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Quarto Vuoto - Illusioni CD (album) cover

ILLUSIONI

Quarto Vuoto

 

Rock Progressivo Italiano

4.36 | 15 ratings

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Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars Back in 2014, young Italian band Quarto Vuoto released a short self-titled half-hour debut in the bold symphonic sound of the Seventies RPI legends, and the lovingly retro-flavoured album embraced the same flavours as classic Italian prog legends Quella Vecchia Locanda due to the way the music was dominated by elegant violin. The fairly small number of RPI fans who heard the EP felt it was very special, but that it only hinted at the potential that the band could show if they delivered a full-length work. Well, three years later we have that proper follow-up, and it's likely to be perceived as quite a controversial release, sure to either disappoint or very much excite, depending on which way you look at it and/or your history with the band.

Right from the start of the new CD, it's pretty clear that `Illusioni', and the band themselves, are no longer your `Dad's Prog'. Mostly gone are the retro flavours, the overt soloing and pretty much any connection to the Italian prog masters of old, and it's probably no coincidence to find that the first album's vocalist/violinist Federico Lorenzon has departed in the years since that debut. The remaining players have opted to carry on in an instrumental form, and 2017's `Illusioni' is a distinctly modern sounding mix of post-rock reaches, ambient atmospheres and psychedelic improvisations, with the band favouring subtle and careful build over flashy soloing show-boating this time around. Moments of it resemble King Crimson, Steven Wilson, Porcupine Tree or even Diagonal, but this is really the sound of Quarto Vuoto forging their own unique sound and ready to pick up plenty more followers for their winning efforts.

Heavenly breezes flit in and out of opener `Nei Colori del Silenzio', laced with arching Post Rock- flavoured guitar chimes, sweetly murmuring bass, ethereal synth caresses and only the lightest of cymbals and percussion to exquisitely tease the most restrained of dramatic pinpricks. `Coscienza Sopita's jagged electric piano splinters and thrashing drum tantrums are attacked at every turn by spiky electric guitars that seamlessly shift between shimmering strums, muscular bursts and ragged wailing space-rock soloing, and there's an unease and tension to the piece that wouldn't have sounded out of place on a `Moonloop/Signify'-era Porcupine Tree album.

`Impasse' unfolds over almost twelve minutes, stark electronic droning white-noise and faraway lurking drum rumbles that almost take on a tribal-like hypnotic intensity one moment, whirring kaleidoscopic soloing and fuzzy guitar ruminations laced with a defiant joyous freedom the next. Despite being punctuated with gutsy Anekdoten-like blasts, `Apofis' quickly captures a similar ragged gloominess to the metallic guitar ringings, rattling percussion and darkly lit jazzy sax wafting of King Crimson's `Islands' period before it diverts into a beautifully melancholic piano solo climax.

Psychedelic ambience that channels early Pink Floyd with dream-like guitar ripples float through `Due'Io' whenever it's not being attacked with crunching heavy Riverside/Porcupine Tree-like driving riffing guitars, with the band ably navigating a range of quick-change tempos back and forth in the second half. Finally, dignified and graceful violin (although not courtesy of the above mentioned former member Lorenzon) swoons beside uplifting guitar soloing in `Torneṛ', with icy synths holding just the lightest touch of the Eighties Neo-Prog sound, and all up it makes for a very pretty and genuinely emotional close to the album.

It's a bit of a shame that Quarto Vuoto now in no way resemble that promising RPI group of their beginnings, but initial disappointment of what once was can be turned around if the proper time is taken to really explore what these young musicians are now doing (and if you're new to the band, none of that will matter anyway!). In many ways the situation mirrors the approach taken by fellow modern Italian proggers Ingranaggi della Valle - by ditching the slavish fascination to prog sounds of old after nailing it on their first recording, they instead branched out in their own style on the follow-up in not only a completely different manner, but diverted in numerous directions at once and are now brimming with a new and thrilling approach in its place.

But in the end, all that matters is that `Illusioni' is a sublime modern progressive rock album from a talented bunch of musicians, one that came be easily embraced by younger audiences and fans not wanting a mere rehash of the classic prog era, who enjoy exploratory improvisations that never aimlessly meander, and it can easily be placed among the standout Italian, and purely instrumental, works of the last twelve months.

Four stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |

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