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(47:19, Lizard Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Boys Vomit 6:46 2. That One 8:51 3. From the Air 3:51 4. Sunrising 6:56 5. Dimissioni 6:28 6. Mexico 10:18 7. Phennel Song 4:10 LINEUP: Matteo Uggeri – electronics Cristiano Lupo – drums; guitars, bass Alberto Carozzi – el., ac. & bass guitars; bagpipes Franz Krostopovic – ac. & el. violin, viola; keyboards With: Simone Riva – drums (2, 3, 6) Lucija Krostopovic – piano (5) Deborah Arnold – voice (3)
Prolusion. SPARKLE IN GREY is an Italian outfit, a comparatively young one. Comprised of seven tracks, “Mexico” is a follow-up to their debut album “A Quiet Place” from 2008, which I haven’t heard.
Analysis. I didn’t know what to expect from a group whose primary songwriter, Matteo Uggeri, only uses electronics, but the album turned out to be quite rich in natural sounds, kudos to the technician’s partners, all of whom appear to be multi-instrumentalists, two of them handling some chamber instruments besides rock ones. The music is rather original to my ears, although instantly accessible, with none of the surprises that progressive rock fans are commonly eager to hear. Over the 47 minutes of the disc the outfit hits a number of styles: symphonic ambient, post rock, electronica and so on, often deploying effects of a different origin (human voices and handclaps included), the mood for the most part dark and dreamy at the same time. Although most of the pieces are both structurally and stylistically changeable, all of them have a definite rhythmic base: the pace is normally slow, with programmed drums used as frequently as real ones. The slowest thematic development occurs on From the Air, where a female narrative, often coupled with a female choir (sounding like a whining of dolls, very synthetic), is always at the forefront of the arrangements, all of which in turn, although delivered in a heavily straightforward manner, with emphasis on rhythm, never leave the domain of symphonic ambient. While overall similar in style, Phennel Song is, however, much more effective, my favorite track here. It has a strong acoustic feeling, evoking the sole balladic tune from My Dying Bride’s classic “Turn Loose the Swans”, its compositional core – violins with bagpipes counterpoint – implying deep sadness, too. In contrast, the pieces that are more varied in style, Boys Vomit, That One, Dimissioni, Sunrising and the title one, often rely on a techno rhythm, Matteo at times using nothing other than DJ devices, on some occasions together with noises and suchlike bullshit. Thankfully, proggier elements enter into some of the arrangements, most notably on the part of piano and violin, both courtesy of Franz Krostopovic, the most active as well as effective musician on the album. Alberto Carozzi occasionally reminds me of Porcupine Tree’s Steve Wilson, such as on the title piece (the second best track here, it at one point reveals a refined space rock movement in the vein of that band’s “Signify”), where he shows that he can switch off effects-laden leads and a clean guitar tone seamlessly. On That One he takes a couple of minutes to showcase his talents, delivering a series of distorted solos and riffs, some of which are bright. Otherwise, however, he rarely shines as a guitarist, but then he rather frequently does so as a bassist. By the way, the said track is in fact made up of two different compositions, following one another after a pause, the second one surprisingly jovial, especially compared to the album’s prevalent mood. Most of Sunrising has a fine rock bass and drums accompaniment, but the music is strongly marred by a male recitative that runs almost all through it, neurotically-aggressive in nature. Considering their style, Dimissioni and Boys Vomit both would probably be nice pieces, save the fact that the latter has a morbid title while having no lyrical content.
Conclusion. Overall, “Mexico” sounds like a soundtrack for a non-existing movie rather than a traditional album. It contains plenty of simple, yet quite pleasing, melodies and is fine as background music – sans the DJ-like stuff.
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