Unreal City — Frammenti Notturni
(AMS 283, 2017, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2017-12-31
It seems like it’s been quite a while since I reviewed an album of classic-style Italian prog, so I’m happy to have this gem come up in my list. Unreal City has been in existence about ten years now, but Frammenti Notturni is the first of their albums I’ve heard. On one hand, they have the typical elements of symphonic Italian prog down: outstanding Classical-inflected keyboard playing (Emanuele Tarasconi) featuring piano, organ, and synths; a strong vocalist belting out Italian lyrics (Tarasconi again); melodic guitar work that rocks without resorting to cliches (Francesca Zanetta); a kick-butt rhythm section (Dario Pessina on bass and Marco Garbin on drums) that negotiates the compositions with energy and flair; and compositions that balance delicacy and power through varying sections. On the other hand, they also have much to recommend them that is much more their own, and lifts them above the level of a promising also-ran. Some of the instrumental sections have a hint of jazz fusion to them; guests provide violin and female backing vocals; and there are occasional moments of unexpected weirdness, like crazy analog synthesizer noises and an audio sample from Hitchcock’s Rope (James Stewart’s famous speech near the end). The real star here is the quality of the compositions. From the shortest tune (“Barricate” is under six minutes) to the longest (“La Grande Festa in Maschera” is over 13, and runs directly into “Le Luci delle Case (Spente)” to create a side-long epic) they maintain interest with imaginative changes and clever transitions, slipping into an odd meter here, changing key there, and so on. I can recommend Frammenti Notturni for anyone who’s into the Italian classics or would like to be. The style is not dead, and not moribund either.
Related artist(s): Unreal City
Didier Lockwood RIP – Word reaches us today of the death of one of France's great jazz musicians, violinist Didier Lockwood. His playing bridged many worlds, from traditional jazz to fusion to progressive rock, and his talent can be heard on recordings by Magma, Clearlight, Pierre Moerlen's Gong, and many more. Lockwood was 62. » Read more
10 Years of Fruits de Mer - The Incomplete Angler – Those of you who are faithful followers of Exposé will know that we have been promoting Fruits de Mer and its side labels and releases from nearly its first year. Now music journalist and author Dave Thompson has written a book chronicling the past ten years as a celebration of this milestone. » Read more
Bill Bruford Ventures into Uncharted Territory – Drum master Bill Bruford, veteran of some of the most creative bands in history (King Crimson, Yes, Genese, etc.), is sharing some of what he's learned about being a drummer and a musician in his new book, Uncharted: Creativity and the Expert Drummer, out on University of Michigan Press. » Read more