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Nichelodeon - 2011 - "Il Gioco del Silenzio" & “Come Sta Annie?”

(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.

Conclusion. “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)
*****

TRACK LIST:

1.  A Solemn Preface
2.  Ombre Cinesi
3.  Apnea
4.  Claustrofilia
5.  Se
6.  Cio Che Rimane
7.  Malamore e la Luna 
8.  Liberami 
9.  A Walk inside the Black Lodge 
10. The Bank 
11. RR Diner 
12. Return into the Black Lodge 
13. Out of the Lodge 
Analysis. The DVD features seven compositions from the above CD and (as its track list suggests) the band’s variations on some of the soundtracks of the Twin Peaks TV series: six in number, those form the second half of the show. I will omit re-exploring the music of the previously covered material, and will only note that the implying pieces seem to resound with a greater scope, thanks to the footage that’s used to visualize them. On the other hand, not there's too much to say about the other compositions either: ones that bear the same titles as those from the last episode of Twin Peaks, as they sound very much like Nichelodeon’s own creations. I can’t tell you (will explain below why) how much of the music from the series has been used, but anyhow, even a couple of moments from there, that I somehow remembered, have been heavily restructured by the band – to make them fit its style, of course. Besides, these six pieces contain more unvectored solos and moves than the majority of the album tracks do, the only exception being that very Ombre Cinesi, coming across as complete chaos here. Avant-jazz? Hmm, if only one with neither frontiers nor even rules. These men are techno-wizards of a sort, but aren’t good as composers here – a problem that any musicians meet with when/if trying to create spontaneous ‘music’. All in all, I came to a conclusion that the Twin Peaks-related stuff was just inspired by the series’ final part, hence its reproduction on a screen behind the scene. In terms of quality, the video constituent of the DVD is somewhat inferior to the audio one (which is top-notch), but anyhow, the video footage as such is solely worthy of praise. It has been cautiously assembled, and none of the band members avoided meeting a camera tete-a-tete :-), though, of course, it’s Claudio Milano who is most often in the spotlight (wearing a priest’s collar, as if he has been working with Candlemass for a long time). However, he leaves his post of a front man soon after the beginning of the Twin Peaks-related material, and I believe it’s just because he doesn’t sing later on at all that the rest of the music sounds particularly bizarre. On the other hand, the music emotionally fits the events that are displayed on the screen almost at any given moment (throughout the show), which often made me forget its stylistically-structural nature and concentrate on the entire thing/picture. All in all, the end result is quite a remarkable combination of visuals and music.

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.

VM=Vitaly Menshikov: February 1 & 2, 2012
The Rating Room


Related Links:

Lizard Records
Nichelodeon


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