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Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM) - L'Isola Di Niente CD (album) cover


Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM)


Rock Progressivo Italiano

4.22 | 907 ratings

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Early morning Milan, March 2006. While waiting for the train to Turin, I decided to take a look around the area of the great Stazione Centrale. The station itself is quite a sight, but my eyes were drawn to the great Pirelli Tower. Standing close to it I have to admit it is one of the most beautiful tall buildings I've seen in Europe. Skyscrapers are not a common sight here, so it is quite common for tower blocks to be considered distasteful, as well as landscape architecture disasters. The Pirelli Tower stands proud in the heard of Milan, in its tall, futuristic ship-like shape. I couldn't look at its glass facade for long, though. It was a sunny morning, and the light vigorously reflected from it, but some back streets, like Via Generale Gustavo Fara, were practically pitch black - the shadow cast by the massive tower enshrouded its small alleys in what seemed perpetual darkness. I didn't found myself in those alleys by pure accident or mere sightseeing. I was searching. Searching for an album.

During my stay, I had the opportunity to search some of the media megastores in Milan. I was pleasantly surprised while browsing the local FNAC shop. I was searching the Italian Music section, and was a bit discouraged when I found no RPI. I then realized that instead of having huge national/foreign pop/rock stands and a huge national/foreign non-pop/rock, like its customary in Portugal, they had perfectly arranged divisions. I took a look around, following the corridors - folk (subdivided into various regions), folk-rock, pop-rock, hard-rock, heavy-metal, alternative-rock, blues, jazz, fusion, progressive rock (!), and then (quite naturally), a stand strictly for Rock Progressivo Italiano. I was jubilant. I felt like Schliemann upon discovering Troy. I eagerly searched the the stand, filled with classic albums and new takes on RPI. While I did so, I could only think of how proud the Italian proggers must feel to live in a country where even large chainstores pay attention to their favoured type of music. As always, during my stay in Milan, I had to shop in a hurry. I quickly jumped to the Premiata Forneria Marconi indication and searched or the album that contained that marvellous song I had heard through ProgArchives, the title track to the album L'Isola di Niente. I found it, but not the way I wanted it: it was a 3CD pack, priced around 20? containing L'Isola (which I wanted), Storia di un Minuto (which I already owned), and Suonare Suonare (which didn't really appeal to me at the time). So, I had to look for it elsewhere. Sure enough, I didn't leave that FNAC store empty-handed - I got a few goodies, some of which I've already reviewed (such as the dreadful Banco re-recording of Darwin!), other I hope to do so in the future.

So, I found myself in a dark alley in Milan, under the shadow of the Pirelli Tower, struggling against time to find a shop I had found on the Internet which had L'Isola di Niente for sale. I looked around at every door, every corner, I couldn't find the darn thing. Time was running short. When I finally spotted the shop, I felt a hand on my shoulder - "Dude, the train. We gotta go!" I never even saw the inside of the shop. After the trip to Turin, I only had time to pack and fly back home. Fortunately, my resident friend managed to give it a go, and brought me the album a few months later, for which I showed my gratitude in the form of trapist beer in the pub. We had a great night, laughing about our Italian adventure and admiring the colour of our bitter nectar.

The BMG CD is a thin digipack, without any booklet, with the credits printed on the inside, and a golden, almost transparent CD. Such transparency aids to the somewhat ethereal feel of the music it contains. The title track L'Isola di Niente opens the album with. well, one of the greatest album openers ever made, in any genre. The phantasmagorical vocal choir, followed by the phantasmagorical electric guitar chords that follow it, is guaranteed to send shivers down the most ruthless brutes' spines. The distant vocals complement the eerie feel of this first section of the song. The second part is a lot more keyboard driven, and not as ghostly as the first, featuring some pastoral passages with flute and violin, that then give way to a crescendo that ends up in a jazzy section, this time electric guitar and violin driven. It ends abruptly with a reprise of the first section, with smaller but more eschatological choir, and a delicate yet distorted guitar solo that brings it to an end. It is definitely the best track on the album, and one of the best by PFM, along with the likes of Appena un Po' and Impressioni di Settembre. The second track, Is My Face On Straight, lyrically penned by former King Crimson man Pete Sinfeld, is a merrier tune, with constant time changes, great vocals, drums and keyboard playing, with some instrumentation like violins and accordion giving it a circus-like sonority. La Luna Nuova begins with a mock-baroque introduction, with several kinds of electric keyboards being used. It slows down in a guitar driven section, which progressively gains some pace, fading suddenly as the vocals commence, at first gentle, then in a more energetic choir. The fast paced guitar ending gives way into the smaller track on the album, Dolcissima Maria, a quaint, delightful little ballad, with calm, soothing vocals, almost lullaby like. It is mostly acoustic guitar and violin-driven, complemented here and there with slights glimpses of electric guitar and keyboards. The song gains some strength towards the end, with the introduction of percussion and gentle flute playing, with the mellotron highly present in the background. Finally, Via Lumiere adds another King Crimsonesque touch to the album, this time musically, by means of an instrumental track, that begins with a noodling bass solo, that is then complemented by the remaining instrumentation, sounding like a soft piece of 5 a.m. free jazz. It then bursts into a harder, faster-paced section, with constant percussion and guitar riffing and a mad trumpet-like sound, that is later replaced by flute in a reprise. The ending section is much more PFM-like, with the keyboards and drumming providing the basis for some discrete electric guitar soloing bringing the song to an end, with distant vocals being heard in the background.

In summary, it is another PFM masterpiece, and probably the last. The entire album (just over 35 minutes long) is extremely effortless to listen, and you can easily get lost in it and wonder around in the musical landscapes it evokes. However, you can also be easily distracted. Therefore, headphones are probably the best way to fully enjoy this album.

Kotro | 5/5 |


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