[ SHORT REVIEWS | DETAILED REVIEWS
(137 min CD+DVD, Lizard Records)
Prolusion. The Italian group NICHELODEON has existed since 2007, but somehow managed to issue their first album, “Cinemanemico”, already the following year. “Il Gioco del Silencio”, their second CD of new material, has arrived to me along with “Come Sta Annie”, which is in turn the band’s first DVD release.
“Il Gioco del Silenzio” CD (52:25)
TRACK LIST: 1. Fame 3:53 2. Fiaba 6:57 3. Claustrofilia 5:29 4. Malamore e la Luna 8:59 5. Amanti in Guerra 5:56 6. Ombre Cinesi 5:38 7. Apnea 7:15 8. Il Giardino Degli Altri 8:16 9. La Corsa dei Trattori 1:44 10. Se 7:59 11. Lana di Vetro 7:55 12. Cio che Rimane 8:57 LINEUP: Claudio Milano – lead vocals Francesco Chiapperini – saxophone, clarinet, flute, EWI Andrea Murada – percussion; didjeridoo, flute; vocals Luca Pissavini – viola; duduk; theremin; synthesizer Lorenzo Sempio – guitars; synthesizers Max Pierini – el. contrabass, ocarina Andrea Illuminati – piano, melodica With: Claudio Pirro – classical guitar (1, 2) Estibaliz Igea – operatic vocals (5) Carola Caruso – backing vocals (2) &: A few more participants
Analysis. Nominally, the playing time of the CD is 79:56, but, as you can see above, I have shortened it. The point is that four of the twelve tracks here, Fame, Malamore e la Luna, Amanti in Guerra and Cio che Rimane (running for 27+ minutes), aren’t new: all of them are part of the band’s debut outing. In short, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Nichelodeon’s two albums have quite a lot in common between themselves. If overall, what’s offered here is a fairly unique blend of theatric vocals, European folk music themes, French chanson motifs, RIO-like moves, sensible as well as purely spontaneous improvisations and noises in a number of cases. At first, I will view the tracks without their vocal constituent which, while being crucial to the album’s overall appearance, remains the same almost throughout, at least as regards its main characteristics. The only instrumental here, La Corsa dei Trattori is a fairly straightforward, yet still effective, fast-paced romp, made up of quasi-improvisations. Amanti in Guerra and Claustrofilia are basically mellow, soft-sounding pieces of a semi-folk, semi-chamber nature, and both are satisfactory, particularly the former (it will be clear below why), even though its final, 1-minute, segment features nothing besides an electronic noise. Fame, Fiaba and Malamore e la Luna are more varied compositions, additionally deploying elements of avant-garde and heavy music, the latter two both at times revealing moments where the band effectively accelerates its pace. Apnea, Il Giardino Degli Altri, Se, Lana di Vetro and Cio che Rimane are the most complicated pieces in the set. Each of them is marked with some strong RIO-like moves, albeit at times the musicians’ playing suggests nothing but pseudo avant-garde at best, as it also does on Ombre Cinesi (my least favorite track here) – throughout. Except for this one, and also the three that have been described first, all of the compositions are filled with contrasts, in which the subtle melodic lines stand now against the big, dramatic, often avant-garde, yet still cohesive explorations, now (less often, thankfully) against the over-eclectic, free-jazz and even disharmonic wanderings, falling into cacophony. The band’s instrumentalists play indeed an important role on the album, but, notwithstanding that, regardless of what the music as such represents, it appears as being auxiliary to the vocal storyline of the tracks (save the instrumental one, of course, although it’s too brief to take it seriously). Claudio Milano is not a classically-progressive chameleon singer, such as King Diamond, whose compositions are often based on dialogs between a few different personages, and who changes his voice depending on which of those joins the action, etc. Milano’s approach is to tell a story (a one-man tale, if you will, albeit it’s never ‘your’ typical life story), doing so in a way that I see as vocal acrobatics-meet-histrionics, those bringing to mind the terms as emotionally different as fascinating, amazing, grotesque, eccentric, quirky, bizarre, crazy and, on some occasions, even terrible: if you know what I mean. Lyrically, the man explores various feelings through different, yet almost totally dramatic, situations and collisions, often entering the realms of cosmogony, always in a in a manner alike highly poetic and sophisticated – thankfully, there is a translation of the texts in the CD booklet, delivered with an almost Shakespearian English. Taking the album as a whole, I most of all like the poetry, RIO-related arrangements and sections with a real choir singing, such as on the above Amanti in Guerra, which features the wonderful operatic voice of Estibaliz Igea (I regret that she didn’t sing throughout the album, along with Milano), to name a few pieces.
“Il Gioco del Silenzio” appears as a mixture of vocal and instrumental extravaganzas which, in its entirety, might please... don’t really know whom; perhaps those who enjoy everything that has been cooked by Etron Fou Leloublan. Personally I’m not too, if ever, happy about the spontaneously performed stuff and some of Milano’s vocals as well. However, I can appreciate the overall originality of the album, and also feel the power of the message of its lyrical content.
“Come Sta Annie?” DVD (84:30)
Being a lover of serious sci-fi (e.g. Neal Stephenson, Ian McDonald and suchlike writers) almost exclusively, I’m certainly not a fan of things like The Lord of the Rings or this very Twin Peaks (I stopped watching the series somewhere in its middle), but, nonetheless, I think the DVD is worth buying above all for its second half, since it consists of the band’s new musical explorations. It’s really good to see Claudio sing onstage, but only Italian-speaking people will appreciate his brilliant poetry if they get the DVD release alone (without the CD), as it does not feature even the original lyrics, let alone a translation of those.
“Come Sta Annie?” DVD (84:30)
Conclusion. Being a lover of serious sci-fi (e.g. Neal Stephenson, Ian McDonald and suchlike writers) almost exclusively, I’m certainly not a fan of things like The Lord of the Rings or this very Twin Peaks (I stopped watching the series somewhere in its middle), but, nonetheless, I think the DVD is worth buying above all for its second half, since it consists of the band’s new musical explorations. It’s really good to see Claudio sing onstage, but only Italian-speaking people will appreciate his brilliant poetry if they get the DVD release alone (without the CD), as it does not feature even the original lyrics, let alone a translation of those.
[ SHORT REVIEWS | DETAILED REVIEWS - LIST | BANDLISTS ]