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(73:48, Lizard Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Montezuma 4:45 2. Mantra-1 4:42 3. Suicide Seas of People & Political Dope 3:22 4. Mantra-2 6:34 5. La Paura Mangia l’Anima 6:09 6. Mantra-3 5:58 7. Mantra-2-Reprise 9:12 8. Mantra-4 5:23 9. The Visible Hand 5:57 10. La Nausea Motbida 6:57 11. Suite No-2 Part-1 4:23 12. Suite No-2 Part-2 0:06 13. Suite No-2 Part-3 0:05 14. Suite No-2 Part-4 0:06 15. Suite No-2 Part-5 0:06 16. Suite No-2 Part-6 6:24 17. Suite No-2 Part-7 0:06 18. Suite No-2 Part-8 0:05 19. Suite No-2 Part-9 0:05 20. Suite No-2 Part-10 5:41 LINEUP: Luca Vicenzi – el. & ac. guitars Marco Fortuna – bass, contrabass Pierpaolo Lofrano – drums
Prolusion. “Quintet Sessions”, the latest offering by Italian trio ZITA ENSEMBLE, is a follow-up to their 2006 release whose title, “Volume I”, certainly means it’s the starting point of the band’s discography.
Analysis. The “Quintet Sessions” album features the same three musicians who are behind its predecessor and no side participants, so I wonder why it got the title it did. Maybe because there are five instruments in the trio’s arsenal, according to the booklet? For that matter, however, the sound here often suggests a sextet or even a septet performance, since quite a few compositions find Pierpaolo Lofrano playing congas besides drums, and Luca Vicenzi additionally deploying either a guitar synthesizer or even a midi guitar. Most of all, however, I am surprised at the fact that Suite No-2 is presented as a ten-part creation, whilst in reality seven of its ‘parts’ are musically inhabited – all those tiny 5-second ones in the track list above, for sure. Otherwise, well, “Quintet Sessions” is quite a different musical affair compared to the trio’s previous release, and is for the most part a fairly interesting and refreshing listening. Gone are metalloids and (which is really important) any meaningless psychedelic tendencies, the music having a sense of completeness practically everywhere on the album. None of the thirteen full-fledged instrumentals are weak, though if I were the producer of these “Sessions” I would have omitted two more pieces, La Nausea Motbida and Suite No-2 Part-6, as both are somewhat below average to my way of thinking. Want to fill up the CD’s space at any rate? It’s as easy as pie. Set a swingy groove, build a couple of themes around it, and then just try not to get out of their harmonic series when soloing, feel free to call all this a ‘free improvisation’ and be happy. Of course, these are grossly exaggerated expressions, but anyway the recording would have a stronger impact on me if those two standard tunes hadn’t been included, especially since it would have still exceeded an hour in length. The eleven core tracks here fall into two, quantitatively almost equal, categories of compositions (the majority of the oddly- and the evenly-numbered ones of those, respectively). Montezuma, Suicide Seas of People & Political Dope, La Paura Mangia l’Anima, Mantra-2-Reprise and The Visible Hand are all largely acoustic in nature, stylistically reminding me of a crossover between Art-, Jazz- and a kind of multi-national Folk Rock with elements of Space Fusion as well as some ambient- and minimalist-like tendencies. On each of these, Luca Vicenzi’s acoustic and electric guitars provide many of the leads and textures, ranging from, say, traditionally European lines to Spanish, Flamenco-inspired, passages to Arabic patterns to (less frequently) waves of soundscapes to fluid, somewhat Gilmoure-sque, solos to more intense, perhaps Fripp-stylized, leads. However, his bandmates, Marco Fortuna and Pierpaolo Lofrano, are always active also, the former musician playing alternately bass and contrabass, the latter switching over from the tabla-sounding congas to the drum kit and so on (which, by the way, they do almost everywhere on the recording – unlike Luca who only uses electric guitar on all the yet-to-be-named pieces). In all, the majority of the acoustically-driven compositions are brilliant in their own way. Of the remaining six tracks, Mantra-1, 2, 3, 4, Suite No-2-1 and -10, none contain any folk motifs, each revealing a number of synthesizer-like solos as well as drones instead – along with some distant echoes of German e-school and late Hawkwind. Either way, the music is closer to Space Fusion, and while it’s not without an electronic sense for sure, the implied features are always balanced with those coming from real instruments. The sole oddly-numbered track in this, second, set of pieces, Suite No-2-1, is at the same time the only composition on the disc where I hear something instantly recognizable in places, namely On the Run from Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon”.
Conclusion. I always appreciate fresh-sounding progressive music, even if it’s much less intricate than the ones I'm most of all fond of, such as these “Quintet Sessions”. However, it is no secret that the majority of those from the contemporary prog rock fan base prefer accessibility to complexity, to say the least. Recommended is the word.
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