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If - 2008 - "Morpho Nestira"

(57:31, 'If')


****+
                 
TRACK LIST:                   

1.  You Need 3:32
2.  Morpho Nestira-1 3:18
3.  10 Years Old 5:49
4.  Background Noise 3:07
5.  Thirsty 4:15
6.  Learning to Communicate 3:53
7.  Unknown Eyes 5:42
8.  Poison 3:39
9.  Naked 5:39
10. Morpho Nestira-2 6:40
11. Empty 7:44
12. Oceans of Time 4:13

LINEUP:

Claudio Lapenna  piano, keyboards; vocals
Dario Lastella  guitars; synths; vocals
Franco Bussoli  bass 
Luca Di Pardo  drums
Paolo De Santis  vocals 
With:
Loretta Di Pisa  vocals   
Yul Fece - saxophone (5)

Prolusion. The prehistory of Italian outfit IF goes back to the 90s, when five friends and musicians played together in a band performing cover tunes and some self-produced material. Four of them hooked up again in 2004 and with the addition of a new vocalist If was born, or perhaps reborn might be a better word. 2008 saw the band issuing their fourth full length production, "Morpho Nestira", following 2 years after their previous album "The Stairway".

Analysis. I'll have to give credit to this outfit for their artistic ambitions. They have set out to create a concept album on this occasion; they have deliberately chosen to let the music reflect the different aspects of the story told by means of diversified stylistic expressions; they've managed to create some pretty neat and original cover art for their production as well, and they have taken care of everything themselves, including issuing the CD themselves rather than through a record label. The central core of the musical excursions contained on this disc is a slightly grittier variety of the sound explored by Pink Floyd on "The Wall," where rougher sounding guitar patterns are the main difference in stylistic expression, and from this foundation the band ventures forth to hard rock territories pretty close to grunge but also towards slicker, 80s sounding mainstream-oriented rock. The guitar sound caters to most of the differences in overall sound though, and the lack of space-tinged synths and organ is the only other key element separating the various alternating styles explored. The most mainstream oriented tracks most often feature undistorted or acoustic guitars accompanied by piano and perhaps with some keys carefully in the back; the opposing hardest sounding tunes will feature grim, distorted guitar riff and riff patterns, while the compositions closer to this outfit's core sound feature several different guitar styles accompanied by space-tinged synths and organ as well as the piano on select occasions. Luca Di Pardio throws in some jazz-tinged rhythms on occasion to enliven the proceedings and we're also served one track here that first and foremost will have to be described as a jazz tune, Morpho Nestira-1. Although not the most original production around, the diversity of this album is pretty refreshing; quite a few artists tend to stick with what they're familiar with and it's always interesting to come across acts that have a desire for something more than that. I'm a tad more critical about the technical elements on this disc though, in particular with the mix and production which basically manage to make this album sound like a second rate, dated affair. There is diversity with the overall sound of the songs, and while some are pretty crystal clear and neat, others come across as somewhat fuzzy and indistinct, in particular passages with several instruments present. The vocals do sound pretty weak at times too, and although we're not talking world class talent in the vocal department here, I suspect that the main fault for this is in the mix rather than the performance as such. These aspects of the recording are far from being a disaster though; it's more like a throwback to an earlier age the mix and production on this venture make it sound like it made in the 80s rather than in 2008, and as 80s sounding productions go one that was made on a tight budget.

Conclusion. Although lacking in complexity and innovative features, this concept album does have its charms. Diversity in stylistic expressions is a key feature here, and if you fancy that in a setting exploring the more mainstream-oriented types of progressive rock in this manner this is an album that might be of interest. In particular if you don't mind the sound of yesteryear due to the mix and production.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: July 13, 2009
The Rating Room


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