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Area - Arbeit Macht Frei CD (album) cover

ARBEIT MACHT FREI

Area

 

Rock Progressivo Italiano

4.30 | 414 ratings

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octopus-4
Special Collaborator
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
5 stars This debut albums made immediately clear what the Area were capable of. Demetrio Stratos was previously the singer of a pop-beat band called "I Ribelli" that released a very successful single, "Pugni Chiusi". Demetrio's voice was the principal element in that success.

The album, but also the band are sons of their times. In the country there's a dark atmosphere of class struggles and a military putsch has been recently attempted like that of the "colonels" in Greece. The international scene is not better with a new war in Palestine and the embargo over oil put in place by the OPEC.

Area debut with an album whose title is the infamous German sentence that was on the gate of Auschwitz: "Arbeit Macht Frei" (Work makes free) but is opened by the song that will become one of the most famous songs of the band: "Luglio, Agosto, Settembre (Nero)". (July, August, September(Black)). The reference is the Palestinian organization called "Black September" to remember the repression put in place in 1970 by King Hussain of Jordan after some terrorist attacks. It starts with an Arabian speech and please don't ask me what that woman says. It looks like a lament for somebody's death, some Habibi maybe, but if any Arab speaking friend has the album please let us know. Then organ and Stratos stars the song with the sentence "Playing with the world cutting it into pieces". The famous main theme reminds Arabian music but the track has strong jazz-rock connotations and when it goes chaotic seems they want to represent a market place or even a riot. After the short chaotic free-jazz moment the song returns to the main theme until the conclusion. Who was actually expecting something like "I Ribelli" (The Rebels) has already understood that this album doesn't have anything to do with them.

A drum solo opens the title track the it turns into a very dark jazzy mood that may remind to early Soft Machine. This track is about the Holocaust, like they wanted to balance the previous song that was in favour of the Palestinian Fedayyins. Bass drums and sax are the protagonists of this track together with the incredible voice of Demetrio Stratos. Fans of Canterbury and Avant should try this album. I'm not sure that RPI is the right place for this band.

There's initially more swing on "Consapevolezza" (Awareness) but after the intro it becomes darker and bluesy. It's a sort of invitation to gain awareness of our current status and reach the "power". It's not clear from those hermetic lyrics if the power is intended in a symbolic newage sense or if it is related to a possible revolution.

"Le Labbra del Tempo" (The lips of Time) has an orchestral jazz intro, then guitar,sax and Stratos introduce a rock section in 5/4 (but the signatures change very often) that has a Canterbury flavor. Impressive bass throughout the whole track. The lyrics are very hermetic: "Only who is naked can understand what your brutal force communicates" The final section with keyboards reminding of Vangelis (Albedo 0.39 as reference) over which Demetrio Stratos shows all his talent, lead to a jazz-rock crescendo that closes the track.

"L'Abbattimento dello Zeppelin" (The Zeppelin's Breakdown). Stratos nitially sings vocalisms. The intro is very avant, nearly contemporary classic, then it turns into an acid rock with hints of psychedelia. After an explosion Demetrio Stratos makes vocal experiments. He speaks. It's a poem but his voice and the instruments here play something that Luigi Nono would surely like. Until the second and third explosions that close it.

"240 Chilometri da Smirne"(240 Kilometers from Smyrne) Opens as an uptime avant-jazz piece with the sax making incredible things, then there's an impressive bass solo. This is the only fully instrumental track and in some parts looks like a jazz improvisation. It's incredibly good. There's still a Canterbury mood, I often think to Soft Machine.

There's nothing of the symphonic RPI here. This is a jazz-rock masterpiece. While the Stormy Six where still playing popular folk songs, the Area were already an avant band and I'm quite sure that Stormy Six are in debt with this band for their conversion from folk to avant-jazz which led them to the RIO event.

Arbeit Macht Frei is a milestone for the Italian music other than a masterpiece. The music is so good that you can totally ignore the poetry and the political contents and just enjoy it, then think that other than the music there's a bit more inside.

octopus-4 | 5/5 |

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