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Franco Battiato - Battiato CD (album) cover

BATTIATO

Franco Battiato

 

Rock Progressivo Italiano

2.04 | 14 ratings

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Ricochet
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Under normal circumstances, we should be halfway into Franco Battiato's full exposure to avant-garde oriented music, impressed or at least intrigued by his tricky, complex, uncanny, fresh, meta-mature and valorous (in one way or another) experiments. However, at least taking 1977's Battiato as reference, out of a total of four potential ones, deception turns the main word. Perhaps a soft one, too.

Career-wise, we could indeed talk about a peak (not necessarily with this album, because the award-winning upcoming L'Egitto prima delle sabbie seems the logical ultimate climax, but including it in the ascension) since we're browsing through samples of unbound, straightforward, academic, concrete & hermetic music. But even here I'm very much tempted, thanks to the dry impression provided by Battiato, to daringly conclude that much of this phase could only be counted as a big intersection between Battiato's juiciest eclectic art and the new times when he'll become highly popular for a different, lighter type of music. While no doubt acknowledging Battiato's final dream of shaping his classical-trained idea(l)s of experimentation without setbacks, results such as Battiato are nevertheless plain bizarre drafts compared to the earlier and way more profound (plus, from this perspective, classic) tetralogy. If albums such as Foetus and Pollution (perhaps Clic as well) are remembered as of an acquired taste, Battiato's standard could disappoint the vital fans of the style itself.

Stylistically, it would wrong to completely demote this work, as, especially through the convincing first composition, it's a pretty close match of the modern classical language Battiato wished to approach, the second epic of this album being surprisingly a more random, even if more fulfilling as well, experiment. With a tiny bit of optimism, the predictable shock of the first experience will wash away, allowing a mature future appreciation. Musically however, the verdict is strict: Battiato's study is of a difficult appeal, a recording session far too intimate, with a (theoretically) proper yet hard-to-survive minimalism klavierstück (obvious hint, of course), contrasted by a far too shy vocal-instrumental collage, compared to much wilder examples in the 1971-74 tapes. Obscurity fates this release from the very beginning, but even if unfolded, the chances of sounding incredible are very slim. Calling it a collector's item makes the most sense, but treasuring it in this way ultimately doesn't.

Battiato rarely worked so condensed as he does now and throughout the mid 70s, traditionally filling the two sides with, here on, weak epics. First up is the Stockhausen memento, the introduction of the IXth Klavierstücke being reproduced and, a bit, enhanced. Describing this minimal, obstinate exercise in too many words would be silly, the key symbol being sound and its pure experimentation. What I'm missing is the depth the sound would need, in this situation, in order to actually attract and move the listener. General effects can be discerned, even by those who would tag this echo music or ambient, but the scarce nuancing points out another major flaw, the cheap rhythm patterns and the slight shift of chords not doing much to improve the feeling. Within the resonance, I'm picking up some metallic notes, as if electric keyboards were added to the piano (and they probably were, I'm just relating to the impression), creating an unwanted artificial splinter inside the natural aura of the music. Neither secco, nor slipping into soundscapes, offers no pleasure, and hardly fascinates.

Through repeated listening, a rough epic such as will flow better and better, proving pretty okay at this chapter. So does the other epic, Cafe-Table-Musik, by paradox less restraint, but still minimal and, in my opinion, rudimentary. This time, Battiato isn't alone in a white cubic chamber, with his piano and nothing else, but he could just as well be in the recording room, trimming and merging excerpts, creating a collage, shaping a suite. Alida Maria Salvelra provides the vocals, a bit of opera here and there, dialogue and meditative lines in the rest, backed up in a couple of fragments by another voice, un-credited, presumably Battiato himself. The lyrics overall seem to have a random origin, emphasizing a desired punch. The element that recurs, in a much smoother form, is the piano music, alternating at first, blending soon after with the vocal codex. A symphonic drop of essence falls lofty somewhere in between, with no special result. Austere and repetitive, the melody matters, once again, less in comparison with its potential of effects, but nothing is truly different, since the lack of artistic nuances persists, and we're stuck in a slideshow of abstract, bare images. The style surfaces adequately, but the music sounds inmost modest, to not mention the better things Battiato composed in this direction.

Anyone taking a deeper incursion into the progressive rock library bumps into more unusual samples, mostly avant-garde oriented or unearthly experimental ones, sooner or later. In this case, prog rock is out of the question, and the discovery is sadly unrewarding. This is mainly a view back into modern classical/proto-electronic music, done with a degree of professional, still with a forgotten subtlety. I'm surprisingly giving the second star for , the track that can possibly annoy everyone who'd listen to it, but is the more meaningful one of the two presented.

A mere consolation star, though, for hopefully the weakest of the four albums that outline this special phase: inferior, interior music all around, with hardly any rich taste.

Ricochet | 2/5 |

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