Anni di piombo, anni di paillettes.

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

Posts Tagged ‘materiali sonori

[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

[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.