Luciano Margorani/Luca Pissavini/Chris Cutler
Kleine Welten

(Bunch Records)

It was about thirty years ago that I first became aware of Luciano Margorani's work, thanks to the RR Quarterly, the much-lamented vinyl LP and "evolved magazine" combo indomitably curated by Chris Cutler. Reading the name of the legendary drummer appearing as a member of the line-up that's featured on this album made me think of a circle now being complete. It goes without saying that this is not the first time Chris Cutler appears on an album by Margorani - as a for instance, I'll mention the album of songs that's in a way related to the work of the group News From Babel titled Pseudocanzoni (2008) - but here Cutler's contribution can only be defined, for reasons that will became clear in just a short while, as "foundational".

A skilled guitar player, Margorani can be placed along a continuum that has improvisation la Derek Bailey on one end and the hodgepodge of styles we usually refer to under the umbrella name Rock In Opposition on the other, the exact position of each recorded work across the continuum being ascribed to the different approach of each individual release.

The picture would not be complete if I forgot to mention such formative influences as Robert Fripp, of King Crimson etc., and Gentle Giant's Gary Green, whose work can still be traced, in various amount, in Margorani's current output.

A few years ago, I had liked the debut album by "power trio" Fracture, a line-up whose style I saw as being related to Massacre when that trio featured Fred Frith, Bill Laswell, and Fred Maher. Here Margorani's guitar featured alongside Luca Pissavini's bass and Andrea Quattrini's drums. Alas, I didn't like the group's follow-up, Fracture II, much, mainly due to a new drummer whose work didn't appear to mesh with that of the other members of the trio, a lack of coherence being the final outcome.

(I'll briefly mention a tiny, inviting work titled Home Is Where The Art Is, which Margorani recorded "in the moment" a couple of years ago together with US musician Elaine diFalco, a work that to this day has not been made available to the general public.)

As reported by the album's liner notes, the birth of Kleine Welten - I'm told the name comes from a series of prints by Vasilij Kandiskij - goes like this. Three years ago Chris Cutler was requested to invent six "rhythmic beds", something which he did with the technical assistance of trusted sound engineer Bob Drake (I hope I'm not mistaken if I say that I seem to detect, here and there, a modicum of overdubbing).

Come April of last year, Pissavini and Margorani recorded their performances while listening to Chris Cutler's already mixed tracks, freely (and separately) improvising, without listening to each other's contribution. Something which makes for some interesting combinations, with a nod in the general direction of Frank Zappa's "xenochrony".

Given the fact that Chris Cutler possesses an evolved, highly cultivated sense of form, I think I can say that the two "Italian boys" proved themselves to be up to the task.

The final result is quite interesting, sporting a "spiky pleasantness" that could be greeted with much enthusiasm by those so inclined: "It's only Rock in Opposition, but I like it!".

The album features seven episodes, most of them being of medium length. At first I was surprised to see the album's duration being just thirty minutes, but after repeated listening sessions I came to the conclusion that there's no fat here, which makes half an hour as the perfect choice.

I'll try to describe those tracks. Readers beware: those names I mention are to be intended just as points of reference, not as proof that this work is for the most part derivative.

Kleine Welten I. It starts with Margorani solo, with echoes of Fripp's Fracture! The bass plays a glissando, then at about 15" it's time for Cutler's entrance. Prodigious drums, with a pinch of overdubbing: snare, tom, tiny percussion, hi-hat. Drum rolls, guitar harmonics at about 2' 39", then at about 2' 54" there's a martial air that reminded me of King Kong's 12/8, followed by a delay guitar, with fine counterpoint from the fretless bass. In closing: hi-hat, snare, and bass drum.

Kleine Welten II. The track fades in, with drums and Frith-like guitar making their entrance at 47". Bass in the background, snare drum and percussion, long held notes from the guitar. A "singing" fretless starting from 2' 40", lively drums, echo guitar, mayhem from the bass. In closing, a "soundscape" from guitar, with (I think) a bass loop underneath.

Kleine Welten III. A "dancing" tempo from Cutler, melodic-sounding bass, then a "thin"-sounding guitar enunciating a melodic theme. Stop, then a tempo is stated at 1' 06", then at 1' 18" there's a theme that reminded me of Fred Frith's Gravity, but with a personal bent. There's an interesting "xenochrony" between the guitar and the bass, which here plays a very active role. And what's that, a tambourine?

Kleine Welten IV. Snare drum to the fore, a vivacious and propulsive electric bass, the guitar playing chords. Tambourine, and a "walking bass". Lotsa different ideas.

Kleine Welten V. Guitar chords, then bass guitar and drums enter playing an odd time signature, there are some "funky" accents at about 16", with the snare drum and a fine hi-hat played both open and closed, then a ride cymbal is hit at the bell. At about 53" there's a "fractured" theme, a very good, agitated, hi-hat part, the guitar playing chords, a "fusion"-sounding bass, then a tempo is stated, with a Fripp-like air at about 2'. There's a fractured theme at 2' 50" - Fripp! - then at about 2' 59" "Frank Zappa" makes his presence felt for a moment or two. The finale has more guitar chords, this time with a greater use of distortion than before.

Kleine Welten VI. Strange to say, the start of this piece reminded me of The Aristocrats! At 27" Fripp-like arpeggios, the rhythm section here reminding me of Can, with a bass progression la Holger Czukay and the guitar solo as a strange but logical-sounding mix of Robert Fripp and Michael Karoli.

Kleine Welten VII. This piece is based on a hi-hat loop by Cutler, with a chord progression and an overdubbed lead guitar painting a melody. Just a few notes from the bass. An appropriate change of pace, and a fine album closer.

The review is over, but since today it's "suggestion time" here at Clouds and Clocks, I'll jump on my soapbox and add this:

a) readers who have kindly read the piece up to this point are invited to listen to this work, especially those who are unfamiliar with most names I mentioned in my review;

b) summer's here, and maybe contracts have already been signed, but European promoters are invited to give let's say... twenty dates to this "power trio", a line-up that - while I doubt it could excite very large crowds - could easily draw... about two hundred paying customers per date;

c) I invite Margorani to offer the diFalco album via free streaming, it can't hurt;

d) I invite the trio to play those dates those European promoters mentioned at point b) will offer them. While a drummer like Chris Cutler is perfectly able to push those two "Italian boys" well beyond the confines of their "comfort zone", this trio could give the drummer a chance to be listened to outside the realm of "contemporary classical" where I've heard him for the most part in the last few years.


Beppe Colli

Beppe Colli 2015 | Apr. 23, 2015