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L' Estate Di San Martino - Alder CD (album) cover

ALDER

L' Estate Di San Martino

 

Rock Progressivo Italiano

2.97 | 11 ratings

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Finnforest
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars L'Estate di San Martino (ESM) was born in a garage in an isolated, beautiful part of Italy called Umbria in 1975. The band formed to give musical support to a theatrical piece called "Alete." There were numerous line-up changes over the next several years with a single released in 1978. Work on the conceptual material for "Alder" began in the spring of 1982. Being mostly a live working band it is appropriate that the Alder project ended up as a live album, recorded in December 1983 at the Zenith Theatre in Perugia over two consecutive nights. After this the band folded for 10 years before beginning another project called Febo. Alder was finally released on CD in 2006 and Febo in 2007.

The music of ESM during the Alder period is a softer prog rock which merges early mellower Genesis tendencies to the origins of the neo-prog sound, but in the Italian rather than English sound. You will hear some PFM and maybe a little Celeste influence although guitar seems more prevalent than keys. Nearly ever-present acoustic guitars are given significant punch via strong bass guitar and good electric leads. Occasional flute adds some nice touches and keyboards as well. "Alder" is a concept album about a fisherman on something of a quest for knowledge and enlightenment. Wisely, they have written the narrative for each piece (song) of the story and translated to English in the booklet so that more people can follow along. This is something I wish more bands would do. I personally prefer bands stay in their first language because the music invariably sounds more natural, but it's a very nice touch and much appreciated when they take the time to provide some notes or summary in English for others. "A Fisherman" begins with nice acoustic guitar and flute, the chords very dreamy. "that night, when the moon spread out along the water, Alder felt really alone and it was then that the star of many mirrors reflected his dreams." Such is the beginning of the narrative which lyrically sounds a bit like the concept of a Cat Stevens project. Male vocals soon join and the bass/drums and keys will kick in as it rocks a bit and features a nice electric solo before ending with the acoustic. Most tracks are in the 6-7 minute range and allow time for nice instrumental explorations as they unfold. The typical sound is a middle speed light rock that is kind of foggy and atmospheric. Sometimes a bit Floydish, other times like a less rocking Marillion minus drama-boy singing, other times reminding me of Finistere. There are sections where it's just acoustic guitar and light keyboards, and other times when the punchy drum/bass sound rock out with electric leads. It's hard to define them by other bands as their style is just a bit different than the others, more laid back. The last half of the finale "On Tanana Brook" features a fiery (by ESM standards) guitar solo for the big ending. The bonus track is a pleasant memorial to a fallen friend and colleague.

Alder is a good album but I do have a bit of a problem with the sound. I think were it a studio album with much better sound/production I could add another star but much of the nuance is lost in the live mix. Parts are very quiet which make me turn it up to hear them, then it gets loud and murky in other places and you have to babysit the volume. There are parts that would be better if the sound were clearer. It is certainly not horrible and definitely is listenable, but it is not optimal. All in all it is something I enjoy from time to time because of the thoughtful and tasteful playing. Considering this was '83 when most of prog was on life-support the album really was good for the moment. I give it a reserved thumbs up for Italian fans and pastoral-prog fans.

Finnforest | 3/5 |

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