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Lagartija - Particelle CD (album) cover




Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.81 | 31 ratings

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4 stars Atmosphere and mood run deep on strong second album

Lagartija are back with their second album and many in the RPI den have been waiting with baited breath to hear the results. It's yet another impressive release from Lizard Records who are one of the best sources for interesting new music. The band from Piacenza formed in 2008 and released their debut album 'Ricordi?' in 2009. Since then it appears they have traded keyboardist Fabrizio Delledonne for second guitarist Marco Libe, though Delledonne does appear as a guest on two tracks. The album compares well with 'Ricordi?' but there are some differences. First, the band's chops are tighter and the album has a better production and firmer, heavier sound when it needs it. Second, I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss the prevalence of Delledonne's keyboards in their sound as he was a huge part of 'Ricordi?'s' success. Third, it seems like Sara is singing less in favor of increased instrumental play. However the reduction of these two pleasurable elements is balanced by compositions which are probably stronger and more focused than the debut, and playing which keeps getting stronger.

Describing the Lagartija sound to the uninitiated has always been a challenge, but the simplest comparison I can make is that they sound like an Italian Paatos, except Lagartija are more instrumentally complex and with fewer pop tendencies. On their first album I wrote 'While not obviously influenced by the classic 70s Italian scene, they possess the same free spirit of experimentation those bands had in an updated, yet still richly Italian-vibed sound. There is a bit of everything here: rock, alt-lounge, smoky jazz-rock, and a bit of avant-garde. There are tons of sax and piano, Italian vocals, and dramatic artistry. One can hear some post-rock influence at times, other times the guitar can be more aggressive yet still hypnotic.' That's still a reasonable assessment aside from the fact that the guitars and sax are now more prevalent than the vocals and keyboards. Also the 'smokey jazz rock' element seems more of a 'dreamy psych-tinged fusion' and overall things are a bit heavier, probably due to Sara Aliani and Michele Molinari's really solid bass/drums backbone. There are also a few tracks which move the band in a more accessible crossover direction.

The striking and emotive cover of 'Particelle' is a telling first glimpse of music which is a bit mysterious, occasionally melancholic, but never cynical at heart. One can only imagine what the captivating young subject is feeling in this moment but it recalls in all of us that certain turbulence of youth, often thrilling but sometimes very difficult. While I don't understand the Italian lyrics the music itself feels affirmational in spirit and pulls the listener into a somewhat hypnotic, very pleasurable trip. Aliani and Molinari lock together for a solid rhythm section both stealth and up front, inventive and light on their feet. Guitarists Andrea Poggi and Marco Libe team up playing hazy parts in unified fashion, creating the wonderful atmospheres which can recall a Mazzy Star/The Doors tinged psych flavor, with occasional bursts of energy. They largely succeed in filling the shoes of the full time keyboardist. Once the stage is set the stories begin with Aliani's soothing vocals on one end and the superb lead saxophone from Christian Piga on the other. On the surface it appears that Piga's sax playing has emerged as the most prominent attribute due to the frequent and extensive soloing, but that's not really true if you're listening deeper. It's a luxurious package of sounds with every one of the players crucial to the success.....I've listened intently to what everyone is doing behind the 'lead' instrumental of a given moment, and it's true ensemble playing which suggests the band members listen to each other and enjoy working together.

This is an early review I wanted to share quickly and thus it lacks the benefit of absorbing the album over time, but after 5 or 6 spins the highlights are everywhere. 'Idiosincrasia' is an upbeat instrumental opener with crisp, nicely balanced drumming and fluid sax soloing. 'Myths' is a treat which moves with ease into crossover territory with a sensual vocal, somewhat tense and slightly saturated with just a hint of distortion. There is a poetic feel to the text and a really cool instrumental chorus part after the verse, this very catchy drop off that instantly grabs you. Nice balance of light and heavy shading. 'L'abbraccio' continues the more accessible vein with a nicely crafted song, breezy and buoyant. I love the bass and guitar playing on 'Tete', the bass is so smooth but strong in the mix, and the guitars break from their controlled tension for some quick bursts of aggression. Fabrizio Delledonne contributes the lovely piano piece 'Sbrisiu', a well timed interlude, providing a breather before the 13-minute title track which is a real centerpiece. When I first heard the title track I was driving a cold interstate freeway late at night, my daydreams lost in the mesmerizing piece which sounded incredible married to the visual outside, of car lights streaking through frosty air, blurred by the cold and darkness. (I recommend a high volume for best effect, I had my own real life music video happening during this moment, and yes, I was sober hehe...) A long rolling and moody trip with some great Italian recitations at various stages. Last, I'm not sure what they did with the mics/vocal effects on the closer 'Emilia Malinconica' but they are so clear, it sounds like Aliani is whispering in your ear. It finishes with thrashing guitars in perfect Wilco form.

Overall 'Particelle' is a solid second effort which should bring the band a wider audience, highly recommended to fans of bands like Paatos, and modern RPI bands who flirt with multi-genre components. An easy 4-star rating for me. I hope this band is together a long time as I'd love to see where they travel musically in the future.

Finnforest | 4/5 |


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