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Orchestra Panica - 2010 - "Journey to Devotion"

(59:32, Lizard Records)

1.  Tappeti Cellullari-I 10:31
2.  Parco 20:27
3.  Tappeti Cellullari-II 6:48
4.  Liscio Come Olio 3:03
5.  Tangenziali 10:58
6.  Coda 11:15


Francesco Agostoni  vocals; keyboards; programming
Luca Vicenzi  guitars; loops
Luca Urbani  drums 
Moreno Meroni  bass 
Michele Falotico  trumpet 
Marco Ferrara  contrabass 
Giuseppe Gagliardi - vibraphone, marimba, glockenspiel

Prolusion. The Italian outfit ORCHESTRA PANICA started its journey towards releasing its debut album back in 2007, and during the next two years its main men Vicenzi and Agostoni were busy recording material alongside a multitude of guests in this self-described independent musical collective. The end result was named "Journey to Devotion", and was picked up and released by Lizard Records in 2010.

Analysis. When visiting the homepage of this Italian project, the most striking feature will most likely be their own description of their chosen genre: Ambient / Classical / Healing and Easy Listening. And while there are quite a few who seek out and enjoy music commonly described in such a manner, I do suspect the cliched laidback man or woman in search of themselves by way of meditation and relaxing music will get a bit more than they bargained for if they pop this disc into their Dolby something surround system. Then again, I can't really say that I see why a website dedicated to progressive music has sorted this one under the avant-garde category of artists either, as those with a fond affection for that type of music will get a lot less than they bargained for. Dark-toned droning textures are a central trait on this disc, an almost ever present feature that does add a slight taste of deep space inspired moods to these constructions. And just about as common is a lighter toned motif consisting of circulating, gently staccato guitar motifs, applied as a texture in a manner that might be described as post rock (if you disregard the subtle atonal tinge of that particular detail, that is). By and large these two effects form the main foundation for all compositions, granting them a natural contrast from the onset and also taking them just outside of the norm for what one would normally describe as ambient or easy listening. Supplementing this dual firmament is a small plethora of different instruments. A darker tinged instrument that in sound is rather similar to the cello will occasionally underscore, while a dampened mournful trumpet will have infrequent visits, adding its subtle accolades to the soundscapes. Bass and contrabass add a few minute details here and there, dampened electric guitars the same, and on one occasion a bit of organ is thrown in for good measure. Additional guitars supplementing the circulating basic motif are more of a common aspect however; much the same is the case for fluctuating textures by way of keyboards and synthesizers coming and going. Drums make somewhat of a formulaic appearance, as the first four tracks all have the first half without drums and the second half with them, while the two remaining numbers have been constructed with less room for a distinct and dominant rhythmic presence. The end result is cinematic, slow moving creations that include a few minute challenging aspects amidst a general sound that most likely can be described as ambient, smooth and pleasant if a bit on the dark side of things, but with themes and passages containing a slightly more than subtle atonal edge to them. Way off anything you might describe as progressive rock, arguably residing somewhere on the edge of an art rock expression but with a foot and a half inside the new age universe. Challenging new age music if you like, as oxymoronic as that description may sound, pleasant music, with hypnotic opening track Tappeti Cellullari-I as the exception that manages to fascinate as well.

Conclusion. Orchestra Panica has crafted a debut disc that would appear to be wedged in between ambient music and art rock in style: laidback, slow and gentle in arrangements but also incorporating a subtle few details of a more challenging scope. I'd guess that a core audience for this band would be those who enjoy art rock just as much as typical new age music. At least for some of those getting introduced to "Journey to Devotion" will feel like a match made in heaven.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: June 13, 2011
The Rating Room

Related Links:

Lizard Records
Orchestra Panica


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