute Pilgrimage to Nowhere (2 & 4), but to a lesser degree for the latter, which is more intensive and eclectic. The lyrics are in English, and Michele Moschini is a very good chameleon singer covering no less than three octaves with his voice. His vocals are exceptionally original and tasteful, though the album is largely instrumental. Fairies' Inn (3) is a beautiful song woven exclusively of acoustic symphonic textures and, being located between the 'monsters', is straight in the right place. Apart from vocals, it features only passages of piano, those of acoustic guitar, and solos of harp, interplay between which are amazingly diverse and changeable. As to the remaining and the shortest two tracks here, Water Clock (1), representing an exquisite solo on vibraphone, is just an instrumental intro to the album. Something has changed in the band's music 'when' Something Has Changed in the Happy Land of Vondervotteimittiss, i.e. on track 5, which I have allowed myself to regard as a bonus track. It sounds just like one of Jethro Tull's unreleased songs, circa 1971. I don't want to believe that such real thinkers as the members of Floating State have done it. Maybe, this is a tribute to the Legend? Let's consider it so! Nevertheless, if I were the producer of the album, I would have excluded both of its 'boundary' tracks - of course, for the sake of its stylistic coherence and the thing, the name of which is so much to my liking: Originality.
Conclusion. At least at the moment, I am inclined to consider "Thirteen Tolls at Noon" the best Classic Symphonic Art-Rock-related album released after the seventies. Honest. I am so impressed by it that all the previous winners in this category are now dethroned from that pedestal. Floating State is the band that has really revived the spirit of vintage Progressive, which, like a vintage vine, is getting better and better with years. Don't miss this CD on no account.
VM: April 30, 2004
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