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(51.49, Lizard Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Devon Ptu 9.43 2. Senica Star 3.22 3. Odessa 5.20 4. Lazarus Cotext 3.48 5. Addiction 8.00 6. NV 3.44 7. Metroshifter 3.40 8. I 7.42 9. Baratio 7.10 LINEUP: Michele Nicoli – piano, organ, synths Matteo Sorio – el., ac. & bass guitars Marco Tuppo – drums; programming With: Giulio Deboni – drums Francesco Tome – soundscapes Antonella Bertini – vocals (6)
Prolusion. SCIARADA are a trio based in the north-eastern Italian city of Verona. Formed in 2005, they originally started out as a duo consisting of Michele Nicoli and Matteo Sorio (both with previous experience as members of other bands), and released their debut album in 2006. Then Marco Tuppo (a collaborator of Tuscany-based project Raven Sad) joined the outfit in 2008, before the release of “The Addiction”, their sophomore effort.
Analysis. “The Addiction” is one of those albums people will either love or hate. Dark and ominous like the soundtrack to some Gothic horror movie, it is an extremely minimalistic offering from which rhythm and conventional melody appear to be almost completely banned. Hovering between ambient music in the style of Eno and Fripp, and the rarefied landscapes explored by post-rock outfits such as Godspeed! You Black Emperor and Labradford, with touches of the more experimental instances of Krautrock (or even Radiohead), it presents a somewhat exacting listen that may occasionally baffle, but never fails to intrigue. Though by no means an expert on any of the genres that inform and inspire Sciarada’s musical output, I have enough familiarity with them to recognize those traces, and also to state that I prefer music that has some more ‘bite’ – where pulse and emotion are not necessarily sacrificed to the creation of dense, evocative atmospheres. However, “The Addiction” is undeniably a quality product, though the first approach to it can be very frustrating (as it was for me). For those used to the assertiveness of ‘conventional’ rock music, having to strain one’s ears in order to actually hear what happens on the CD can be stressful, and detract from any enjoyment that might otherwise be gained from the experience. On the other hand, in this particular case at least, patience pays, and a more attentive listen of this album may yield unexpected results. As shown by the line-up information, the three members of the band play all the instruments, and their roles appear to be interchangeable. Keyboards, both electronic and traditional play by far the biggest role, together with various kinds of software meant to provide the effects so vital to music of this kind. Not surprisingly, an overwhelming proportion of the tracks is based on drones, though more conventional instruments have their place in the structure of the compositions. This latter aspect is clearly evidenced by Senica Star, where the gentle strumming of an acoustic guitar strummed is combined with assorted, eerie electronic noises. Metroshifter revolves instead around the contrast between subtle layers of keyboard-produced drone and somber yet assertive piano chords; while the only track featuring vocals, NV, offers an intriguing, Middle Eastern-tinged performance by guest vocalist Antonella Bertini. The longer tracks, like opener Devon Ptu – mainly based around a dialogue between electronics and very traditional-sounding drums – see the band wander into more distinctly ambient territory, with effects evoking the sound of water, as in the title-track, or birdsong, as in the unusually melodic I. Lazarus Cotext, on the other hand, borders on dissonance – with crashing cymbals and darkly ominous, mounting keyboards underlaid by ghostly recorded voices. A subtly multilayered, painstakingly crafted effort, “The Addiction” is certainly not for everyone, and needs to be approached gradually – unless you are a staunch fan of this particular musical universe. It is, however, oddly intriguing, and at times genuinely mesmerizing in its repetitive, concentrated intensity. Though it may not amount to more than a curiosity for most rock listeners, it is nevertheless deserving of attention – also on account of its very classy, black-and-white cover art, which suits the music to a T.
Conclusion. Definitely much of an acquired taste, “The Addiction” will appeal to fans of the darker, more minimalistic forms of post-rock and ambient music – while those with more ‘conservative’ tastes in music are quite likely to be put off by its spareness and occasionally oppressive atmosphere. In any case, this is a rather interesting effort, once again proving the lively, eclectic nature of the contemporary Italian music scene.
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