Anni di piombo, anni di paillettes.

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

Posts Tagged ‘synthpop

[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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[music:] Krisma, Clandestine Anticipation (1982)

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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:

01, Miami
02, Samora Club
03, Crucial Point
04, Melonarpo
05, Silly Europeans
06, Wrong Island
07, Opposite
08, Water (also released as a 7″ b/w “Samora Club”)
09, Zacdt Zacdt

Get it: Krisma, Clandestine Anticipation (1982)

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.