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TRACK LIST: 1. Brain Washing 8:02 2. The True Size of Life 9:39 3. Swarm Intelligence 15:41 4. AC/BC 11:39 5. Tetsuo 7:08 6. Dark City 11:11 LINEUP: Stefano Pantani – el. & ac. guitars Ugo Vantini – drums, percussion; keyboards Fabrizio Santoro – basses, ac. guitar, mandolin; keyboards
Prolusion. Most of the members of Italy’s Ezra Winston continue recording and releasing creations while their main band is inactive. Along with Fabrizio Santoro (from Nodo Gordiano), two of the outfit’s musicians, Stefano Pantani and Ugo Vantini, formed VU-METERS in the fall of 2007. “Dark City”, the first release from this trio, can in some ways be regarded as a follow-up to the self-titled Anagramma CD – the brainchild of Stefano Pantani and Daniele Iacono.
Analysis. Although serving as another proof of the Ezra Winston participants’ breadth of stylistic horizon, “Dark City” is a less impressive effort than “Anagramma”. Six instrumental pieces, ranging from 7 to 15-and-a-half minutes, form the contents of this disc, and each of those has its own peculiarities. Featuring nothing to challenge the progressive ear, The True Size of Life and Swarm Intelligence, the most kindred as well as simplest compositions in the set, follow one after another instead of being intermixed with the other tracks. As everywhere on the recording, the music on these has no textural qualities (think those we meet with in electronic and purely ambient creations) to it, but the concept of instrumental variety isn’t too applicable to it, either. Basically monothematic, pastoral and relaxing all at once, both find the trio sitting (okay, slowly moving) somewhere between New Age and what I would define as natural, Art-Rock-imitating Ambient much in the style of Jeremy’s “Pilgrim’s Journey” at its most serene, which would’ve been all right with me if these, almost minimalist (not to be confused with classic Minimalist music created by Terry Riley) pieces, totaling 25 minutes in length, had not been so long, let alone prolonged. The only difference between them lies in the fact that Stefano’s guitar soloing on the latter, while being always slow, too, bears a semi-improvisational character. Personally I take these two as the Lands of Nod where only the drummer wakes up from time to time to – out of the blue – provide the drive and diversity that everything here seems to be crying for. AC/BC, the second longest track here, evokes nothing but so-called ‘space music’ within its first third; then follows a relatively short new age-y theme and finally something repetitive, yet fairly original (lasting all over its last half), which I find difficulty in classifying otherwise than as ambient Doom Metal. This composition leaves a better impression, although it’s still a pseudo, artificially overextended, epic whose first half is destined exclusively for a cosmic dustbin. Brain Washing and Tetsuo both alternate genuinely doom-metal-lish, Black Sabbath-evoking, movements with what the second described track is about in its entirety. There is almost nothing in the way of complexity on the first of these: it tends to avoid any proper progression, since the corresponding sections simply alternate with each other while their respective thematic storylines remain practically the same. Only textural contrasts are present there, but even those are achieved in a very simple manner: turn the volume knob of your amp up and down when playing the placid pieces and in some ways you’ll get a similar effect. The latter is basically almost analogous in construction, but its ‘new’ themes have at least some notable alterations to their sound and, furthermore, the heavier ones reveal quite a distinct avant-garde, RIO-like, flavor. The title track, which virtually contains all the styles that are available on the outing (except avant-garde), modifying as well as combining them with Space Fusion, is somewhat reminiscent of Porcupine Tree circa “Signify” and would’ve been the winner – instead of Tetsuo – if it hadn’t fallen into a sort of cosmic sleep 3 or 4 minutes before its ‘landing’.
Conclusion. I’m not that satisfied with this “Dark City”. I like more variety in music; I need some truly sophisticated interplay between the musicians as well as some distinct transitions in theme (at least) to get real pleasure from what I hear. Nonetheless, there are few cliches and no overt influences on this recording and, moreover, it is so rich in different stylistic explorations (all of which are appreciated and find their reflection in the rating). So I’m pretty sure it will gain quite a solid fan base – as it applies to the current situation with progressive music, of course.
VM=Vitaly Menshikov: May 16, 2009
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