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Muzak - 2006 - "In Case of Loss Please Return To"

(68:59 / Lizard Records)



1.  The Holy Grail 11:08
2.  In Case of Loss 3:08
3.  First Time 4:30
4.  The Trojan Horse 2:04
5.  Oxygen 7:07
6.  Cathedrals 4:16
7.  First Time Coda 2:52
8.  Telemachus 7:15 
9.  Keuy 8:05
10. In Case of Dream 3:31
11. Black Holes 6:52
12. Your Wings 5:48
13. Sad Hydrogen 2:24


Giuseppe Calignano - bass, guitar; melodica; glockenspiel; vocals
Enrico Russo - el. & ac. pianos, keyboards; vocals
Alberto Piccini - el. & ac. guitars; vocals
Gigi Calabro - drums; vocals

Prolusion. It is the first three musicians in the lineup above who formed MUZAK (in 2000 in Salento - a town in the deep south of Italy, facing Greece), while Gigi Calabro joined later, in 2003. Officially, "In Case of Loss Please Return To" is the group's debut release, although their first studio experience took place more than three years ago; they then recorded a demo album titled "Each Day Ends". I have no idea why the musicians called themselves "Muzak", but I'd like to note from the outset: their music never brings to mind what the band's name suggests - in either of the word's two meanings. The recording features the participation of several session musicians, none of whom is mentioned in the booklet, nor even on the outfit's website. All lyrics are in English.

Analysis. Don't be alarmed, dear readers, when seeing that each of the four players is also heralded as a singer. Only eight of the recording's thirteen tracks contain vocals, but inasmuch as only four of these are rich in singing (and the shortest tracks moreover), the others being either largely instrumental or revealing only occasional vocals, no less than two thirds of the album consists of all-instrumental music which, in turn, finds Muzak at their most adventurous and original alike. In short, it is only the four song-based tunes that bear the signs of outside factors, and since these are very accessible in addition, they sound sharply different from the rest of the material. Three of these, The Trojan Horse, In Case of Dream and Sad Hydrogen, all instantly bring to mind the name of Roger Waters, though only the latter with reference to the artist's solo creations - even though it is sung by a female singer. The Trojan Horse and In Case of Dream both strongly resemble Pink Floyd's Pigs on the Wing from "Animals" and Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert from "The Final Cut" respectively, the latter straightway pushing me to join in: "Brezhnev took Afghanistan, Begin took Beirut". Despite its abundance in singing too, In Case of Loss is a very pleasing tune, with some magic ballad-like moments reminiscent of Genesis's "Trespass". The first half of Cathedrals, where a rather plain vocal-laden theme unfolds to terribly monotonous galosh-like-sounding machinery, is the only episode on the disc that annoys me. Thankfully, the cut's subsequent - purely instrumental - content, while defying a precise stylistic classification, is interesting enough to make the entire thing sound at least tolerable. The remaining three tracks having a lyrical component (just one quatrain, performed by a mixed choir in all cases), Your Wings, Black Holes and Oxygen, open the long line of the disc's highlights, each containing too few vocal parts to be considered a true song. From here on, Muzak appear as a group of musicians playing exclusively original, innovative and, at the same time, profound music. Your Wings begins with a choir singing over piano accompaniment, then evolves a brief Noise Rock-like interlude, but finally blossoms into a wonderful, real classical Waltz involving various chamber instruments, orchestral drums and cymbals included. All the other yet-to-be described tracks are linked together, as one of the basic constituents of each is Minimalist music by means of Art-Rock, First Time and First Time Coda both completely lying within that idiom. Terry Riley's cornerstone minimalist creation, "In C", can serve as a relative reference regarding these two. The electric piano and drums set up the initial theme, which gradually becomes surrounded by the addition of glockenspiel, guitar, bass and some other instruments joining steadily to have a highly-multi-layered palette where each of the musicians plays a different solo, semi-improvising within the framework, creating a charming, almost kaleidoscopically-changing picture. As is hinted above however, our brave Italians don't lock themselves within a single theme, quite frequently shifting these - most often together with meters and paces as well; hence Minimalist music by means of Art-Rock. The five longest tracks, The Holy Grail, Oxygen, Telemachus, Keuy and Black Holes are the most diverse, alternating the approach just described with Symphonic Progressive in its traditional form, though Keuy is additionally notable for some punk-rock- and even RIO-like movements. It also must be mentioned that Black Holes is symphonic in its basis, while the trumpet solo that runs almost all through the piece is distinctly jazzy, thus creating an amazing contrast. All the instrumental cuts, and those for the most part so, are highly impressive, but the five described last are all really something startling.

Conclusion. The four song-based tracks and the one with the annoying machinery, while none is bad, each contributed its mite to somewhat spoil the identity of the band's sound. Without these, Muzak's "In Case of Loss Please Return To" would've still lasted for over 50 minutes and been excellent in every respect. Anyway, I highly recommend this album - please only note that it is not for someone in a hurry, as much of it is too esoteric to be generally accessible.

VM: April 3, 2007

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