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Zaal - 2004 - "La Lama Sottile"
TRACK LIST: 1. Intro 0:51 2. Zelig 8:23 3. La Bussola 0:55 4. Il Destino di Naghia Sofia 9:30 5. La Lama 1:15 6. Progress 6:38 7. Naan 3:02 8. Il Cannocchiale 4:14 9. Cinquequarti 4:53 10. Limbo 2:48 11. Sul Mutamento 7:23 All tracks: by Macor. Produced by Macor. Engineered by Foglia & Macor. LINE-UP: Agostino Macor - pianos, synthesizers, harpsichord & Mellotron Maurizio Bavastro - acoustic & electric basses, cello Sergio Caputo - violin Federic Foglia - drums With: Fabio Zuffanti - bass Stefano Marelli - guitar Paolo Pezzi - saxophone
Apart from the cover of the "La Lama Sottile" CD, which, I believe, is the debut album by ZAAL, there is nothing on the website of this Italian band thus far. However, the main mastermind behind it, keyboardist and composer Agostino Macor, conducts also some other projects, just as his well-known countryman
Analysis. Zaal is a group of masterful, definitely experienced musicians, and their leader is a gifted, open-minded composer with several different influences in music. Judging by this album, the man's passions are as diverse as Jazz-Fusion, Classical Academic music, Zeuhl and symphonic Art-Rock are dissimilar to each other. (The features of some other directions manifest here and there, but can be regarded only as accidental, at best attendant, factors.) I listed the genres in the line of descent, according to their status in the overall musical picture. Although this very picture is sectional rather than thematic, the eleven instrumental compositions are so well intermixed among themselves that the absolute majority of them finely harmonize with each other, in spite of numerous differences between them. Unlike the long ones, each of the shorter tracks is stylistically uniform, which seems to be logical rather than vice versa. Two of them: La Bussola and Limbo represent little concertos of Classical academic music for cello and violin. The other two: Intro and La Lama are improvisational duets for piano and bass. Finally, Naan and Cinquequarti were performed by the band along with a guest sax player and are about a swingy Jazz Rock, but with little tending towards its classic aesthetics. In other words, they aren't subjected to a fixed measure, which is certainly very good from a progressive standpoint. As implied above, the longer compositions are structurally more polymorphous, but this is not all. Although piano, bass, cello, violin and drums still share the lead in most cases, they inevitably meet the parts of vintage keyboards (Mellotron, Moog and harpsichord), which results in a really unique sound, kind of an exclusive blend of Rock, chamber, acoustic, electric, symphonic, jazzy and some other textures. Each of the longer compositions features plenty of unexpected turns and twists and is highly intricate in general, but Zelig and Progress are, that said, a bit more materially minded in character. In a general sense, these compositions are close to what we usually understand as a classically inspired symphonic Art-Rock, though there also are rather many elements of Jazz-Fusion. The contents of Il Destino di Naghia Sofia and Sul Mutamento are highly uncommon. Here I hear a really unique chamber Rock sliding somewhere between Classical academic music and Zeuhl! The 4-minute Il Cannocchiale is the only atypical color in the album's musical palette. There are only fluid solos of guitar and slowly moving passages of piano and synthesizer. Ambient is the word. Though nicely done, this piece seems out of place here, looking somewhat like that paranormally calm and peaceful place in the heart of tornado. Back to the album as a whole, I must note that the music is exceptionally original. Only Zelig contains one short episode where the Moog solos resemble some of those in classic ELP (on "Pictures at an Exhibition" specifically), though partly, it's due to the use of the same register of the synthesizer.
Conclusion. Zaal's "La Lama Sottile" is a very solid effort, and regardless of the presence of an ambient piece, I find it a masterpiece. This is a serious Prog, which I sincerely recommend to serious music lovers. I only fear that there are not many of such, who, like the creators of the album, would equally at easy perceive Art-Rock and Jazz-Fusion, because of the striking difference between the symphonic and improvisational harmony.
VM: January 3, 2005
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