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Franco Battiato - Sulle corde di Aries CD (album) cover

SULLE CORDE DI ARIES

Franco Battiato

 

Rock Progressivo Italiano

4.03 | 101 ratings

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LinusW
Special Collaborator
Italian Prog Specialist
5 stars Sulle Corde di Aries is one of those works where you can feel some sort of important decision has been made prior to its realisation. Whether conscious or unconscious, this the third album (not counting the English version of Fetus) is decidedly a more focused, comfortable and interesting album compared to its predecessors. Where you could sense a certain amount of uncertainty concerning direction, stylistic stamina and level of artistry emanating from Fetus and Pollution, Sulle Corde di Aries is more or less a done deal from start to finish.

Dropping sometimes too obvious ear-catchers such as sharply contrasting, truly electronic-sounding synthesisers, the occasional singer-songwriter guitar-and-vocal performance and the cubic, unsynchronised composition actually opts for something of a fresh start. This is Battiato expressing himself in a more organic, flowing and stable way where synthesisers and nimble percussion dominate. It's rich, but still subtle and minimalist in the meaning of underlying structural and dynamic changes. They're few and far between, with songs living their own life around a steady, simple rhythm where instruments can join, leave, change their melodies and interact in a successful and very effective way, making the overall sound an ambient micro-cosmos full of different sorts life and thus forcing the listener to heighten his awareness and enjoyment of the music. However, if you don't reach (or have trouble reaching) that state of concentration and positive feedback, it's just as likely the music will be perceived as.plain boring. Just a warning.

All these characteristics can be found in Sequenze e Frequenze, the epic of the album, and as such also half of it. Stunningly beautiful, with a haunting introduction of oboe, clarinet and a dark spectrum of synth sounds, gradually shifting towards the towering and majestic towers of synth that I find so characteristic of Battiatio. A recital vocal section on top of that, continuing over an oscillating melody that'll introduce the deliciously simple main beat of this amazing piece of music. And off it goes, with a steady foundation in the more low-key synth sounds and effects, with loads of delicate, spindly keyboard and percussion melodies dancing over it (like falling rain!) as the track progresses. Careful guitar textures anchors it with its earthy and familiar, yet intricate sounds the first minutes, only to drift into the background as the song grows more and more hypnotic. A short period of slightly off-beat, chunky drumming/percussion marks the shift into the intense and very much vibrant calimba section, where the synths manages to distance themselves at the same time as they increase in intensity. And then it continues down the same path, with many subtle changes along the way. A composition I immediately fell in love with, with its strong imagery, therapeutic qualities and exquisitely suggestive, subtle richness. One of those songs that lifts you up, being neither bright nor dark in character, but somehow above all of that. That goes for the entire album, to be honest.

Left are three shorter songs, all three around 5-6 minutes. Aries has a wonderful, slightly understated and distant introduction, with echoing guitar tones glimmering in the general emptiness (building in strength to be replaced by chord work). Again just a simple underlying beat to keep everything together and floating, choral vocals deep down in the mix. There's a great and whirling sax solo to be heard hear as well. Lighter than what came before, but nicely tripped-out nevertheless. Areknames from Pollution is never really far away when you hear Battiato's vocals and some of the melodies on Aria di Revulozione, but with a lot more sense for detail and the addition of tribal drumming, woodwind and saxophone. Strangely frozen in atmosphere and progression, it forms a nice interlude before Da Oriente ad Occindente. The interwoven, dancing vocals of the last track are delightful to hear, and yet again you're treated by the naked beauty of acoustic string instruments, effective, earthy rhythm and the autumnal, saturated sounds of woodwind. For being six and a half minutes long, it manages to creep under your skin just as much as Sequenze e Frequenze. A fitting end to a great album.

While I feel I have managed to get the most out of Sulle Corde di Aries' potential, I just can't call it an absolute masterpiece. For me to do that, it would require that the album gave me the same chills and emotional rush every time I hear it. And it just doesn't. Battiatio's music walks on a thin line between highly emotional and downright cold, a price he pays for making condensed and intellectual music. But the always present enigma also makes me want to come back time after time and, perhaps, with time, I'll be able to add that fifth star. [Edit: Done!]

5 stars.

//LinusW

LinusW | 5/5 |

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