Anni di piombo, anni di paillettes.

Music from a country on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Archive for June 2008

[music:] Francesco Currà, Rapsodia meccanica (1977)

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When you say industrial music, some pioneers’ names come immediately to your head: Monte Cazazza, Boyd Rice, Throbbing Gristle, and so on. Martial rythms, tape loops, distorted noises, buzzing electronics… ok, but what the music of a real factory would have sounded like? One of the possible answers lies in this record.

The new social and cultural framework created in Italy by the great workers’ fights which started in 1967, and the permanent revolutionary mobilization which lasted until the end of the seventies, allowed a new kind of radical, proletarian artists coming from the factories and the urban suburbia to express themselves and find their way into “official” culture. People like the worker-writer Tommaso Di Ciaula, the incredible folk/experimental musician Enzo Delre, and Alfa Romeo workers’ band Gruppo operaio ‘e zezi could now release their books and records, drawing the attention of a broader audience than anybody could ever image a few years before.

Francesco Currà – born in Calabria, in the deep south of Italy – used to work at a milling machine at the Ansaldo, a huge heavy metal industry in Genoa. Actually you can see his pay sheet for october 1976 on the cover. He was a poet, too. He was 29 when he was granted by independent label Ultima spiaggia the opportunity to team up with Roberto Colombo, Flaviano Cuffari and other great musicians to realize Rapsodia Meccanica (“mechanical rhapsody”): not simply a concept album about life in a factory, but a kind of a fantastic voyage through the alienated mind of a chain worker.

The music was based on the same Currà’s field recordings of the Ansaldo’s machines (his co-workers are credited as musicians), turned into gloomy drones and obsessive rythm patterns with the help of Roberto Colombo, under whose artistic direction some acoustic and electronic instrumental contributions were also added.

On top of this sounds layers, Currà screamed his expressionistic yet iperrealistic verses of rage, contempt, fear and sorrow. We’re not having here a middle class kid giving his interpretation of a worker’s life and nonsense talking about alienation. This is first-hand experience, and sounds far more dramatic, disturbing, and politically uncorrect than anything else recorded in those years. Currà’s peculiar singing style basically reminded of “cantastorie” (south Italy folk story-tellers) litanies, with some curious hints of Domenico Modugno; at the same time he anticipated the declamatory spoken-word style by Giovanni Lindo Ferretti from the seminal post-punk band CCCP – Fedeli alla linea, namely in tracks such as “Quanto dura il mio minuto?”, “Preferirei piuttosto” and “La massa della miseria”.

Each “song” in here is a highlight, from the proto-drum’n’bass of “Non mi parlare di rivoluzione” to “L’alunno dell’ultimo banco” and the thrilling “Tavola ansaldina”, which embeds what seems to be an excerpt from a traditional folk love song from Calabria.

Here is the tracklist:

01, 16 giugno (“june 16th”)
02, Non mi parlare di rivoluzione (“don’t you tell me about revolution”)
03, Incubo (“nightmare”)
04, Quanto dura il mio minuto? (“how long does my minute last?”)
05, Preferirei piuttosto (“i’d rather than”)
06, Tra cespugli di ginestre (“in brooms’ bushes”)
07, La rovina del porto è il marinaio (“it’s the sailor which spoils the port”)
08, Hanno sputato sui vetri (“someone has spitted on the glasses”)
09, L’alunno dell’ultimo banco (“last desk’s pupil”)
10, La massa della miseria (“the mass of misery”)
11, Tavola ansaldina (“ansaldinian stele”)
12, Son le puttane le donne migliori (“the whores are the best women”)

Get it: Francesco Currà, Rapsodia meccanica (1977)

Francesco Currà has recorded another album in 1979, Flussi e riflussi (“flows and reflows”), now apparently lost, and has published two poetry books: Rapsodia meccanica. Poesia in fabbrica con le canzoni del disco dell’Ultima spiaggia (“mechanical rhapsody. poetry in the factory with Ultima spiaggia record’s songs”, 1978), and Le eruzioni dell’eros e del male (“the eruptions of eros and evil”, 2004).

Check out the interesting Mutant sounds’ post about Rapsodia meccanica, which places Francesco Currà in the “as-yet-unnamed Italian trajectory that includes Franco Battiato, Pierrot Lunaire, Franco Leprino, Arturo Stalteri and a handful of other like-minded cosmonauts”.

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[music:] Faust’o, Poco zucchero (1979)

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It’s hard to explain to a worldwide audience the importance of mr. Fausto Rossi (aka Faust’o) for italian pop music. Possibly the simplest way to introduce him is saying that, even if practically unknown to a greater public, as often told for the Velvet Underground almost everyone who bought his albums later formed a band. Generations of musicians and songwriters have been inspired and influenced by his work, from Garbo to Bluvertigo and beyond.

Faust’o debuted in 1978 as one of the young artists signed by Caterina Caselli for her label Ascolto, a CGD subsidiary. Caselli had been one of the most succesful female pop singer in the sixties (if you know Nanni Moretti’s movies you will sure remember the scene in the car in his Palme d’Or winning La stanza del figlioThe Son’s Room – in which the whole family sings together one of Caselli’s biggest hits, “Insieme a te non ci sto più”). In the seventies, she had started a new career as an A&R at CGD, and obtained to manage a sublabel of her own to release records by her friend Pierangelo Bertoli (a talented singer/songwriter) and to scout new artists from the alternative scene, helped by a small group of trusted people, like the songwriter Oscar Avogadro. They came up recruiting, among others, this 23 years old worringly skinny guy born in Sacile, Friuli, but living and working in Milan, named Fausto Rossi.

He teamed up with Avogadro, as a producer, and former Formula 3 guitarist Alberto Radius to record his first full-length effort, Suicidio (“suicide”, 1978): a stylized glam-wave manifesto which mainly stroke its listeners with its angry, explicit yet poetic lyrics, and gained him the definition of “italian David Bowie” – even if he disowned the album saying that it had suffered too much from label’s pressure.

Coming back to the studio, he was actually claiming more control on the recording process and the artistic choices, and was allowed to produce himself the new songs, helped again by Avogadro and Radius. The result, Poco zucchero (“a little sugar”, 1979), stands as a cornerstone for the then-rising italian new wave scene.

The cold wave/art glam/minimal funk takes driven by Faust’o synths and Radius’ nervous guitar lines served perfectly as a canvas for his tales of urban, contemporary spleen, love, hate, discomfort and discontent as in “Kleenex”, “Il lungo addio” or the magnificent “Funerale a Praga” (which has been sampled by Baustelle in the opening track for their major debut La malavita, released in 2005). His sharp, theatrical voice sounded more original than ever, and became a landmark for italian rock singers in the eighties. In a word, this album was seminal. The definitive anti-cantautore – and the best interpreter of the post-engagement era – was officially invested.

Here is the tracklist:

01, Vincent Price
02, Cosa rimane (“what’s left”)
03, Attori malinconici (“melancholic actors”)
04, Oh! Oh! Oh! (also released as a 7″ b/w “Vincent Price”)
05, In tua assenza (“when you’re away”)
06, Kleenex
07, Il lungo addio (“the long goodbye”)
08, Funerale a Praga (“funeral in Prague”)

Get it: Faust’o, Poco zucchero (1979)
[edit April 8th, 2009: download link has been removed as requested by faustorossi.net
Go visit the website for further info about Fausto Rossi’s new album, Becoming visible, and to listen to his previous records.]

Faust’o has released four other great LPs under his stage name until 1985. Since 1992 he has been recording and performing as Fausto Rossi releasing four albums, the last being Becoming visible (2009), and produced Lungo i bordi (“along the borders”) by Massimo volume in 1995.

Find more info, pics and stuff at Fausto Rossi’s official site (in italian).

Written by alteralter

June 10, 2008 at 10:18 pm