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D.F.A. - 4th CD (album) cover




Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.10 | 90 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars D.F.A. is one of the most wonderful things that have happened to Italy regarding progressive rock music in the last 15 years. Together with bands such as Stereokimono, Deus Ex Machina, Aviolinee Utopia, Periferia del Mondo, Fonderia and others, D.F.A. have constantly greeted attentive prog listeners around the globe with a creative way of reassuring old influences and bringing them under a new light of refreshing energy and genuine power. Being their third studio effort, but also having a live album in their back catalogue, the guys of D.F.A. decided to call their 2008 album "4th", in pure Soft Machine fashion (I seriously doubt that they may have Chicago as a major point of reference, but anyway.). This is a 2008 masterpiece, this I do not doubt for a second. The album kicks off the 14+ minute long 'Baltasaurus'. It starts quite mysterious, with bass and electric piano washes anticipating the controlled density of the initial lead guitar phrases. Drums keep a strongly jazzy, and sometime the flute draws some exquisite flourishes; once these are ended, the main body is stated as an exercise on jazz-prog in pure D.F.A. style, with elements of 80s Holdsworth and 70s Return to Forever brought in for good effect. The synth solos that succeed each other from minute 5 are simply lovely, turning from whimsical to epic, while the drum kit, bass and Hammond organ build a strong basic cadence. Once the guitar rejoins, the usual power returns with a vengeance, never too oppressive, always allowing the track's constant swing to go on breathing fluidly. The passage that gets started just before the 7'30" mark is more spacey, related to Hillage-era Gong and the jazzier side of Ozric Tentacles (a thing that had been very present in the band's second studio effort). Once the jazz-rock factor returns to the fore, the spacey element remains in the shape of wind-emulating synth effects that flow beneath the tour-de- force designed by drum kit-bass-organ-guitar. 'Flying Trip' brings a more serene mood, in this way emphasizing the sense of sheer elegance that D.F.A. has as one of its major assets. Right after the 2'30. mark, things will get a tad wilder, but it is basically a particular development of the basic jam into an expansion of its potential intensity. This track is very lyrical, all in all, beautiful without being precisely soft or corny. And then. 'Vietato Generalizzare' gets started and the listener's ears starts to get excited - no other can be the band's aim when the track starts with a sudden climax of jazz-meets heavy prog, abruptly, without warning, yet not driving you away but captivating you with its clever complexity. The guitar assumes the starring role in this exhibition of delirious power coherently framed in a recognizable scheme: imagine the bombastic trend of ELP and the vintage heavy rocking side of Planet-X, mingle them with a bit of classic Mahavishnu Orchestra's rockier side, and voila, you have it figured out. 'Mosoq Runa', which lasts almost 19 minutes, starts with a lovely, tranquil piano piece completed with guest violin and cello. Once the whole ensemble settles in, the overall mood remains introspective, but the fuller sonic structure hints at a more energetic attitude. At the 3'30", a shift turns into a groovier motif (fusion with noticeable funky undertones), preceded by a soft build-up. Some intermissions bring back some of the previous tranquility, but mostly, this track tends to preserve and even build up on the recurrent groove. Before getting to the fifteenth minute, things shift toward a slow, ceremonious motif featuring a soaring lead guitar and majestic mellotron-like keyboard layers: soon we learn that this is the threshold to the coda, which is a reprise of the beautiful opening theme. 'The Mirror' has a heavily ethnic vibe to it, with pronounced Arabic tones: the track's nucleus is evidently fusion-centered, but it is also worth mentioning that the mellotron-like layers bring an additional cosmic atmosphere, and the lead guitar helps the whole ensemble to bring out some heaviness in some passages. This track can be hypothetically described as a combo of Mahavishnu (drums and bass) and Return to Forever (keyboards and guitar) playing some lost track from Weather Report's "Mysterious Traveller" sessions. Arguably, this track comprises the best drumming in the entire album. The last 6 minutes of "4th" are occupied by 'La Ballata de S'isposa 'e Mannorri', a lovely song featuring guests on vocals (a singing trio), violin and cello. This track can be related to stuff by Periferia del Mondo, in which the fusion element gives dominant room to Mediterranean folk: in fact, the track's lyrics are based on an old Italian community's oral tradition. Lovely, really lovely, a beautiful end for a brilliant album: D.F.A. rules!
Cesar Inca | 5/5 |


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