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


L' Estate Di San Martino


Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.38 | 25 ratings

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3 stars A long, strange trip

The story of L'Estate di San Martino (ESM) is a strange one. They always seemed to take the long way home so to speak. Born in Umbria in the mid 1970s, the band worked at various projects for several years with some line-up changes until beginning work on their first conceptual album "Alder" in the early '80s. The band would fold for a decade and Alder would not come out for over two decades. They reassembled in the early 90s to work on their second concept album "Febo" and found a period of great creativity. And yet again, that work would sit unfinished until 2007 before coming back to life. In the meantime, sadly, guitarist Adolfo Broegg would pass away in 2006. His presence on Febo is felt on "Memoria," one of the album's emotional highlights. It is a Broegg guitar composition largely (though not a solo) from the 1993 sessions and it is gorgeous.

Describing the sound of ESM brings one word to mind for me..tasteful. Febo is immaculate in production, presentation, and performance. Like a more refined version of Alder, Febo is graceful, elegant, beautiful pastoral prog. Combining a mesh of classic Italian prog sounds (think PFM, Celeste) with a bit of Genesis and Neo-Prog influence, Febo delivers an album of mature, thoughtful music with a breezy and dreamy feel to the tracks. They have a lovely sound wall comprised of a nearly constant blend of smooth acoustic or electric guitars over peaceful keyboards, with a thick mellow bass presence and good but fairly low-key drumming. They will highlight their sound with occasional sax and delightful flute, or classical guitar interlude. Vocals are quite good and mostly male, though guest Conny Rausch delivers a thoroughly enchanting female vocal on "Animarum Mare." They really excel at creating spacious atmospheres that are relaxing and peaceful. All are outstanding musicians who listen to each other and deliver their parts with the greatest of care to the piece at hand. To present an opposing view one could say their sound is a bit middle-aged, a bit too pretty and laid back, with not enough bite to really grab today's prog fan used to Steven Wilson hooks and prog metal throb. It's true enough that ESM will not please these folks but they are not out to. As their motto says they are pursuing "an idea which comes back. A constant rethinking about what it (they) wrote and made into music and the desire to see another season. It's an idea which lives through its deep roots like it imagined 30 years ago." ESM is still searching for something and we are simply offered the chance to witness their personal story and their beautiful music.and it truly is beautiful.

I am somewhat confused about the album's thematic content. The booklet tells an interesting story about a teenager dubbed Febo(y) who spends more time concerned with technology and the buzz of downloading than what the music is actually all about. (This is presented in the short track "Download" where you can hear him listening to sample bits very briefly.) He listens to a little of everything, hitting track after track without finishing any, thinking he can know the track by hearing the first few seconds. Our shallow boy then has an epiphany after finding Italian music and the band called ESM of all things. He finally begins to really *listen* to the music and lives happily ever after. What confuses me is that the lengthy story seems to have little to do with the songs lyrics which are mostly visions of life and emotions through the pastoral filter. I'm probably just missing the point. In any case, for those of us don't understand Italian lyrics the magic is in the music anyway. Febo delivers music that is at times just achingly beautiful.and that's the impression I would most leave with you.

All in all, Alder and Febo make a nice pair (I prefer the latter due to the much improved sound quality) that will please any lover of pastoral, pretty prog like Camel, Willowglass, some Genesis stuff, etc.. The BTF/Vinyl Magic minis are spectacular, with high quality paper gatefold sleeves, paper inner sleeves, booklets with bios and lyrics, and fine artwork.

Finnforest | 3/5 |


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