Archive for March 2008
Franco Battiato is an epidemic. He massively and deeply influenced italian music in the last forty years, with both his seventies’ cosmic/avant seminal efforts and his early eighties’ art pop masterpieces. In addition, he also wrote for, played in and produced a huge number of records by artists as different as Telaio magnetico and Ombretta Colli, PFM and Giusto Pio, eventually establishing his own style as a stand alone genre. We will have many chances to speak about his work as the blog goes on.
Anyway, most of this was yet to come in 1974, when Battiato joined his friend Roberto “Juri” Camisasca (they met while serving in the army) to play VCS3 and keyboards and co-produce the latter’s debut album, La finestra dentro (“the window inside”). The result was something slightly different from early seventies’ Battiato classics like Fetus (1972) and Pollution (1972): the driving forces here are Camisasca’s excellent acid-folk songwriting and his unique, thrilling voice, which could be somehow compared to Demetrio Stratos or Claudio Rocchi, and yet sounds completely personal and sincere.
The circular, monotonous grooves and the contemporary classic elements, which are likely to be Battiato’s key contributions to arrangements, helped in creating an obsessive atmosphere that reflects the mood of the lyrics. This is just an example, from “Un galantuomo”: “Ora mi decido, prendo un martello, me lo picchio sulla testa ed ecco che i topi mi escono dal naso, i topi mi escono dalle orecchie. Ma ora me ne pento perché oramai io sono troppo vecchio. E come una pianta che perde le foglie, io perdo i capelli, io perdo le dita, io perdo le gambe, io perdo il naso, io perdo il controllo della lingua.” (“Now i decide, i take a hammer, i bang it on my head and the rats come out of my nose, the rats come out of my ears. But i repent, because by now i am too old. And like a plant losing its leaves, i lose my hair, i lose my fingers, i lose my legs, i lose my nose, i lose control of my tongue.”).
This combination of haunting lyrics and sounds from outer space landed as an unidentified object in the middle of a scene then mainly focused on progressive rock and cantautori, and Battiato’s name was not yet such a warranty brand to gain to the album the attention it deserved. As a result, La finestra dentro has been for too many years one of the best kept secret of seventies’ italian music – and a highly valued collectors item. The releasing of two singles during 1975, which coupled tracks from the album with more “easy” songs on the a-sides, did not help either.
The same Juri Camisasca became a desaparecido joining a monastery in 1976, after some minor contributions to some Battiato’s projects. He came back to music at the end of the eighties, and since then he has been writing some amazing songs for the likes of Alice, Milva and Giuni Russo and has released three solo albums: Te deum, Il Carmelo di Echt (“the echt’s carmel”), and Arcano enigma (“occult enigma”, with Bluvertigo as a backing band).
He is also a painter of orthodox icons, and has acted in the last two Battiato’s feature films as a director, Musikanten and Niente è come sembra (“nothing is as it seems”, with Alejandro Jodorowski playing a tarot reader).
Here is the tracklist:
01, Un galantuomo (“a gentleman”)
02, Ho un grande vuoto nella testa (“i’ve got a big void in my head”)
03, Metamorfosi (“metamorphosis”, also released as the b-side of “La musica muore”)
04, Scavando col badile (“digging with the shovel”)
06, Un fiume di luce (“a river of light”, also released as the b-side of “Himalaya”)
07, Il regno dell’Eden (“the realm of eden”)
The two 7″ contain:
a, Himalaya / b, Un fiume di luce
La musica muore (“the music dies”, 1975)
a, La musica muore / b, Metamorfosi
Get the whole package: Juri Camisasca, La finestra dentro (1974) + 7″
Check juricamisasca.it for news and stuff (in italian).
Most of the people outside Italy know very little about our pop music. Just few, usual names: Eros Ramazzotti, Laura Pausini and, as for the past, Mina, Albano e Romina, Toto Cutugno. And, of course, Adriano Celentano. Our own king of rock’n’roll.
Celentano has possibly been the first italian popstar to claim full control about his work and to rebel against the established rules of music business. When in 1961 he broke up with his recording company Jolly and founded his own label, Il Clan, together with a posse of friends, Ricky Gianco was there: a talented, very young guitarist and songwriter from Lodi, near Milan, who had already played and recorded with people like Luigi Tenco, Enzo Jannacci, Gino Paoli.
Even if he had left Il Clan shortly afterwards, in 1963, Gianco had for sure that lesson in mind when, more than ten years later, he founded with Nanni Ricordi and other friends Ultima spiaggia. One of the cult italian indie labels in the Seventies, together with Cramps and Bla Bla, which delivered albums by Jannacci, Ivan Cattaneo, Roberto Colombo, Francesco Currà, Gramigna.
At that time, Ricky Gianco was mainly known as a rock’n’roll prime mover in Italy and a hitmaker – by the way, he wrote “Pugni chiusi” (“clunched fists”), the greatest success of Demetrio Stratos’ first band, I Ribelli – but the label’s manifesto, a collective effort called Disco dell’angoscia (“the anguish record”, 1975) had little to do with pop. It’s one of the most challenging and gloomy italian records of those years. An art-rock/prog concept album about a man involved in a car accident, played by an all-star band featuring the same Gianco, Cattaneo, Gianfranco Manfredi, Tullio De Piscopo, and Ellade Bandini.
Alla mia mam… (“to my momm…”), released in 1976, was an attempt to bring somehow the madness and the experimental attitude of Disco dell’angoscia into a more traditional rock song form. The result fitted perfectly with the oblique protest lyrics that Gianco and Gianfranco Manfredi wrote for the album. The wave of ’77 was rising and Ricky Gianco rode it, giving his own peculiar contribution to the movement’s political songbook.
Rage and pride, freakiness and irony, counterculture epic and ordinary tales of alienation are in a perfect balance in tracks such as “Un amore” (a thrilling, acoustic guitar-driven ballad), “Fango”, “Un pipistrello in abito da sera” (an odd pastiche of tropicalism and roman folk songs) or “Davanti al nastro che corre” (already released in a different version on Disco dell’angoscia). And even if none of these ever managed to become a generational anthem, Alla mia mam… still remains one of the best records to come out in that climate, and definitely the best album Ricky Gianco never made.
Here is the tracklist:
01, Un amore (“a love”, also released as a 7″ b/w “Mangia insieme a noi”)
02, Campo minato (“minefield”)
03, Fango (“mud”)
04, repubblicA (“republiC”)
05, Mangia insieme a noi (“come eat with us”)
06, Ospedale militare (“military hospital”)
07, Nel mio giardino (“in my garden”)
08, Un pipistrello in abito da sera (“a bat in evening dress”)
09, Davanti al nastro che corre (“in front of the conveyor belt”)
More info and news about Ricky Gianco on his official website (in italian).
Christina and Maurizio. Chrisma. Krisma. Or: bite the hand that feeds you.
In 1976, Maurizio Arcieri had almost completely wasted his past fame as the lead singer of New Dada (one of the most important italian beat acts, which supported The Beatles in their 1965 italian tour), and later as a succesful solo artist. He and his recently married wife Christina Moser had just formed a new band, a duo obsessed by Velvet Underground and NY pre-punk scene, cheap electronics, rock’n’roll rhetoric, pre-war Germany aesthetics, futurism. The name was Chrisma.
The new outfit took over Maurizio’s contract with Polydor and moved to London to join Niko Papathanassiou at his brother Vangelis’ Nemo studios, where they were to record Chinese Restaurant (1977), and Hibernation (1979). English lyrics, european attitude: the farther from Italy, the better for them. Coming back from such a distance allowed them an ethnographic approach to italian culture (try listen to “Vetra Platz” on Hibernation, for instance), and eventually made a bigger and louder crash. Chrisma brought punk into tv mainstream; their stunning performances, together with their great talent for image manipulation and media hacking, established them as professional provocateurs and pop terrorists.
In 1982, they had reached a new level. Cathode Mamma (1980), released as Krisma, had been a huge success, boosted by the synthpop hit single “Many Kisses” which charted all around Europe. Their newly signed label CGD provided them with a high budget. Expectations were high, too, especially in selling terms. But Maurizio and Christina were strange beasts.
The money was spent recording a concept album about water (!…) in The Netherlands, on the Alps, and in Milan, for the magnificent artwork by Mario Convertino (and the expensive packaging as well), and shooting an entire series of promo videos in Indonesia (you can see a couple of them here and here). A coherent multimedia work was realized, at label’s expenses.
I pity people at CGD who first listened to the tapes. How could you describe this? Kraftwerk playing italo disco? A mediterranean take on Malaria!? Siouxsie and Howard Devoto singing opera to some Luciano Berio techno remix? Clandestine Anticipation was a kick in the eye to music industry. One of the most appalling masterpieces of new wave, but a commercial suicide, too. They turned their backs to mainstream success and moved on elsewhere, laughing.
Here is the tracklist:
02, Samora Club
03, Crucial Point
05, Silly Europeans
06, Wrong Island
08, Water (also released as a 7″ b/w “Samora Club”)
09, Zacdt Zacdt
Krisma are still active as a live act, tv format designers, videomakers, and agit-prop. They have worked with Arto Lindsay and Eno, and joined Franco Battiato for three tracks in his 2004 album Dieci stratagemmi.
Chinese Restaurant, Hibernation, and Cathode Mamma have been recently reprinted and are available on cd. Check out their website krismatv.net for more info.