(Setola di maiale)

And what did I find this time inside my magic "box of surprises" (i.e., my mailbox)? Well, an Italian Power Trio, that's what. Well, sort of. Bringing fresh music from the past. With a booklet that's decidedly on the Spartan side, and a title (yep, that's the name of the group, too) which goes hand-in-hand (well, knee-to-knee, perhaps?) with the x-ray on the cover. But looking at the line-up, I immediately noticed the name of guitarist Luciano Margorani. Which is reason enough for me to conjecture a Crimson clue for the group's name. Or not? Let's have a listen.

I was quite surprised to read (on the album cover) that the album was recorded (quite well, in the studio, by Davide Lasala and Emiliano Baragiola) in just three hours, all tracks being "freely improvised (or spontaneously composed)" by the trio, whose members must apparently be strong practitioners of some form of telepathy, such is their precision in perfectly executing precise "stops", and changes in texture and mood. Though this is not the first time I've listened to Margorani, I have to confess I've never listened before to the other members of the trio: Luca Pissavini, on (electric) bass; and Andrea Quattrini, on drums: both are fine instrumentalists.

It's not that difficult to discern an aroma we could define as "Rock in Opposition" - which is not too surprising, given Margorani's past work. Here I could mention the trio Massacre, and (to a lesser degree) Last Exit (sometimes on the album it sounds like Bill Laswell is performing his ideas on an instrument borrowed from Jack Bruce). There are more than a few "hints" of Robert Fripp in his "classic" King Crimson period; also a feeling of exuberance that reminded me of guitarist René Lussier. Readers beware: this is just to indicate that the trio's music has a history, not to stress the fact that it's derivative. Funny thing, I'm quite sure that ten (or twenty) years ago I'd called this music "out of time", meaning: "old". But today I just call it "timeless", meaning: "classic". Or, if you prefer, it's the usual case of the bus passing twice.

The last thing that could be told of Margorani is that he's a mediocre instrumentalist, but here he sounds more assured and purposeful than in the past (my opinion, anyway); in the past, he always sounded quite sure of what to do - even when results were not so brilliant - but here, in the "naked" dimension of the trio, he plays convincingly. Pissavini is without a doubt a good bass player, and here he plays his role of "second soloist" - playing riffs, counterpoint, and distorted melodic lines - with great aplomb. Quattrini's drumming is maybe more "caffeinated" (and - at times - quite Cutler-like): dry and vivacious, with fine use of cymbals and a skilled touch on the snares (but oftentimes it's the usual "běng!" that comes off brass snare drums).

The album is quite varied, and surprisingly accessible (of course, those who define Jimi Hendrix's guitar solos as "self-indulgent" are bound to disagree). Though I'm quite aware that this is not a great moment for the financial well-being of difficult music, I'd really like for this album to be the starting point for a lot of concerts (outside the "nostalgia circuit", please - but maybe this is too much to ask for).

Let's now have a quick look at the tracks.

Vendetta! has a clear start - three drumstick hits, bass drum, snare drum -, a Frith-like mood, fine stamina from the trio, quite a few telepathic moments, and an unusual Blues episode (maybe with a pinch of Gary Green?) (at about 6' 20" - 6' 30").

Bass pedals and radio fragments open Radiodramma, which sports a Fripp-like theme and at times reminded me of The Talking Drum. Nice guitar episode ("Canadian"? - it starts at about 5' 49") by Margorani.

The obvious tempo and a "walking" bass are featured on Toilet Jazz, with the guitar playing chords and a skilled use of the pick. (Though I'm fully aware that saying this to musicians will probably make me a potential recipient of a copy of the famous book Rhythm Made Easy, I can't help but argue that here and there on the album the bass and the drums appear to me as being more "in sync" with the guitar than as a rhythm section - I mean, their sense of "pulse" sometimes made me wonder where "one" was. OK, now start shooting.)

Parassita sounds quite "ethnic", with picking behind the bridge, harmonics with echo, percussion; the track gets more and more lively, cymbals coming to the fore.

Half Past Nine has a "space" start, quite Floyd-like (Ummagumma?). Then, drums set a tempo, there's a theme played by distorto bass with fine guitar backing, a nice performance.

Complotto makes good use of what one could call a long "tuning session": first harmonics, then chords. Melodic bass, "noisy" guitar, a "Fripp" moment (at 5' 50"), nice use of echo, agitated drums, and an acceleration (starting at about 10') which brings the track to its close.

I'd call Blackswanbat "doom metal" - if I only knew what it is! It's a good track anyway, a "noisy" mid-tempo that works quite well as the album's close.

Beppe Colli

© Beppe Colli 2011 | Sept. 19, 2011