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(53 min, Mellow)
TRACK LIST: 1. Terra Madre 6:42 2. Danza Nel Fuoco 6:56 3. Effimero Regno di Plastica 4:11 4. Maestrale 7:52 5. Rosa Bianca 22:54 LINEUP: Daniele Manerba - keyboards; backing vocals Silver Res - guitars; backing vocals Andrea Alberici - lead vocals Gustavo Rasini - drums Gianluca Avanzati - bass Rocco Vitiello - violin; trombone
Prolusion. NOTABENE is a young Italian band presenting their debut eponymous outing. Their website is in Italian, but what's more important, it doesn't feature the band's bio or history either.
Analysis. Notabene (which means "Don't overlook this" in Latin) is a very apropos name for the band, considering their fantastically impressive first brainchild. Much of the music can (and probably should) be referred to Art-Rock/Symphonic Prog, because the prevailing harmony is symphonic, and the music in most cases remains basically symphonic, even when the band goes heavy, which occurs pretty often, or does quasi improvisations, which they normally do only occasionally. Nevertheless, this is the element of Notabene, their very own element, which doesn't resemble anything made within the genre previously. Herein are new foundational sources, new aesthetics and variants of the genre's reality and new variations on it. Most compositions possess a wonderful gist, an audible element that penetrates through the locks of consciousness and directly affects the psyche. It's something existing on the emotional level, preceding realization, analysis, interpretation and even perception, something directly entering a remote part of the brain to explode there. (The most abstract of the arts, Music, is the only art that possesses such phenomena.) The album is comprised of five tracks, none of which is an instrumental piece, but each of the following ones contains less and less verbal content, the fourth one featuring literally a couple of brief quatrains, sung within the same section. This rule is somewhat broken on the last track, which, though, is also largely instrumental, in all senses. All these are just remarks, not in the least determined to suggest to the reader that there is something wrong with the vocals. Andrea Alberici's singing is as original and impressive as the music as such, but most of the album is designed in a way that doesn't imply many vocals. The music is normally so intricate and eventful that the listener quickly comes to the conclusion that there is little place for singing, indeed. OK. The album's opener, Terra Madre, a work of Italian romantic Art-Rock of a moderate complexity, will hardly shock the adventurous Prog head, but it's just the beginning, and it's an excellent beginning in any case. I have to repeat some words now, though in a different context. Each of the additional compositions is more dramatic, intricate and compelling than its predecessor, although already the second one, Danza Nel Fuoco, is a masterpiece, whose subtle Oriental sense will cause you to guess as to whether it's of an earthly or Martian :-) origin. On the path of softer arrangements suddenly appear, like billowing storm clouds, the crunchy electric guitar riffs in alliance with the anxious violin pizzicatos clashing with the seemingly fragile piano and acoustic guitar lines, the hooting trombone implying the battle of giants from time to time, not taking anyone's side, seeing that all the adversarial forces are progressive. The multiple mallet percussion and congas dance in finale like skeletons on the battlefield. Incredibly picturesque, full of dramatics music, though it's perhaps not as dark as I describe it. The entities of Classical music join the matters on Effimero Regno di Plastica and Maestrale, perhaps to reconcile the factions, and yet the events become more and more intricate and tangled. The long epic taking the last position, Rosa Bianca, is also brilliant, gorgeously crowning the album, while musically it's the horse of a different color. It begins with a slightly jazz-tinged interplay between piano and trombone. These two will remain important soloing instruments throughout, as well as the style they've laid in the intro will be spread over the entire piece, despite the wide variety of different changes on every possible level that it will reveal afterwards. To be short, I'd say this is the best 'sidelong' epic I've heard in months and is the best 'sidelong' Jazz-Fusion-related piece I've heard in years.
Conclusion. I was almost certain that Wobbler's debut CD would never be dethroned from my Top-20-2005's pedestal. It's done however, at least because "Notabene" is absolutely original, from head to toe. Don't believe those asserting that life is a pilgrimage in full circle from non-existence to non-existence. It's all just the other way round. Don't think that which was typical for the splendid '70s will never return again, if only occasionally. Get this CD to make certain of that one more time. Happy listening!
VM: January 31, 2006
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