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

Posts Tagged ‘frigidaire

[music:] Giovanotti Mondani Meccanici featuring Alexander Robotnick, GMM (1985)

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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
02, Caravan
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

Get it: Giovanotti Mondani Meccanici featuring Alexander Robotnick, GMM (1985)

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

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[television:] “Frigidaire”, “La parola e l’immagine” (1980)

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An unfortunately short and incomplete clip excerpt from “La parola e l’immagine”, a weekly tv program about comic art by Bruno Modugno broadcasted between 1979 and 1980, showing Filippo Scozzari coming out of a fridge and speaking about “Frigidaire”, “a luxury magazine for the great élite masses”. On the wooden stairs you can see Andrea Pazienza (with the red shirt), director Vincenzo Sparagna (above Pazienza, with the curly hair, the moustaches and the glasses) and, on top, Tanino Liberatore. On the fridge door, the cover for “Frigidaire” first issue, by Stefano Tamburini; the comic shown at about two-third of the video is a page from “La dalia azzurra” (“the blue dahlia”) by Scozzari, from a Raymond Chandler’s script.

[music:] Monofonicorchestra/Naif orchestra, Invito a cena/Invito a letto (1982)

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I already had a couple of chances to mention the magazine “Frigidaire” before. To put it plain and simple, in its golden years – circa 1980-1986 – “Frigidaire” has violently pushed italian culture forward by kicks and shoves, forcily dragging graphic arts, journalism, arts and arts criticism, comics, music, popular imagery into the postmodern age. Founded in 1980 by agit-prop professional Vincenzo Sparagna together with people from the “Cannibale” crew – Andrea Pazienza, Stefano Tamburini, Filippo Scozzari, Tanino Liberatore and Massimo Mattioli – it has survived  the sudden and premature death of its art director and author of the successful comics character Ranxerox (Tamburini, in 1986) and its most gifted visual artist and comics rockstar (Pazienza, in 1988), and a heavy turnover of contributors, being published until 1998.

Issue number 14, January 1982, came with two new year gifts: a pin-up 1982 calendar drawn by Andrea Pazienza and a 7″, 33rpm split EP with no sleeve. The a side, Invito a cena con Monofonicorchestra (“invitation to dinner with Monofonicorchestra)” – the one with the bloody razor – featured kinda no wave-muzak for weird cocktail parties where the barman took trieline instead of gin; the b side, Invito a letto con Naif orchestra (“invitation to bed with Naif orchestra”) – the one with the nude, bald woman with the glasses – had more of an imaginary soundtrack to an avantgarde porn movie, like, say, having sex with an answering machine. Incidentally, one of the most iconing records from italian new wave.

Monofonicorchestra (sometimes also spelled as Monofonic orchestra) was basically a moniker for Maurizio Marsico, an electronic performer, piano player and dj friendly involved with the “Frigidaire” guys. He contributed to the record with a series of short instrumental tracks named after the dishes of a full course dinner. If you ever happened to listen to his Friend’s portraits, released in 1981 by Italian Records, you will recognise the same familiar cartoon soundtrack-like style, with juxtaposed blocks of music, and the distinctive use of classic and contemporary minimal piano patterns – such as in “Secondo e contorno”, which runs after the melody from “Eleanor Rigby” in an endless spiral.

Naif orchestra was the pop outfit for Bigazzi brothers (Arlo and Giampiero) from Florence. They had founded the independent label Materiali Sonori – through which this EP was released – in 1977, to put out the first record of their avant-folk band Canzoniere del Valdarno. In the eighties, the label became a kind of an italian home for the likes of Tuxedomoon, Controlled Bleeding, Roger Eno, Embryo, The Durutti Column, Minimal Compact, Jon Hassell and many others, and hosted italian acts such as Militia, Neon, Giovanotti Mondani Meccanici, Arturo Stalteri (formerly of Pierrot Lunaire), Alexander Robotnick. As for Naif orchestra, what they contribute here are four mutant-wave-electro-disco tracks with sampled woman moans and funny explicit lyrics – except the last one, written with Marsico.  They also succeded in entering the history of italo-disco with their classic “Check-out five” (1984) before going on indefinite hiatus.

Here is the tracklist:

Invito a cena con Monofonicorchestra
01, Aperitivo (“aperitif”)
02, Antipasto (“appetizer”)
03, Primo (“first course”)
04, Secondo e contorno (“main course and sides”)
05, Formaggio (“cheese”)
06, Frutta e frutta esotica (“fruit and exotic fruit”)
07, Dessert

Invito a letto con Naif orchestra
08, Dis-moi tout, mon amour
09, Duro (“hard”)
10, It’s your ass that’s on the line
11, Extending guest

Get it: Monofonicorchestra/Naif orchestra, Invito a cena/Invito a letto (1982)

Maurizio Marsico continues to perform and record music, most of the times together with his long-time friend Andrea Tich; anyway, he makes his living by directing an important monthly magazine about tv serials, “Series”. Arlo and Giampiero Bigazzi are still in the music business, you can check out Materiali Sonori’s site to learn about their work and browse the label’s catalogue.

If you got interested in “Frigidaire” you can’t miss the newly published luxurious book about its history, stuffed up with images and full comics (in italian). You can also visit the imaginary republic of Frigolandia.

[music:] Gaznevada, Gaznevada aka Cassetta Harpo’s (1979)

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Bologna 1977, “Skank Bloc Bologna”: the boiling point. Communist party as the establishment. Autonomia Operaia, Dams (the art and music faculty). The student Francesco Lorusso killed by the police. Indiani metropolitani, Radio Alice, situationism. Wrenches in the pockets. Pop culture is the weapon. Lambrusco wine and plegin. And sedatives. And heroin. Tortellini punk. The rise of post-modernism.

Traumfabrik was the name of a squatted flat in the center of the city, part house, part art studio, part club. People like Filippo Scozzari and Andrea Pazienza – members of “Cannibale” comics ‘zine’s crew and later founders of the seminal magazine “Frigidaire” – Renato De Maria, Oderso Rubini, and many others kids from the scene used to live, work, perform, or just gather there to meet people, listen to music, enjoy drugs, and have fun. Among them, the Ramones-fixated, leather-jacketed young guys who were soon to form the one-song, one-show punk sensation Centro d’urlo metropolitano (“metropolitan scream center”).

Their 25th September 1977 few minutes live appearance performing “Mamma dammi la benza” (“mommy gimme the fuel”) during a festival in Bologna, ending up in a paper balls fight between the stage and the audience, is a landmark in italian pop history, and anticipated the official breakthrough of “rock demenziale” (“demented rock”), a peculiar italian contribution to post-punk history whose most important representatives have been Skiantos, another band from the area.

Anyway, Centro d’urlo metropolitano was soon to mutate into a whole different thing. When their anthem was eventually released on the miscellaneous tape Sarabanda, the guys now known as Gaznevada (a name inspired by a Raymond Chandler’s short story) were already experimenting with sound and lyrics under the influence of acts such as Devo, Talking Heads, Pere Ubu and Contortions, evolving from their early raw and unorganized two-chords punk-rock attack towards the unique and amazing spaghetti-no wave of their masterpiece debut album Sick Soundtrack (1980).

Oderso Rubini, who had recently started his own label Harpo’s Music, taped them during their 1979 rehearsals, documenting the stunning work in progress which would have led to their first full-length effort. Gaznevada was the result of these sessions, and the seventh issue of the label. What you can find here is a band strugglin’ to find their true voice, between the disconnected upbeat of “Everybody enjoy with reggae music”, and the fascinating, sharp, lirically intriguing manifesto “Nevadagaz”, re-recorded for their legendary first 7″ in 1980. It’s the birth of a legend.

Here is the tracklist:

01, Everybody enjoy with reggae music
02, Criminale (“criminal”)
03, Donna di gomma (“rubber woman”)
04, Bestiale (“bestial”)
05, Mamma dammi la benza (“mommy gimme the fuel”)
06, Teleporno T.V. (“porn channel T.V.”)
07, Johnny (fallo per me) (“Johnny (do it for me)”)
08, Roipnol
09, Nevadagaz

Get it: Gaznevada, Gaznevada aka Cassetta Harpo’s (1979)
[edit March 9th, 2009: thanks to our friends at Shake Edizioni this tape is finally available on cd, with the title Mamma dammi la benza!, together with a short book about Gaznevada and the video Telepornovisione by Giampiero Huber, Renato De Maria and Emanuele Angiuli. Obviously the download link has been removed. Go and buy it at the publishing house’s website.]

Gaznevada released four albums before breaking up in 1988, progressively shifting towards italo disco and synthpop. They joined Edoardo Bennato for his 1980’s Uffà uffà, and played gigs with the likes of DNA, Chrome, Lounge Lizards, Bauhaus. Their 1983 hit “I.C. Love Affair” is a club classic and has been recently remixed by Munk for the Confuzed Disco compilation (2006). Former guitarist Ciro Pagano (aka E. Robert Squibb) is a founding member of the successful italo-house outfit Datura.

Harpo’s Music would have soon become Italian Records – together with IRA from Florence THE italian new wave label, hosting the likes of Gaznevada, Skiantos, Windopen, Sorella maldestra, Luti Chroma, Confusional Quartet, The Stupid Set, Kirlian Camera, Johnson Righeira, Monofonic Orchestra, N.O.I.A., Art Fleury, A.I.M., Neon, Hi-Fi Bros, etc. Gems from Italian’s back catalogue (such as Gaznevada’s Sick Soundtrack) are being reprinted by Oderso Rubini’s new label Astroman.

Visit Gaznevada’s official MySpace and Astroman’s website (in italian, seems on hiatus) for more info.

Written by alteralter

September 8, 2008 at 11:44 pm

[music:] Andrea Liberovici, Liberovici (1980)

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Ridicule can be tragic, and tragic is often sublime. Andrea Liberovici was 18 in 1980. Son of Sergio, composer and etnomusicologist, he was kind of an infant prodigy, having released his first album Oro (“gold”) in 1978, at the age of 15.

This first effort was sort of an end-of-course essay for a precocious, brilliant child musician who had studied at two different conservatories and had a great talent for theatre as well. The work of a teenager trying to impress the world, attempting to be profound and provocative, while he mostly sounded naive, and eventually innocuous. The music is a mash up of Canterbury-like pop with rockish rushes and some avant tricks. The whole album is actually interesting, but the one track that stands out is “Risotto”, which is also a strong link, both musically and lirically, to his incredible second record.

Liberovici came out just at the beginning of what was later called riflusso (“reflow”): after more than twenty years of massive political engagement, the revolutionary movement was rapidly disbanding, and collective issues were soon replaced by individual commitment. La marcia dei quarantamila (“the march of the the forty-thousand”) is a milestone in Italy’s contemporary history. More than 40.000 employees and managers from FIAT demonstrated against trade unions power and for a “return to order” in the factories. Restoration was coming. In the meantime, heroin consumption was reaching a peak, and terroristic attacks got more and more indiscriminate and useless.

The conflict was still there, but became a private issue. Something for your analyst, if you could afford one. Or something to sing at, if you were a musician.

The album reflected this end-of-an-era climate, being hysterical, confused, disturbing. It summarized seventies’ glam, funk rock, new wave, cantautore style in a way that was already pure eighties’ postmodernism. The lyrics as well were a collection of the past decade’s alternative culture slogan and clichés: drugs, sex, new social and family relations, spirituality. Everything’s fluorescent and overilluminated; exaggerated and yet stylized.

The boy took the risk of turning himself into a comics’ character. And in a way he was a comics’ character: look at him on the cover. But the thing is, he sounded totally serious about what he was doing. Serious and intransigent as only a young man can be. It’s the same attitude that made great “Cannibale” and “Frigidaire”, two of the most important and influential italian magazines of those years, and the people from The Great Complotto (we will speak about that). Even when he dedicated to Padre Pio – now a saint – a love song which somehow reminds of “Je t’aime, moi non plus”, it was not comedy. There’s a no-way-out feeling here, a sense of loss and hate which rescues even the most embarassing moments.

In the end, i disagree completely from pals at Orrore a 33 giri. This is not a trash album. It’s a great piece of contemporary art.

Here is the tracklist:

01, L’eroe e l’eroina (“the hero and the heroine”)
02, Ammorissimo mio (“grreat love of mine”)
03, Padre Pio (“father Pio”)
04, Ciuff ciuff (“choo choo”)
05, Carino (“cute boy”)
06, Tira tira tira (“pull pull pull”)
07, Vorrei (“i would”)
08, Occhi di luna (“moon eyes”)
09, Uh caramellina uh uh (“uh little candy uh uh)

Get it: Andrea Liberovici, Liberovici (1980)

After releasing this record Liberovici abandoned pop music and founded later teatrodelsuono, an experimental theatre company together with, among others, Edoardo Sanguineti, one of the best italian minds of the century, poet and scholar of literature. More info on liberovici.it (in italian).

Written by alteralter

February 28, 2008 at 4:44 pm