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





4.27 | 27 ratings

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5 stars Dear reader: Imagine a puzzle that is consisted of thousands of tiny pieces that form a wonderful, colorful but somehow abstract and blurred picture, one that you are not so sure about what it shows. Now, try to imagine that this picture is moving, that there is motion in this puzzle and that every time you're looking at it, it seems different, as if dimensions, angles and colours dance in a mysterious movement. Finally, transfer this impression from the realm of sight to the realm of hearing, transform vision into sound and you'll start to have an idea what ''UKIYOE'' is about. Reviewing such an artistic construction is really challenging and we have to clarify the basics first.

This release comes in a beautiful digipack and contains one cd and one dvd. The first disc is Nichelodeon/InSonar's ''UKIYOE'' (Mondi Fluttuanti) - meaning Flowing World - and the dvd features Francesco Paolo Paladino's short film '' Quickworks & Deadworks''. We'll say some things about the film later, for now let me just say that, though the two projects can be enjoyed separately, it's their unification that provides a full aspect of how grandiose this work truly is.

Nichelodeon and InSonar are two different collectives led by the mastermind vocalist/composer/lyricist/painter/visionary Claudio Milano. These collectives join forces for this concept and Milano, along with the sound engineer Paolo Siconolfi and Paladino, is the unquestionable maestro of this effort. Claudio's unbelievable 7 octave-ranged voice may outshine everything else but don't underestimate the other two guys ' part. Paladino provided the primary idea for ''UKIYOE'' and Paolo's outstanding work holds everything together. If Claudio's voice is planet earth then Paolo's soundscapes are its axis. This duo coordinates a tremendous 30 people personnel, producing any sound, instrument or mood you can imagine, in only 45 ecstatic minutes. It seems that the cream of Italian - and not only - avant scene is gathered here. Representatives of other collectives (OTEME, Deadburger Factory, Alessandro Seravalle of Genoma and of the mighty Garden Wall, to name a few), composers, classical and jazz musicians, experimentalists, etc. One might be concerned that such an ambitious gathering would create a chaotic result but fear not: every sound and performance, no matter how epic or tiny, serves a specific role in forming the big picture I described earlier. Everyone is in balance before the great artistic aspiration of creating a magnus opus.

The thematical core of the concept is water - literally and metaphorically, as I perceive it. The state of flowing, in mind-body-spirit, as Plato would say, the realization of life and of the world as a constantly moving organism that one cannot grasp, imprison or entirely comprehend, a mystical entity of its own. The music delivers the same ''liquidness'', it always slips your fingers the exact moment you think you caught it. Don't expect genre analysis here, it is pointless. If I said to you that there are classical, jazz, RIO, electronic and whatever else elements, this would be a hubris to art itself. This is avant garde music at its best, art beyond space and time and as every great avant album, it cannot be fit into words but can only be experienced. The depth of the experience depends on the listener: if you surrender to it, you will be wholeheartedly rewarded.

Before proceeding to the album tracks, a very important fact in ''UKIYOE'' must be explained. All music is built in an interactive manner. This means that during the production, each channel of sound has been treated in an aperformative way - in Claudio's words - raised and lowered spontaneously, so that the right conceptual mood is expressed, making studio console the final and definitive creative tool. This produces asymmetrical sounds and catalysis of form but, thanks to the excellent production and sound design, no sound ''hole'' or ''peak'' is ever being realized. Instruments come and go unexpectedly, in unpredictable colors and rhythms, like an anarchic tide. Still, the higher law of nature rules all tides, as art rules this album's unconventional form, sounds and structures. A deeper harmony can be sensed. The final factor of interaction comes from the listener: Having to focus on so many different sources and aesthetics means that every listening differs from the other. The listener has the power to shape '' UKIYOE'' by will, depending on his/her receiving point of view. So, it's time to dive in this musical ocean!

Track 1: Veleno (Venom, thankfully in the booklet all titles and lyrics are translated in English), 6'35''. Lyrics by Milano. This Milano/Siconolfi composition is the perfect introduction as it is relatively easy to approach. It is the most classical song of the album and is based on Claudio's operatic vocals -supported by soprano Laura Catrani. His performance is almost frenzy as he goes up and down in notes and modes for 6 minutes, building amazing harmonies and demonstrating the melodic strength of his voice. Strings support this atmosphere whereas the clarinet is also a bit jazzy. In the middle, an almost drone part steps in (obviously Seravalle is the man responsible), strings grow tension and walls of sounds and effects lay discretely at the back. It's probably my idea but I sense an irony in Claudio's performance in the major parts, especially if the surrealism and deep agony of the lyrics are taken into account. In the second part, Luca Pissavini's upright bass is simply genius. ''Veleno'' is astonishing, mild as a summer breeze but with many treasures if you dig in.

Track 2: ''Fi(j)uru d' Acqua'' (Flower/Son of Water), 4'52'', based on a Rilke's poem. (If you haven't read Rilke's poetry, well, you should visit the nearest library right now). This is probably the album's most ''prog'' moment, mainly because of the complex time signatures and the brilliant arrangement of many different sounds and grooves. Great performing and orchestrating work by OTEME's Stefano Giannoti here. In the beginning, the song is structured upon the piano and electronics of the composer Josed Chirudli (the electronic rock of Puscifer came to my mind) before it is all smashed into pieces. The percussion parts are truly majestic, Claudio's lines are quite abstract and the harmonium (which is the basic instrument throughout the whole record) creates a certain color of melancholy, all forming a ''Mediterranean Rock In Opposition'' indeed. This flower blooms in both poetic and schizophrenic ways!

Track 3: ''Marinaio'' (Sailor), 9'06'', lyrics by Paladino. Vittorio Nistri and Erica Scherl join the rest of the composing crew; this is mainly a string composition after all. The apparent goal is to represent a ship voyage, a rather adventurous one I might add. And what an epic voyage this is! There are many violin experimentations, Milano gives his polyphonic show for almost three minutes before he disappears, leaving open space for the creation of incredible instrument noises. Piano, strings, bass, electronics, seagulls, everything works together in order to transcend the boundaries of music. As the ship heads slowly in a straight course, so music evolves in a linear way, with the progressive building of an enigmatic, haunted feeling. In the end, everything fades slowly, like no one is left alive in a ghost-ship that still moves towards the shadows of the most distant horizon. Paladino's lyrics are simple but magnificent, it seems that heavy symbolisms lurk beneath words - something dark and subconscious.

Track 4: '' Oi Ma-Nel Mare che hai Dentro'' (Oh Mother!-Inside the sea you hold), 2'00'', lyrics by Milano. Now, if you think that 2 minutes isn't enough time for a masterpiece to be composed, you are clearly mistaken. This distorted-jazz pandemonium is beyond belief! Camillo Pace is almost my new hero after his composing and upright bass contribution to this track but let him not take all the credits: amazing vocal contribution by Dalila Kayros, Stefano Luigi Mangia and Luca Milano surround Claudio's jaw-dropping, breathless performance (do you see a strong resemblance with Mike Patton's experimental works?), ''normal'' drums and percussion by Andrea Quattrini (making it sound even more intense and vivid), and an orgy of tenor and soprano sax, leading things to a Lynch's ''Lost Highway'' kind of finale. The song also features the only chorus of the album and it has been stuck in my head for a week now...! Great, surreal lyrics, hard to be decoded but with glorious moments: '' I have good teeth but they are not clever enough to bite life''. Wow.

Track 5: '' I Pesci dei tuoi Fiumi'' (The Fish of your Rivers), 4'02'', lyrics from the Holy Bible, adjusted by Paladino. This is a very free and quite dark composition by Milano and Nistri. Claudio reaches his expressive peak with really weird and experimental sounds, in a track that at first unfolds like an industrial nightmare but it eventually transforms somehow into a religious, hymn-like tune (or actually its exact opposite). Of course the biblical theme pushes things into that direction but the saxophones, playing simple notes in Phrygian mode in the middle of the track, provide equivalent awe! Nistri' s noises lead the arrangements and Quattrini' s percussion once again offers a different, organic pulse. Hidden religion references lie throughout the album and this track establishes a solid connection between Nichelodeon/InSonar and the divine world. A song of pure mysticism, in sound and spirit.

Track 6: ''Ma(r)le'' (Sea/Evil), 19'18'', lyrics by Paladino. Actually, this is a 3 part composition. Part 1 is called ''Tsunami'' and it lasts 3 minutes. Stefano Ferrian's sax kicks off this epic trilogy, before percussion and vocals take over, though it is Marco Tuppo's electronics that ultimately steal the show. The 9 minutes long Part 2 ('' Into the waves'') is basically an improvisational dialogue between Claudio's vocal acrobatics and Fabio Zurlo's magnificent accordion. Violin and distorted upright bass also contribute to the creation of a very colorful track, with intensive shades of cinematic nature. Belgian artist Erna Franssens (aka KasjaNoova) provides pre-vocalic/shamanic sounds and makes an instant impression! Finally, part 3 (''Mud'') is truly a twisted guitar concerto, expressed through Seravalle & Eugenio Sanna's experimentations. Don't expect riffs but noises and drones coming out of an instrument we all believe we know well. Strange and dark guitar soundscapes are constructed while Scherl's violin increases the feeling of suffocation. Probably the album's most experimental track. The end of the voyage!

Milano states that this record is the voyage of a ship on top of a maelstrom. Personally, it felt more like an odyssey within waters. One begins from a cool mountain spring, becomes river and waterfall, meets the vastness of the ocean, dissolving into the depths or swimming close to the sunny surface, turning into waves and finally mud. Concentrate on all of the above as emotions, not images. One last remark: to surrender musically to dark paths would be the easy way, as many avant garde artists usually do. Nichelodeon/InSonar's approach remains close to the light though; I believe that there is optimism behind this quest, a yearning for happiness in life. I think that this is very important - and admirable.

There is an amazing list of references in the booklet, ranging from artists that one could expect (Swans, Henry Cow, Art Zoyd, John Zorn etc.) to big surprises like Radiohead, Kate Bush, Tool, Burial, David Sylvian. My vote goes to Ulver and Devil Doll, bearing distant artistic resemblances with Claudio's visions. Allow me to add some references of my own, not to clear the mist around this album but to further thicken it! Barry Truax - Riverrun. Coil - Musick to play in the dark (one of the best headphones-album ever). Eyes Wide Shut OST. Puscifer. Definitely Grails. Diamanda Galas. Univers Zero. Erik Truffaz.

''Quickworks & Deadworks'' is a 25 minutes short film by Paladino. It is slow, kind of weird, filled with symbolism and surrealism. It features music from ''UKIYOE'' ? perfectly fitting ? and it, somehow, carries the philosophical messages of the album into the real world, into people's relations and desires. In my opinion, the film strengthens the music and vice versa, like watching two good friends talking about the same things in completely different ways. Illustrations and paintings on the digipack by Claudio himself. Jellyfish fly in the sky. Is this prog or what?

This is Nichelodeon/InSonar's ''UKIYOE''. A piece of art that is truly important, independent and free. An album that demands many things from the listener and gives many in return. Of course, it is not made for all, but the ones that should pay attention must have taken the message so far. According to my rating system, this is a 91/100 album and certainly one of 2014's highlights. Congratulations to Claudio and co. Eagerly waiting to see what's next!

5 very liquid stars!

Aldebaran_Well | 5/5 |


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