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Fungus - 2006 - "Careful!"

(50 min, Mellow)

TRACK LIST:                    

1.  Babylon 0:58
2.  Dream No-3 4:34
3.  Shareful 0:52
4.  Eight Days 3:49
5.  Share Your Suicide 10:02
6.  La Cittadella 0:37
7.  Polipetide 4:34
8.  Careful 10:21
9.  Latin Circle 7:06
10. Hypnopotamus 6:03


Alessandro Vernetti - el. & ac. guitars, e-bow
Carlo Barreca - bass, Stick; flute
William Bettucchi - drums; voice
Vittoria Mezzano - vocals
Cinzia Bernardi - narration
Marco Vento - keyboards 
Alessandro Marietta - saxophone

Prolusion. Here is the slightly authorized retelling of what the CD press kit says about this band. FUNGUS was formed in the Italian city of Genoa in 2002 as a "totally improvisational project", but later on the musicians decided to perform "proper music":-). Their debut CD "Careful!" was brought out just recently, although the album was already fully complete at the beginning of 2004. A Mellow Records release.

Analysis. "Careful!" includes three songs (with English lyrics), three short and four long instrumental compositions, one of which contains wordless vocals though. As you can see above, nominally this recording features the performance of seven musicians. In reality however, the participation of guests is quite limited. Keyboards are present on a few tracks, but in most cases they stay in the background, serving as a kind of softening pillow for 'savage soloing battles'. The saxophone appears just as the curtain falls - on the closing number Hypnopotamus. Bassist Carlo Barreca switches over to flute from time to time, but not for long and not on all of the tracks either. But while the album isn't too rich in distinct symphonic colors, much of the music is astonishingly warm, and the sound is full of some indescribable sincerity, which I normally feel mainly only when listening to '70s Prog. The compositions featuring lyrical content and instrumental bits are all gathered in the first half of the album, usually alternating with each other. Although those of the latter category are very brief, the first two of them, Babylon and Shareful, don't seem to be underdeveloped at all. Both have a full-band sound and are very cohesive compositionally. Based on the inventive interplay between bass, acoustic guitar and synthesizer developing alongside the narration and delicate drumming, Babylon reminds me much of a musical fairytale and is an excellent introduction to the album. Shareful is an effective duel between acoustic guitar and its electric counterpart accompanied by the cannonade-like rhythm section. The longest song, Share Your Suicide, ends with a flute solo surrounded by random effects and, say, human noises, which for some reason are placed on a separate track, which in turn is the last instrumental fragment, La Cittadella. Although differing on many levels, all three of the songs, Dream No-3, Eight Days and Share Your Suicide, are striking for the elegance of their melodic lines and are the last three tracks with the acoustic guitar being an integral part of the picture. The mellow Eight Days is the one that is rich in vocals. However, Vittoria Mezzano's singing is so beautiful and charming and the themes themselves are so fresh and tasty that I can listen to the song again and again, being positive it will never bore me. Dream No-3 begins as a festival of acoustic instruments (classical and slide guitars, flute, and, surely, Vittoria's voice), but evolves unexpectedly, undergoing several stylistic conversions before finishing. Still, the acoustic guitar plays an important part throughout, its involvement in harsh-and-heavy arrangements imparting an unusual sense of fragility to the stuff. The largely instrumental Share Your Suicide can in all senses be viewed as a broadened version of Dream No-3. It is much more unpredictable in its development and is full of undercurrents. Due to their highly original nature, many compositions on the album defy straightforward definition, this epic included, but I believe it's within my grasp to name its separate stylistic components - at least those most obvious. These are guitar-laden Prog, Space Rock (of many colors and shapes - atmospheric, symphonic, harsh and what I would describe as an astral trance), heavy progressive music and psychedelia. The longer instrumentals, Polipetide, Latin Circle, Careful and Hypnopotamus, follow one another below the album's conditional equator, all characterized with a more electric, electrified and dense sound all at the same time and displaying that their makers still could not completely get rid of their primordial passion for improvisation, though in this particular case they deal exclusively with Rock improvisations, which have nothing to do with those we normally relate to Jazz. In a certain degree, all the aforementioned stylings are typical of these four too, but it's the concept of a structured Psychedelic Rock that most often comes to my mind when I listen to them. Polipetide, Latin Circle and Hypnopotamus are complex compositions, frequently changing their thematic and stylistic configuration, though on the other hand, each is just one ever-morphing jam, whose instant attractiveness lies beyond my understanding and will be a pleasant surprise for the novice Prog lover and those grown wise with experience alike. Most of all however, I am impressed with the title track, which exceeds 10 minutes in length and is an unbelievably picturesque thing, full of swirling, breath-taking events. Regardless of changes on the stylistic level, the music steadily gets more and more disturbing and anxious, the evolution of instrumental canvas being inseparably linked with that of Vittoria's voice lines, which undergo many dramatic transformations during the composition - from an unintelligible nervous whispering through a desperate weeping to a really terrible chilling scream in culmination. Drama is the word. Very naturalistic. It needs to be said that the concepts of magic and hypnotism are applicable to most, if not all, of the tracks on this material (not counting the very short ones).

Conclusion. Fungus is a band whose creation is as if destined to unite listeners of very differing tastes, but I fear it's impossible nowadays, and only those from the Prog Rock community have a real chance to appreciate the album. But if "Careful!" were released some time in the mid-seventies it could have had success comparable even with that of Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon", especially since the existence of spiritual (perhaps not only spiritual) kinship between these works is beyond question.

VM: May 25, 2006

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