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La Maschera Di Cera - La Maschera Di Cera CD (album) cover

LA MASCHERA DI CERA

La Maschera Di Cera

 

Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.99 | 157 ratings

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BrufordFreak
4 stars A side project of Fabio Zuffanti, in my opinion, La Maschera di Cera has produced the best music Zuffanti has made. The songs are lushly created with lots of classically-influenced forms and structures using the sounds and instruments the electronic age has given us. Keyboard artist Agostino Macor is a true master of his trade, incorporating piano, Mellotron, organ, Moog, harpsicord, VCS 3, and "prepared piano" like a junior Wakeman or Banks. Vocalists Alessandro Corvaglia and Nadia Girardi do a wonderful job while not being mixed too far forward so as to dominate the music. Most of the time there is so much going on, so many layers in the songs' tapestries, that repeated listens reveal many, many nuances that are difficult to pick up upon first or cursory listens. This is good: the weaves are all beautifully orchestrated; I am never put off or overwhelmed by them. If there are weaknesses to the album they are 1) in the odd mix of individually-recorded sounds (a problem I find common with other Zuffanti projects) and 2) in the bass play: it's either cheezie pseudo-jazzy or over-the-top loud, distorted, and chunky.

1. "La maschera di Cera" (19:21) is a six-part suite introducing the band and its old-instrument symphonic approach to prog. Italian, retro/neo, but really classic RPI. At 1:30 a gentle piano and acoustic guitar section supports Alessandro's gentle, passionate vocal. At the four minute mark a chunky bass and organ-led upbeat psychedelic section ensues (kind of like a STEPPENWOLF/ BLOOD, SWEAT & Tears sound) over which synthesizer and flute trade solos. Alessandro and piano get into the mix in the seventh minute. At 7:12 we fall into a little musical 'waiting room' in which the world seems at a standstill. At 8:16 strummed guitar and organ lead us back into a forward direction. Synthesizer and piano mirror their pretty playing while Alessandro begins a new section, new theme of his story. Flutes and synth posit some nice soli in this section. Then, at the 12 minute mark, things slow and soften again before Alessandro's big voice leads us into a heavier, more dynamic section--which becomes taken over by the repetition of a plodding distorted bass riff. Then at 13:54 another STEPPENWOLF kind of section with organ and flute screaming away takes us away. The shifts toward softer, gentler melody at the end is predictable and a little anti-climactic. The song is good, polished and straightforward, but nothing very extraordinary. (32/40)

2. "Del mio mondo che crolla" (6:00) opens with some very ehavy, distorted bass and clear, precise drumming before flutes and keys join in. The first keyboard soli are from "older" keyboard sounds (Casiotone?). The instrumentalists each sound like they are in their own recording studio, in their own worlds. Finally at the two minute mark things gel before a pause after which Alessio and Hammond organ take over. The slight shift back at 4:40 brings the music into solo-support mode--in which several brief soli take their turns. If I have one serious complaint with this song it's with the way the drums were recorded and mixed so that they feel totally 'isolated' from the rest of the song. They feel compressed or digitized while the rest feel 70s analog. Weird. Otherwise it's a cool little song. (9/10)

3. "Del mio abisso e del vuoto" (9:41) opens with some flute being supported by some drums and cheezy bass playing. Piano and guitar join in to continue the soft jazzy flow. Once Alessandro's voice joins in it is melodic but a little too gritty-scratchy-gravelly to add beauty to this beautiful music. Nadia Girardi's layers of floating, soaring wordless vocals in the seventh minute are an awesome touch. Kind of a cross between Clare Torey's "Great Gig in the Sky" and Irene Pappas' contributions to APHRODITE'S CHILD's 666. The final two minutes have some great Mellotron, flute, bass and vocal cohesion--maybe the best on the album--before chaos and cacophony become the ending of choice. Cool song. (18/20)

4. "Del mio volo" (7:07) opens as a gentle ballad with flute playing counterpoint to Alessandro's vocal. In the second minute a synth gets a chance to solo before the second verse takes over. The Mellotron play really hits some great chords at the beginning of the fourth minute and proceeds to play nicely beneath the ensuing longer synth solo. At 4:15 all instruments save for a gently picked acoustic guitar drop out while Alessandro slowly sings an emotional passage. Then an organ-led full band passage jumps into the fore, playing out a Dylan-esque dirge to the end. Nice song. (13.5/15)

The music and instrumentation are actually rather simple but effective--no wasted notes or noises and plenty of great melodies and chord progressions.

B/four stars; an excellent contribution to the world of progressive rock music.

BrufordFreak | 4/5 |

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