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Pierpaolo Bibbo - Diapason CD (album) cover

DIAPASON

Pierpaolo Bibbo

 

Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.48 | 12 ratings

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Finnforest
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Solid lesser-known symphonic gem

Many prog fans feel there was a dark winter in their favorite genre from sometime in the late '70s until the resurgence began in the '90s. But the truth is that despite the conscious sell-out of many groups putting sales ahead of art- the gems still existed, you only needed to dig a bit more. In Italian prog there are plenty of hidden gems from every period that need more exposure and Pierpaolo Bibbo created one such album, "Diapason." Recorded in 1979 and released on a small label in 1980 the album was composed and carefully crafted by multi-instrumentalist and studio whiz Pierpaolo Bibbo. Bibbo handles guitars, bass, synths, and vocals with good command and employed a second keyboardist Adriana De Murtis and drummer Franco Medas to assure a good band sound. Flute and violin are also present but quite sparingly. "Diapason" is a unique sounding album to be sure. While it surely features the beautiful, traditional Italian symphonic backdrop of a PFM/Locanda Delle Fate in general, Bibbo's rather adventurous approach to the instruments, his irreverence to any fixed notions toward the palette of sounds, gives "Diapason" a personality all its own. Because of his knowledge and comfort in the studio (Bibbo's career is in the recorded arts production and he now owns his own studio) one senses that he took plenty of time laboring in the construction of these tracks. This is busy music with plenty of layering going on throughout, multiple keyboards, multiple guitars, clearly an enjoyment for the process of recording is present. Many of the songs are linked together with similar themes occurring more than once giving the album a more conceptual feel.

The first time you listen to "Diapason" you may well think it is one strange sounding album. After a few listens you begin to appreciate Bibbo's sense of aesthetic. At the core are melodic symphonic tracks of 3-10 minutes in length with heartfelt vocals. And then you begin to notice the *way* the instruments sound and the layering taking place. You begin to notice the sound effects and the way each track has many interesting changing sections rather than just one or two. The keyboards are weighed about equally to Bibbo's guitar playing with both being very prominent. The synths are modern sounding for the time and multi-layered with other synth, piano, or organ, though mostly synths dominate. The synths are frequently fuzzy sounding, manipulated with a "phasing" effect, and often run in loops to create their own distinct color. The same is true with the guitars that are often right there with the synths, more often together than taking turns. The electric guitars are often played through effects of some kind and they are layered often with two distinct parts and sometimes I noticed three parts. And the most distinct thing which gives "Diapason" its own sound is the positively wired, high-pitched range Bibbo often plays in. He's WAY up there at times to the point where the album could be sub-titled "Music for Dogs" because only they can hear it. I'm joking of course but the range is something that stands out right away, a unique sound choice that was gives this album an eclectic edge. The longest track "La macchina del tempo" (The Time Machine) features a two-minute opening of spacey guitar notes reverberating with a harpsichord-like keyboard sound sprinkled around the edges. It leads later to a punchier rock section and then evolves slowly to a fairly grand and majestic conclusion. The experimentation in his sound that Bibbo was obviously going for might irritate some listeners as the looping effects especially can drone on. But he successfully counters this by mixing in enough traditional symphonic grandeur to balance it: beautiful acoustic guitar and piano, a bit of flute and violin, warm and optimistic vocals, a stable and reassuring rhythm section. It is this balance which makes the album easily accessible and enjoyable while not sounding the least bit stagnant to my ears, the charge of stagnation being something that was leveled at many prog acts in this period.

Pierpaolo Bibbo made only one album in the progressive vein but he made the most of it. He deserves credit for delivering "Diapason" during the cold winter of prog and Mellow deserves credit (again) for its reissue on CD. The sound quality is generally good though perhaps a bit light on low end for my taste. "Diapason" is a solid recommendation for fans of Italian Prog and could be recommended to any fan of symphonic or Neo-prog. The CD booklet comes with full lyrics in Italian and a nice period photo of Bibbo but unfortunately with no Bio.

Finnforest | 4/5 |

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