Posts Tagged ‘electronics’
A sonic guerrilla squad featuring videomaker Roberto Giannotti (vocals, drums, keyboards, tapes), Stefano Galderisi (basses, keyboards, tapes – formerly of surf-rockers The Sentinels), Il Maestro (“the master”, later identified as the singer-songwriter Francesco Verdinelli, on guitars, keyboards and tapes) and La Donna (“the woman”, possibly actress and scriptwriter Roberta Lerici, on vocals, drum machine, percussions, tapes) started the band called Gustoforte (“strong taste”) in Rome in 1984.
This self-titled album released by Rat Race label early in 1985 with liner notes by Ado Scaini of The Great Complotto fame, which in the first 200-copies run came in a real steel cover, remains unfortunately the only evidence they left behind – a stunning, savage post-everything epic which each time brings to mind Virgin Prunes at their most demented and free-form, This Heat, The Residents, or even Claudio Rocchi’s attempts in electronics, and clangs in unison with the noises of contemporary experimental rock outfits such as, just to name one, Black Dice, or catastrophic dub suppliers of Excepter’s caliber.
The record follows the storyline suggested by an anti-utopian sci-fi plot, just like in an old-fashioned concept album: a travelling salesman visits a factory just to discover that there’s only one human worker left, contently attending 24/7 a useless assembly line, with all the time in the world to think. A robot escorting the representative in a tour of the plant explains him that unreliable workers have been completely replaced with machines. The only other humans around are dismissed trade unionists, just sitting around in a room, drinking and recalling the old days. The rep is then introduced to the factory coordinator: a powerful female supercomputer who manages to seduce him and eventually turn him into a bionic salesman working for the company.
Here is the tracklist:
01, s. Antony Chain
02, Steel Walk
03, Ventiquattro tre 84 (“twenty-four three 84”)
04, Assembly Line
05, Evry Courcouronnes
06, Factory ab absurdo
07, Ask Me Dream
08, Bionic Promotion Agent
Get it: Gustoforte, Gustoforte (1985)
Gustoforte reportedly recorded an unreleased second album, called Souvenir of Rome, before Giannotti and Verdinelli quit the band in 1994. Drummer Franco Calbi, performer Domenico Vitucci and Texan avant multi-instrumentalist and self-made instruments wizard Chris Blazen were recruited by the end of Nineties by Galderisi to keep the project alive. Anyway, the current line-up credited in their basic MySpace page features only the four original members.
[edit February 16th, 2009: that’s an interesting case of synchronicity – whatever. I just noticed that Jim at Mutant Sounds released a download link for this long-time lost record a couple of hours before I clicked the “Publish” button for this post. Check out their version too, with huge front/back cover pics, and a different rip encoding.]
Cosmic joker nel blu dipinto di blu. Or: mediterranEurock. It’s not by chance, indeed, that this time the Couriers’ spacecraft is a flying marranzano (the italian for jew’s harp) floating on the cover. After all, there aren’t much italian musicians who had the chance to work at first hand with german krautrock gurus – the only other names which come to my mind are Baffo Banfi from Biglietto per l’inferno, who had a couple of solo albums produced by Klaus Schulze between 1979 and 1981, and Gianna Nannini teaming up with Conny Plank from 1982 until the latter’s death in 1987 for a series of europewide successful records, with Jaki Liebezeit from Can as a session drummer.
In 1974, when Roberto Cacciapaglia entered the studio with Ohr Records founder and cosmic rock éminence grise Rolf Ulrich Kaiser, he was mostly known as the guy who sat behind the keyboards for Battiato’s second album Pollution. Actually, the music which resulted from these sessions – edited and released as Sonanze (“sonances”) the following year – was more or less related with Battiato’s early Seventies works, and somehow recalled the coeval explorations of major kosmische achievers such as Popol Vuh, Tangerine Dream or the same Schulze; neverthless, it retained something unique and inherently personal: a peculiar upward structure, an esthetical rectitude, an almost classical composure which placed it out of the space/acid rock canon, and was likely to be an heritage of Cacciapaglia’s academic training as a composer (he graduated at Milan’s “Giuseppe Verdi” conservatory before joining the phonology research team at RAI – the italian national broadcasting system – and working with the CNR – “national resarch centre” – in Pisa).
To strengthen this impression, we’re having a complete orchestra here gliding its way into the stratosphere by drones and blows, which refer to early XX century atonal tradition, while the manipulation of processed vocals (such as in the 2nd Movement) anticipated the monomanic, mesmerizing Tail of the Tiger by Roberto Laneri’s Prima Materia, providing some gusts of high solar wind. When it comes to post-impressionistic/minimal piano patterns, then, such as in the 3rd Movement, there you find yourself effortlessy climbing a spiral staircase to the stars.
Here is the tracklist:
01, 1st Movement
02, 2nd Movement
03, 3rd Movement
04, 4th Movement
05, 5th Movement
06, 6th Movement
07, 7th Movement
08, 8th Movement
09, 9th Movement
10, 10th Movement
After the exploit of Sonanze (oddly released in Italy through PDU, the label founded by Mina and Augusto Martelli), Roberto Cacciapaglia went on experimenting with contemporary classic music and electronics, studying ancient sacred music and the non-musical power of sound and performing with the most diverse artists and in all kind of environments.
He also worked in the pop music industry as a refined and innovative arranger and producer for the model/actress/singer Ann Steel (in the legendary Ann Steel Album, 1979), Gianna Nannini (G.N., 1981), Giuni Russo (Vox, 1983), Ivan Cattaneo (Bandiera Gialla – “yellow flag” – 1983), Alice (Gioielli rubati – “stolen jewels”, a collection of Franco Battiato’s covers – 1985), and is a successful author of music for commercials.
His most recent effort is Canone degli spazi (“canon of the spaces”), recorded with the London Philarmonic Orchestra and released in January, 2009. You can visit his official website (also in english) for more detailed info.
Giovanotti Mondani Meccanici (“social mechanical youngsters”, often shortened as GMM) was a multimedia collective pioneering computer art in Italy, founded in 1984 in Florence by the graphic designer Antonio “Tony” Glessi and the writer Andrea “Andy” Zingoni, whose name first appeared as the title of a computer-generated comic strip published on “Frigidaire” magazine starting from issue 42, May 1984.
Tony and Andy were soon joined by photographer Marco “Marc” Paoli and fashion designer and performer Loretta “Lore” Mugnai, and eventually by Maurizio Dami aka Alexander Robotnick – who had already released his first seminal efforts, such as the 12″ and 7″ versions of Problèmes d’amour (1983, 1984) and the LP Ce n’est qu’un debut (1984) – taking care of sound design and soundtracks to their performances, installations and videos.
A compilation of this music, most of the times proper songs with lyrics by Glessi and Zingoni, was released on a tape called GMM by Materiali Sonori in 1984. A vinyl album of the same title came out in 1985, featuring keyboards, programming and guitars by Alexander Robotnick, vocals by Robotnick himself, Marco Paoli and friends, and some jazz musicians playing winds and piano.
These kinds of releases often denote the original, functional purpose of the sounds contained by their lack of emotional and esthetical consistency and their disregard for the sheer listening experience, their pointless sniffy attitude and their exhausting reluctance to take any risk. But we’re having something completely different here: not just a background for a performance, but a performance in itself, which applies to the music the same vision, operational mode, and passionate detachment adopted by GMM in visual and performing arts (an approach to sound issues they shared with the experimental theatrical company Magazzini Generali, even if their musical outputs were slightly different).
The record (which incidentally is pure wonder, shining in beauty, humour and melancholy) provided the field for a clash of personal creativities, a ruthless and profitable confrontation between the diverse identities making up the collective; at the same time, it set up a testing ground for Robotnick to decompose his own language, precipitating traces of Tuxedomoon, EBM and jazz, synthpop and hip-hop, italo disco and mutant disco, presentiments of Pet Shop Boys and Matt Bianco’s cartoon swing caricatures. Disparate elements which prodigiously stay in balance and define in turn tracks such as the crepuscular Au jour de la separation and Petite soeur, Back and forth – which dangerously wanders out there, in a desolate suburban fringe, at night – and the hysterically high No fear nor destination and Ghimm’Alid’l Benzin – not to mention the amazing takes on Caravan by Duke Ellington, Gato Barbieri’s theme from Ultimo tango a Parigi (“last tango in Paris”) and Gilbert Becaud’s Et maintenant.
Here is the tracklist:
01, Love supreme
03, Au jour de la separation
04, Ultimo tango a Parigi (“last tango in Paris”)
05, Flashman swing
06, Back and forth
07, Don’t ask me why (also released as a 12″ b/w “Love supreme”)
08, Petite soeur
09, No fear nor destination
10, Ghimm’Alid’l Benzin (fake arab for “gimme a little benzina”, where “benzina” is the italian for “oil”)
11, Et maintenant
Giovanotti Mondani Meccanici have produced short films, theatrical performances, tv series, festivals, music videos for the likes of Teresa De Sio and Claudio Rocchi, experimenting with information technology and virtual reality, and achieving a huge success in the late Nineties with their cartoon character Gino il pollo (“Gino the chicken”, created by Andrea Zingoni and Joshua Held). Even if the collective disbanded in 1998, some of the members keep on working as Giovanotti Mondani Meccanici from time to time. For italian speakers, here is GMM’s website.
As for Maurizio Dami, in the Nineties he got more and more involved with african, Middle and Far East music, giving up his stage name and working with musicians from all over the world in acts such as Data from Africa, Music for Meditation, Govinda, and The Third Planet. He revived Alexander Robotnick in 2002, and has been releasing a bunch of new stuff since then, both as Robotnick and Italcimenti, together with his long-time friend Lapo Lombardi aka Ludus Pinski. He is currently active as a musician, dj, performer and dance music living legend. You can learn more about his past and present projects at robotnick.it
By request, the last studio album from one of the most underrated singers and musicians in italian pop music history.
Adriano Pappalardo, born in 1945 in Copertino, in the south of Italy, started his career as a passionate and sanguine soul/rythm’n’blues singer with Numero Uno, Lucio Battisti’s label. He left for RCA in 1975, getting his greatest hit in 1979 with “Ricominciamo” (“let’s start again”), just to join forces again with Battisti in the early eighties.
After Immersione (“immersion”, 1982), Pappalardo began to write together with Pasquale Panella aka Vanera, a poet and unconventional lyricist who had deeply impressed Battisti with his words for Enzo Carella’s albums. The songs were then produced by the same Battisti (who also played guitars, synths and bass) in the oblique technopop fashion he was soon to perfect and push to the extremes with the incredible five-records series he wrote with Panella and released between 1986 and 1994. Five records which have changed the face of italian music forever. Somehow Pappalardo, whose loud, hoarse voice is slightly out of context in this setting dominated by Fairlight and keyboards, gave up his name and his persona allowing Battisti a field to experiment and refine the new and effective language he was working on since E già, in 1982.
Anyway, the result was blessed by some kind of state of grace, especially in songs such as “Signorina”, “Caroline e l’uomo nero”, “Questa storia”, and the title track, in which the surreal lyrics, pushed by Pappalardo’s roar, float upon the melodic flows and bump into the angular arrangements. By the way, Formula 3 founder Tony Cicco plays percussions on “Puoi toccarmi tutto a me”.
Here is the tracklist:
01, Signorina (“girl”)
02, Vanessa moda gaia (“Vanessa gay fashion”)
03, Breve la vita felice (“the short happy life”)
04, Puoi toccarmi tutto a me (“you can touch me all over me”)
05, Caroline e l’uomo nero (“Caroline and the black man”)
06, Questa storia (“this story”)
07, Io chi è (“who is I”)
08, Oh! Era ora (“oh! it was time”, also released as a 7″ b/w “Signorina”)
Pappalardo has also acted in several movies during the eighties and the nineties, and became a kind of a tv star first with his villain role in the legendary mafia serial La piovra, and more recently with his controversial participation in the italian version of I’m a celebrity… get me out of here!
More info on his Wikipedia page (in italian).
Sometimes a failure is far more intriguing and challenging than a masterpiece. Claudio Rocchi has often cited Suoni di frontiera (“frontier sounds”) as one of his favourite albums, and me too, i’m a little obsessed by this inconclusive, naive attempt in experimental electronics which, together with his twin Rocchi (1975), attracts and swallows like a black hole the entire work of Claudio – and perhaps all the italian pop music which gravitates around it.
In 1975, Claudio Rocchi was already a well-established counterculture icon and the italian folk-psych-cosmic-out-of-his-head minstrel par excellence. Most of his listeners were hence slightly shocked when he suddenly almost completely replaced the guitars, the strings and the percussions of l miele dei pianeti le isole le api (“the honey of the planets the islands the bees”, 1974) with a cut-up of field recordings, samples, modulated soundwaves and analogic synthesizers assembled in a home studio, building with Rocchi an actual wall of sound between him and his usual audience. (Even if, from a 2008 point of view, you can catch an emotional consistency between this material and a track like “Lila” from Il miele… By the way, “Lila” was the first example of a song recorded by the same Rocchi at his place with a Revox A70 to be released on an album – a do-it-yourself solution which was soon to become an habit for him.)
Suoni di frontiera was an attempt to move further beyond, mincing the music into small, separated fragments, often based on a single electronic loop. A collection of wrong answers to an unspoken question. But, for a musician gifted with a peculiar and highly recognizable singing style as Claudio Rocchi is, the really astonishing thing was the self-injuring decision to get rid of vocals completely. It’s “the silence of words”, as the same Rocchi stated: something necessary to eliminate interferences and create actual connections between sound and energy in view of a “musica psichica” (“psychic music”), the music with a healing power he was dreaming of together with former Area guitarist Paolo Tofani and discussing with Demetrio Stratos, Elio D’Anna, Franco Battiato.
I should say the result is rather poor when compared with similar contemporary explorations in Italy and abroad, and almost ridiculous with its pretensions; but these handcrafted sounds encompass a vision, an enthusiasm, a soul which make up for their lack of originality and substantial pointlessness. Like learning from a wise child who, playing with microphones, tapes and knobs, discovers the unexpected pleasure of making noises – and remains amazed by himself.
Here is the tracklist:
01, La forza (“the strength”)
02, Il risveglio (“the awakening”)
03, Frammento (“fragment”)
04, Apertura (“opening”)
05, Oh Lyra
06, Oscillando (“oscillating”)
07, Il rame e gli armonici (“the copper and the harmonics”)
09, Canzone popolare (“folk song”)
11, Del r(ub)(id)are cultura (“of s(teal)(upply)ing culture”)
12, Suoni interni (“inner sounds”)
13, Dopo Arona (“beyond Arona”)
14, Acoustic seedback
15, Per antichi canali (“along ancient channels”)
16, Ritmi (“rythms”)
Get it: Claudio Rocchi, Suoni di frontiera (1976)
[edit February 10th, 2009: download link has been removed as requested from claudiorocchi.com
Check out Die Schachtel label’s website in the next few months for the record’s cd edition.]
This new direction led Claudio Rocchi in the land of soundtracks and soundscapes for art performances and theatre; and just after a show in a Milan off-theatre he was approached by Cramps’ founder Gianni Sassi. A meeting which resulted in a new record deal and a new, different level for the artist, who released in 1977 his first true “pop” effort, A fuoco (you can read it both as “focused” or “on fire”), recorded with a complete orchestra.
Claudio Rocchi and Paolo Tofani, together with their families, joined an hare krisna community in the early eighties. Claudio returned to earthly matters in 1994 with a new album, Claudio Rocchi (featuring Tofani, Alberto Camerini, Eugenio Finardi, Alice, Lucio Fabbri, Walter Calloni) and since then, among thousands of other things, he has released four records, directed a movie (Pedra Mendalza), acted in Musikanten by Franco Battiato.
Visit Claudio Rocchi’s official website for discography, projects, memorabilia, news etc.
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.