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Franco Battiato - Fetus CD (album) cover

FETUS

Franco Battiato

 

Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.35 | 50 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Finnforest
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A charming and diverse debut

Franco Battiato falls in that group of great Italian solo musical artists like Battisti, Sorrenti, and Rocchi, who toyed with the RPI movement before moving into other genres and styles of music. Battiato may be the most celebrated of the bunch by producing the most material which RPI fans find appealing; he had quite a string of fine albums. This string began rather early in the Italian progressive timeline, with the material for "Fetus" conceived in 1971 for a very early '72 release.

Despite the less-than-appealing cover art, "Fetus" is one charming piece of work. It is true that it is less realized than his coming albums, perhaps more scattershot, and yet I find it is probably the one I enjoy playing the most. It's a collage work mixing symphonic, psych, traditional Italian pop, avant-garde, minimalism, and electronic sound. Comparisons are sometimes made to Krautrock groups, musical chameleons like Roxy Music, or bands like Neu, Can, Kraftwerk, early Floyd, even Pierrot Lunaire's "Gudrun." Personally I am reminded of Antonio Bartoccetti's Jacula which was also an experimental sound troupe as opposed to a traditional rock band, they had the same approach of cut and pasting somewhat sparse singular ingredients to create a sound painting, as opposed to following the mores of rock n roll. Obviously Battiato does not have the same occult/death imagery of Jacula, understand I'm talking about the creative process and not the actual musical themes. The brevity of the tracks is arguable. Some may disappointed they end too soon, while I've seen others praise Battiato for not getting hung up on endless length for the sake of it, as some of his contemporaries were doing by this point.

"a diverse mixture of progressive rock; lovely and haunting melodies complete with "churchy" sounding pipe organ; soft, acoustic textures (guitar and violin); spacey, VCS3 synthesizer heavy experimentation; some folk music; psychedelic freak outs; and found sounds." -Jeffrey J. Park

As for what "Fetus" delivers to the listeners, the songs are short and sweet, built upon the combination of Battiato's VCS3, voice, and the acoustic guitar. The eerie warbles of the VCS3 are handled masterfully, and even if occasionally cheesy by today's standards they are often evocative and haunting in their strangeness. The embellishments in the form of violin, swelling organ washes, light/minimal percussion, Bach samples, and sound effects keep each track very rich and interesting. Beyond his own rather average singing voice he employs the voices of children, or in another track he uses audio from the Apollo 11 space mission to captivating effect. The songs are like snapshots, all different from each other, and not always transitioning smoothly as other reviewers note. But it doesn't harm the overall effect for me. The irresistible combination of "ideas overload" with obvious affection for nostalgic melodies creates a wonderfully inviting and memorable album. There is also a certain vibe of innocence and naivety contrasting the album's many colorful nooks and crannies, which may pull off the difficult task of pleasing both fans of "difficult" prog and melodic pop/rock. From sounds as diverse as vocal babbling to delicate strings, from wild synths to Orme style strummed acoustic change-ups, the bottom line is that this album is fresh. Fresh in 1972 and still quite appealing four decades on.

Check out Guldbamsen's fine description of the album's sound. I agree with him that this is the perfect place to start your Battiato journey, from the beginning, so you can hear the amazing developments to follow.

Finnforest | 4/5 |

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