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Nichelodeon - UKIYOE - Mondi Fluttuanti (with Insonar) CD (album) cover





4.27 | 27 ratings

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4 stars I was asked to review 'UKIYOE' by Claudio Milano a while ago, and I'm both grateful to have had the opportunity and sorry not to have listened to this album or band sooner, because this is a very accomplished and detailed album.

This is my first foray into the music of Nicholodeon, though I had heard of the band and of Claudio's vocal prowess before- and from the beginning of the very first track, the uninitiated will find that his voice is the focal point. He describes himself as, among other things, a "researcher in the fields of human voice possibilities", and the vocals on the album indeed aren't just putting a voice to the music, but are rather an open-minded exploration of seven octaves of range, of different timbres, articulations, and expression. There is both great beauty and pure singing talent to be found here, but that's not all; there are wails and shouts, abrasive sprechstimme and guttural drones, hurried gestures and sharp breaths, and stranger things I'm not sure I have words to describe. These 'explorations' may be a bit more than some listeners can stomach- but those listeners would miss out on Claudio's straight singing voice, which is fantastically clear and pure of tone, especially in the falsetto, is evidently classically-trained (it would be hard to maintain and manage such a range without training!) and is a joy.

With all this talk of vocal exploration and experimentation, a reader might be worried that this is a single-focus album, leaving the compositions & instrumental backing by the wayside, but luckily that isn't the case here. After a few more listens, and possibly after getting used to a few of the stranger vocal moments, the music itself comes to the fore as being wholly brilliant in itself, and the vocals are revealed to be not self-indulgent, but rather a part of the whole. The music here feels coherent, yet is very diverse and changes tack on a dime (occasionally a little too much so). There is a lot of strongly melodic and beautiful (albeit dark) material here for a an avant album, especially on 'Veleno'- there are a number of melodies throughout the album that feel like lullabies, madrigals, folk or gondolier songs, and so on. On the other end is the avant-garde material, exemplified by the final track, the lengthy freeform maneuverings of 'Ma(r)le'- which possibly could have been scaled back a bit, as it does stretch on at times. The instrumentation has a largely chamber music feel, with a strong emphasis on strings and winds. There is also considerable use of electronic effects, beats and industrial noise (such as on 'Fi(j)uru d'Acqua', which also happens to feature an extremely cool ostinato section with bass clarinet), frequently tormented solo violin lines that are heavy on scratchy sul pontincello and other non-traditional techniques, clever saxophone counterpoint, plenty of accordion and keyboard, and even the sound of seagulls on 'Maranaio' (tying into a overarching nautical theme).

But it is, in the end, the listener's reaction to the unusual aspects of the vocal experimentation that will make or break this album for them. This is an extremely enjoyable album, and the diversity and great attention to detail in composition and arrangement makes it all the more impressive.

Kazza3 | 4/5 |


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