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Nichelodeon - Cinemanemico CD (album) cover





3.48 | 9 ratings

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4 stars 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4. Thanks to Claudio for the CD and background information.

This is something of an unconventional release, featuring a collection of songs written over several years performed by a quartet of voice, piano, electric guitar and synthesiser, recorded live. This kind of stripped down instrumentation is not unprecedented - think of some of Peter Hammill's solo projects - but it's a bold move, as there is no way to cover up any shortcomings in either the material or the performance. Fortunately, Nichelodeon are more than able to deliver the goods.

Although nominally divided into 10 tracks, the album is best listened to as a single piece of work, which is the way it was delivered. Maurizio Fasoli's piano provides the backbone for most of the songs - he's also a member of Yugen, as is guitarist Francesco Zago. The guitar plays a varied role, with some achingly beautiful Fripp style sustained tones floating across the bar lines in the quieter passages and some fast and furious picking in the more uptempo passages. The synthesiser (played by Riccardo di Paola) likewise supplies a variety of textures, occasionally giving some extra rhythmic punch (on the opening song Fame), sometimes supplying a fluid melodic line that wouldn't be out of place on a 1970s prog classic and, in the album's two spoken word interludes, providing the kind of bizarre sonic backdrop that Pere Ubu's synth meisters have become famous for. Above all, though, there is the voice of Claudio Milano, who displays great range and power and who also has a remarkable rapport with the three instrumentalists. Milano also wrote most of the material and essentially put the whole thing together, and it is his interpretation of the material that makes it live and breathe. There isn't a weak track on the album, but there's a truly outstanding sequence early on. A brief, Yugen style atmospheric instrumental by Francisco Zago leads into a beautifully understated reading of Let Me Cry from Handel's Rinaldo, which gradually twists and mutates into a dark piece of atmospheric avant prog before dissolving into Malamore e la Luna, a powerful and moving song by Claudio Milano. Taken together, these three pieces encapsulate Nichelodeon's considerable strengths and are about as good as contemporary prog gets.

This is a good album, but it is the audio part of what was a multimedia performance; although it's strong enough to stand alone, the visual and performance components would perhaps give the songs a clearer context (especially for non Italian speakers). It's a highly distinctive piece of work, which fuses elements of classic Italian prog with elements of RIO and avant prog but which, crucially, has its own unique identity. Recommended.

Syzygy | 4/5 |


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