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Nihil Project - 2005 - "Samhain"

(45 min, 'Nihil Project')

TRACK LIST:                    
1.  Astrodome Siddhi 3:58
2.  Samhain 5:34
3.  Beauty is Difficult 5:16
4.  Imbolc 3:42
5.  Ragnarock 4:34
6.  The Angels Went In Two By Two 4:40
7.  Radha 4:35
8.  Be Here Now 8:53
9.  Unnamed 3:42 


Antonello Cresti - vocals; keyboards; programming
Andrea Gianessi - acoustic/electric guitar; sampling
Michele Staino - bass
Orio Odori - clarinets 
Franco Baggiani - trumpet
Many other musicians

Prolusion. NIHIL PROJECT from Italy is basically a duo of singer/keyboardist Antonello Cresti and guitarist Andrea Gianessi, but they invite many session musicians to join them on their albums. According to their website, "Samhain" is their third creation, following "Paria" from 2003, but I haven't found any info on their debut outing there. The CD press kit doesn't shed any light on the project's history at all, just saying that their purpose is grandeur: "to reconcile East and West, Taoism and Celtic cosmic philosophy by means of music" and that "Samhain" is "a mind-blowing musical opera, a combination of cosmic folk, pop-psyche, bard songs and avant-garde". Well, if these guys are on a good footing with 'cosmic folk', they perhaps know some other kinds of opera, apart from the 'musical one':-)

Analysis. All nine of the tracks come with oral participation, the lyrics (often just a verbalization, either in English or in Italian) being sung, theatrically narrated, whispered, screamed, etc. The first four compositions have an original sound, although I haven't noticed anything supernatural there anyway. The music has an ambient groove, which doesn't allow for many changes of tempo, but the soloists, particularly Andrea Gianessi on acoustic and electric guitars, Orio Odori on clarinet and Franco Baggiani on trumpet, do all their best to enrich the picture. Astrodome Siddhi, Beauty is Difficult and Imbolc are what I understand as progressive Ambient, each featuring an approximately equal amount of symphonic, improvisational and electronic textures, the latter being harmonically indeterminate, which is certainly due just to the absence of any harmonies in all these puffs and the like effects. Some ethnic color is present in the palette, though mainly resulting from the use of electronic conga sounds, which are part of any modern synthesizer. But then Samhain, which has given the CD its title, is filled with the genuine flavors of Indian music, above all thanks to a guest musician playing Santour, which sounds much like Sitar. This is undoubtedly the most compelling composition here. My only complaint about the first four tracks concerns the use of programmed drums there instead of an acoustic drum kit. The duo engaged more than 20 session musicians on the album, but they would have done better inviting one real drummer instead of most of them. Furthermore, if the machineries on the described tracks sound at least at times tolerable, those featured on the last two pieces are just terrible. The rest of the CD is nearly unlistenable, and I would be really surprised if someone would call its content "avant-garde". The middle tracks: Ragnarock, The Angels Went In Two By Two and Radha come mostly without synthetic rhythms, but they are just buried under the manically monotonous guitar riffs (Ragnarock), stupid screams, absolutely meaningless effects, 'radio' voices, etc and so on. The latter two feature a bunch of real instruments: guitars, clarinet, trombone piano and more, but most of their parts are just random. Be Here Now returns the listener to the Indian atmosphere, but most of the solos there are still just pseudo improvisations, provided with no set vector, ignoring any musical decencies. The last, uncredited, track (I've added it to the track list and called it simply Unnamed) is slow electronic music, structured, yet absolutely uninspired.

Conclusion. While they aren't completely free of intrusive random effects etc, the first four tracks on "Samhain" are nonetheless in many ways remarkable. However, the further content of the disc depicts the Nihil Project as artless sound experimentalists at best. I haven't heard their previous works. Maybe, they've just exhausted themselves?

VM: March 22, 2006

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Nihil Project


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