Issue 2020-100: Progtober 2020, Day 30 — Italian Concept Album Special


October 2020 sees the 25th anniversary of DPRP.

A quarter of a century of uninterrupted reviews, interviews and features across the progressive genre is quite some landmark. To celebrate the occasion, we shall publish one review edition every single day during this month - 31 editions!

Welcome to Progtober!

In addition to our usual in-depth, independent reviews, our team has compiled a collection of interviews, artist features and several of our ever-popular Duo and Round Table Reviews. Over 40 different albums will be covered.

As ever, thank you to all our readers for your ongoing support, as well as all the artists and labels who create the music we love, and not forgetting the hundreds of people who have written and contributed to this website over the past 25 years.

Mesmerising — The Clutters Storyteller

Mesmerising - The Clutters Storyteller
Country of Origin
Italy
Year of Release
2020
Time
43:00
Samples
Feel (1:02), ... My Dream (5:50), Ballad Of A Creepy Night (5:15), Slave Of Your Shell (3:23), Underground (6:39), The Vortex (4:43), False Reality (3:43), In A Different Dimension (1:54), The Man Who'S Sleeping (4:02) The Last Time You Called My Name (6:52)

Somewhere around the two and half minute mark of Underground in the low, howling despair and cries of "Is there anyone out there", comes a realisation of the pain that has instigated the creation of The Clutters Storyteller. Daunting and occasionally scary, it is a personal journey into grief, borne from tragedy and loss.

Singer songwriter Davide Moscato is reconciling his emotions within his latest Mesmerising project and presumably experiencing a cathartic outlet at the same time. Within The Clutters Storyteller we have a vivid, progressive collection of songs that are intimate and surreal and sometimes uncompromising in their nature. Musically rich, with nods to early Genesis, particularly the narrative style of The Lamb ..., with a vocal tone in places that reflects early Queen and falsetto Mercury, there is an impressive richness to this record.

Dripping in Mellotron and flute throughout, it is crafted delightfully and flows through its movements with ease, occasionally galloping powerfully into a whirling symphonic mix of guitar, keys and thunderous drumming. Fans of Phideaux and early The Flower Kings would find much here to enjoy.

The ghostly harmony and piano of the opening piece, succinctly named Feel, serves as an introduction to My Dream. Moscato's vocal acrobatics pull on the heartstrings and gleam within the emotional chorus sections. It's brilliantly constructed, with an epic, theatrical quality. Ballad of a Creepy Night follows with similar hook-laden thrills, bringing in some tasty sax as a counterpoint to the sinister, dark feeling.

Indeed, throughout, there is a somewhat unique and clever feel in the way that Moscato can sing with a progressive-pop melody around subject matter that is filled with torment. Its ability to stop you tipping over the edge, into the abyss, creates the balance needed.

The aforementioned Underground has the protagonist of the song opening his eyes and finding he is buried alive. With decaying bodies and rats, and fighting the losing battle against suffocation, it's as dark as it gets. Yet the harmonic excellence and the varied textures hold it together successfully.

On False Reality, the paradox, that love is capable of such grief and anguish, is keenly realised in a stratospheric vocal full of fragility and loneliness. The central figure has the power to dissolve mountains and seas, and yet cannot reconcile love. There are rarely laments as beautifully sad as this.

There are creative sub-texts within the drama that add to the depth of the songwriting. Perhaps the most obvious is the perspective on life; that there are more important factors than the ownership of 'things'. The Man Who's Sleeping deals with being alone in this way.

The Clutters Storyteller is an intensely personal and unapologetic journey into the painful moments that many of us experience at some points in our lives. The way it is told through surreal stories and fervent lyrical and musical styling, is a moving touchstone to us all. Above all, there is a standout album of expertly-delivered songs here that deserves your attention.

Oteme — Un Saluto Alle Nuvole

Oteme - Un Saluto Alle Nuvole
Country of Origin
Italy
Year of Release
2020
Time
55:19
Samples
Chiudere Quella Porta (3:10), E Cé Qualcuno (3:46), Un Ricordo Bello (5:16), Dieci Giorni (6:29), Gli Angeli Di San Cataldo (3:28), Quando La Sera (5:41), Turni (11:57), Una Mamma Disperata (8:15), Per I Giorni A Venire (7:37), Un Saluto Alle Nuvole (1:40)

Well, I must admit that this is not an easy one. I wasn't ready to review such an unexpected album when I picked it a few weeks ago, but this is one of the great things about progressive rock music. The more you go through the whole album, the more you understand and enjoy it.

Osservatorio Delle Terre Emerse (or OTEME for short) is a musical project performing works by Stefano Giannotti, composer, musician, videomaker and everything behind this project. OTEME works as a chamber ensemble, having different members depending on the music being executed. Thirteen musicians for this album, playing many instruments such as flute, piccolo, recorder, clarinet, guitars, keyboards, drums and some noises made by kitchen cutlery, loops and programmed sounds.

Having said all this, one can imagine that the music here is not easy to classify. But the band helps a bit by saying that OTEME´s style can be halfway between folk songs and chamber music, avant-rock and contemporary poetry; almost a radio-drama and musical theatre. Did it help? I guess not but believe me that these mixed styles work great here.

Nothing much unexpected so far, and not my favourite musical style, but now it's the time when it gets interesting.

Un Saluto Alle Nuvole (Say Hello To The Clouds) is a concept album talking about death, and not in a metaphorical sense, because the album is talking about real death. The concept is based on the 24-minute documentary called Say Hello To The Clouds, also directed by Stefano Giannotti, and it's about the Hospice of Cataldo in Maggiano that contains interviews with medical and nursing staff on the testimonies of family members of patients who died there. Some of those testimonies are inserted as spoken parts before these songs and they explain real situations with terminal patients. It adds a very emotional feeling to the whole album.

As I said before, I wasn't very impressed on a first listen but then I decided to go deeper and watched the whole documentary (it has English subtitles for those non Italian speakers) and after that, and a few more listenings, I found myself trapped by this album's overall concept. You can watch the film here.

Of course, it's not the kind of album you play while doing other things, since you have to be focused to fully enjoy the songs and the stories behind them. Musically speaking, OTEME plays a unique progressive rock style that has many elements from avant-garde, chamber music and some folk. But who cares when the mixing sounds so good. A personal favourite would be the longest track on the album called Turni, but I'm sure the listener would find many interesting songs here.

Un Saluto Alle Nuvole is a very emotional album, very sad in its concept but also showing the face of death in a very calm way, highlighting the humanity and the professionalism of those who work in this field. I highly recommend to buy this album and find time to listen to it, after having also watched the documentary.

Tilion — Suite Ritrovate

Tilion - Suite Ritrovate
Country of Origin
Italy
Year of Release
2020
Time
55:45
Samples
Cheyenne (21:49), Il Brutto (The Ugly) (27:19), Nel Volo (6:34)

Suite Ritrovate ("re-discovered suites") is the apparent swansong from Tilion, an Italian band that under the wings of Alfio Costa (vintage keyboards, harmonium) and Flavio Costa (acoustic and electric guitars, cello) released two consecutive albums during the years 2003 and 2009. Next to these offerings, Tilion were also involved in two Colossus projects, and these epic compositions have now been gathered on Suite Ritrovates, complimented by Nel Volo, specially recorded for the occasion.

When Tillion were offered the chance to record music inspired by two well-known Sergio Leone movies, Alfio Costa took it upon him to compose two comprehensive, 70s prog-inspired compositions.

The first one, Cheyenne, ended up on the Musea record The Spaghetti Epic, a tribute to Once Upon A Time In The West, while Il Brutto ended up on the second instalment The Spaghetti Epic 2, paying homage to The Good, The Bad & The Ugly.

Both tracks flow through a plethora of dark musical diversions which is unparalleled. An impossible nightmare to capture in a few words, much like their lengthy movie equivalents. Although there's one comforting difference. For personally I have never been able to sit through either of these iconic Westerns, which is something that doesn't apply to these adventurous, entertaining tracks, depicted below in minimal brief characteristics.

In short, Cheyenne opens with Mellotron and mysterious sounds that incorporate an experimental, cinematic feel, breathing the same psychedelic atmosphere as Tarkovsky's movie Solaris. It flows into obscuring counter-rhythms and King Crimson complexity, where the raw, expressive vocals by Andrea Ricci add an Italian accent mindful to 70s Italian RIO. Lashing rhythms and tribal drums (Paolo Cassago), alternate with spacious keyboards and electronic outbursts to build tension, giving ultimate relief through passionate, heavy Mellotron prog and various weird, slightly experimental, passages. Picked up by piano, it converges into dramatic movements and further King Crimson deliriousness, before flying into eruptions of Moog and luscious ELP landscapes, descending towards intensifying echoes of Pink Floyd. A short movement later, it culminates into a medicine's man exorcism.

Il Brutto tops this and goes beyond the limitless boundaries already forcefully stepped upon in Cheyenne. The initial cinematic feel is captured beautifully, as glass shatters and a movie-reel can be heard. The intense opening reveals passionate vocals, which during Il Brutto's extensive "Tour de Force" changes its shape many times, ranging from desperate and pleading, to maniacal and dramatic. The infinite mood changes and the atmospheric layering is impressive and sees an airy, jazzy passage whisper with dreamy bass lines (Roberto Aiolfi) mounting towards haunting psychedelics and powerful, rhythmic counter-melodies.

The suspense of the movie has meticulously been translated into the music to great effect through the many different uses of keyboards, ranging from intoxicating Moog to seductive Mellotron, surrounded by sinister laughter. Some Zappa moments later, it flows into a peaceful phase, closely followed by delightful moments of aggressive guitar riffs and dizzying, complex melodies. This rocky path is trodden swiftly, shifting into a wonderfully-subdued passage with a deceptive, happy feel that transitions into luscious, complex Italian prog. Guided onwards by various compelling symphonic sketches, it finally ends in raging vocals.

Both epics take considerable time to fathom and one really has to invest time and effort into these entities to fully penetrate the individual layers and depth of the music/story. The cinematic magnitude of the music is overwhelming, making the end result an intense and intriguing progressive celebration bringing to mind acts like Banco, Il Balletto Di Bronzo and Goblin.

The short, cleansing nature of Nel Volo is therefore highly appreciated, sounding more polished, with an up-graded production. It stays true to Tilion's talkative style, as it flows from space-rock into refined song structures that reveal both melancholic and passionate passages. The complex outliers and raw edges are less apparent, yet the psychedelic nature, emotional content, passionate vocals and cinematic feel is once again beautifully portrayed and performed. Although recorded years later, it soothingly rounds-off the album in a most suitable way.

Since the birth of these musical blockbusters, Alfio Costa has steadily perfected his communicative musical dimensions through his collaboration with Davide Guidoni in the form of Daal, which is to some extent reflected in Nel Volo's intricacies. The symphonic and complex richness of Tilion's Suite Ritrovates won't be everybody's cup of tea. Many double expressos and spins later it is indeed still a lot to take in. The effort slowly fades with perseverance. A recommendable release, in which the mindful (Italian) seventies prog fan can look forward to a highly entertaining period of field days.