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Nichelodeon & InSonar - 2014 - "Ukiyoe: Mondi Fluttuanti"

(45:59, Snowdonia Dischi Records)


1. Veleno 6:36
2. Fi(J)uru D'Acqua 4:53
3. Marinaio 9:05
4. Oh Ma Nel Mare Che Ho Dentro 2:03
5. I Pesci Dei Tuoi Fiumi 4:04
6. Tsunami 3:16
7. Into the Waves 9:38
8. Mud 6:24


Claudio Milano  vocals; tapes
Paolo Siconolfi  sound design
Alessandro Seravalle  guitars 
Vincenzo Zitello  cello 
Erica Scherl  violin 
Erica Fiala  violin 
Laura Seghi  viola 
Raoul Moretti  harp 
Luca Passavini  bass 
Stefano Ferrian  saxophone  
Francesco Chiapperini  clarinet 
Andrea Quattrini  drums, percussion
Stefano Giannotti  harmonium, bassoon
Josed Chrudli  piano, electronics
Vittorio Nistri  strings, winds
Marco Tuppo  electronics 
Fabio Zurlo  accordion 
Dalila Kaynos  vocals 
Luca Cattani  vocals 
More than a dozen of additional musicians

Prolusion. The Italian ensemble NICHELODEON has been an ongoing entity for almost 20 years, with vocalist and composer Claudio Milano as the main creative person in a venture, with a flowing succession of members otherwise. InSonar is one of his side projects that came to be a few years back. Both projects are combined on this most recent product to be released under both of those monikers: "Ukiyoe: Mondi Fluttuanti". The CD was released in 2014 through the Italian label Snowdonia Dischi, combined with Francesco Paolo Paladino's short movie "Quickworks & Deadworks".

Analysis. This production is credited to Nichelodeon, which is more of a fixed band with fluent membership, and InSonar, which is more of a collaborative project featuring a steady ongoing list of contributors, if I understand matters correctly. Both projects with Claudio Milano in a starring role, however, and separating one from another on this production is a difficult one in terms of the styles and types of music explored as well. One thing that can be established straight way is that this is a challenging album. As most, if not all, of the projects with Milano as a driving force, the compositions are unconventional, often dramatic, frequently touching upon the more abrasive aspects of expressive constructions and more often than not with at least half a foot inside an avant-garde oriented framework, and fairly often with both feet well inside at that. In the latter instances this is often done in a more subtle manner though, with gradual developments back and forth between highly expressive passages and more conventional ones. The lead vocals are the master instrument, as one might expect. With elegant, melodic and harmony-based regular lead vocals, dramatic and forceful vocal deliveries, layered expressive and experimental vocal displays of a verbal as well as non-verbal manner alongside what I think I'll describe as creative vocal effects. All smoothly executed, the various modes of delivery easily and effortlessly gliding from one to the other, combining features of some or all, or gliding back to a more distant and supportive role for the instruments from time to time. There's nothing that is predictable about the vocals here, neither from Milano himself nor from the various guest vocalists present in one shape or another. Apart from the high quality of them that is.These are applied to a myriad of different backdrops. Some operating out from more of a chamber music foundation, with strings and percussion as central features, in other cases the instrumentation explores much more of a jazz-oriented landscape. The short and captivating Oh Ma Nel Mare Che Ho Dentro is a good example of the latter. But we're also treated to a couple of instances where Mediterranean folk music appears to be a massive inspiration, especially on the second part of the Ma(r)le trilogy (which embraces the last three tracks here). Into the Waves is the name of that particular creation, that opens in more of a distinctly folk music-oriented manner, but then through just over 9 minutes takes the song into wild territories becoming ever more expressive and less conventional, in a kind of creative expressive chaos sort of way. A true joy of a production for those who like their avant-garde music, and then in particular with vocals as the arguably main driving force. Accompanying this CD is a short movie, "Quickworks & Deadworks", where some of the music from the album is featured. This is what I'd describe as a high art movie, featuring four persons in a small handful of set tableaus, possibly exploring a theme related to alienation or estrangement. Not the most entertaining of short movies, as far as I'm concerned, but a feature that might have its core audience among those who tend to enjoy mysterious, high art movies that don't seek to explore themes in a conventional manner. The accompanying video clip featured, presented on a separate bonus DVD, is one whose symbolism is arguably easier to grasp, with a skeleton balloon used in place of a boy- or girlfriend in video clips, photographs and scenes, where the various photographs are artfully enhanced or, possibly, destroyed. A possible commentary on love, life and death going on there, but a core message, I presume, is tied into the song and then mainly to be fully understood by those who know the Italian language fairly well.

Conclusion. This joint venture by Nichelodeon and InSonar, if it is at all possible to separate what is made by whom without reading the liner notes, is another album containing excellent material in the avant-garde oriented vein with vocals as the dominant element and, as I experience it, the lead instrument. Claudio Milano excels in using his vocal capabilities in an expressive manner, and appears to be most comfortable when doing so inside an avant-garde oriented context. That is the case here, and those who find such a description alluring can most likely regard themselves as a key audience for this release.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: Agst 25, 2016
The Rating Room

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