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Pane - Orsa Maggiore CD (album) cover

ORSA MAGGIORE

Pane

 

Rock Progressivo Italiano

2.98 | 4 ratings

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seventhsojourn
Special Collaborator
RPI
2 stars I've recently come across some RPI reviews that rather boldly assert that the albums in question are not in the least progressive. I don't really have a beef with anyone for these kinds of comments but if certain critics spent more time off their Victorian thunderboxes they'd maybe see there's no chaos in the cosmos, no toppling masonry and no barbarian hordes storming the PA barbican. And if they want 'genuine' prog there are always the hundredfold Genesis soundalike bands from which to choose. The point here is that 'Orsa Maggiore' is exactly the type of album that's sure to exasperate such critics.

Now I don't use a slide-rule to measure the masses, positions and directions of an artist but intuition tells me these guys are progressive. Having said that, if you go through the checklist with Pane in mind you'll find they are well within the boundary lines of RPI - piano and flute combo, bold operatic vocals, wild spirit and eclectic flair, Italian folk, songs tradition, classical influence, and Italian language. Mind you, the last item there is actually where I find the main problem arises with the album. The texts are of central importance and any attempt to unravel the Italian lyrics using online translations will bear little fruit. It's not just that these translations don't cut the proverbial mustard; they don't leave so much as a superficial scratch on its surface.

For example the album's most ambitious piece, 'Cavallo', is adapted from a collection of works by Victor Cavallo. Cavallo was perhaps best known as an actor and playwright but was also a writer of vibrant, spontaneous street poetry and he revitalised the Roman dialect. The song 'Cavallo' is an epic of existentialism, intense and uncompromising, in the form of an aggressively masculine poetry recital with sparse musical accompaniment. Singer Claudio Orlandi has been compared to Demetrio Stratos and the dramatic changes in register of his voice transmit menace, turbulence and a genuine sense of power. The song sounds like the soul-searching ruminations of a madman, with nervously strummed guitar and piano clusters occasionally chiming in like aimlessly wandering psychological fragments.

By way of contrast the album does contain some moments of genuine beauty, of which the opening song 'L'Umore' is typical. It's a revelatory composition depicting the human condition and featuring a stunning Mediterranean melody and wonderful flute. Themes of madness, of journeys and of love seem to run through the album and I would dearly love if one of our Italian friends would provide a skeleton key to the album. The meaning behind the title-track is easier to grasp and is based around an Italian interpretation of a poem by Vladimir Mayakovsky, one of the leading poets of Russian Futurism. Mayakovsky defined his work as 'Communist Futurism' and his revolutionary socialist beliefs are boldly represented in this piece: 'Up, row of proud heads / We will wash every city in the world / With the surging waters of a second Flood.' This song is more upbeat with prominent flute and drums marching in the rhythm of a folk dance.

Overall this album leaves me feeling frustrated, mainly because the texts are of such importance and I think a deep understanding of Italian is required to get the most out of the music. And try to forget about any comparisons you might have seen to bands such as Banco and Area. Pane are fairly minimalist and are closer to avant-folk poetry, artists like Juri Camisasca and Angelo Branduardi spring to mind, and as such I can really only recommend this to hardcore RPI fans. 2.5 stars really!

seventhsojourn | 2/5 |

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