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Franco Battiato - M.elle Le Gladiator CD (album) cover

M.ELLE LE GLADIATOR

Franco Battiato

 

Rock Progressivo Italiano

2.06 | 12 ratings

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LinusW
Special Collaborator
Italian Prog Specialist
2 stars Pushing further into the more fractured, avant-garde and academic styles of 1974's Clic, M.elle Le Gladiator is a difficult album to love. It is a loose-loose collection of what feels a lot more as an assortment of studio ideas and experimentation than proper and working compositions. You cannot really talk about a collective identity - no cohesive whole - when listening to the three tracks here. Instead you are served three rather distinct dishes, none of which is especially palatable taken at face value.

All Battiato's albums up to and including this point come with quite a distinct experimental and esoteric vibe, regardless of the differences between them, but for the first time he drifts a bit too far into a detached, coldly insular and introverted place in music. I am sure the music here has some kind of deeper meaning to Battiato himself, but it is woefully hard to connect to it on an emotional level for me as a listener.

In short: music for the brain, not for the "soul". Bullshit statement, but you get the point.

The first of the tracks here (Goutez et Comparez) is an erratic, flickering sound collage of what I guess is primarily various radio and television snippets, both musical and simple talk broadcasts, interspersed with small voice clips and mumblings of Battiato himself. Fusing it all together is a selection of short, eerie and slightly foreboding (often electronic) noises and melodies. Twisting and turning sharply in emotional intensity and content, the strange mix of what I imagine is an expression of apparent nostalgia, a form of social commentary and pure effect-seeking clips feels distinctly unpleasant after a while; a bit like randomly browsing through a malfunctioning human memory or delving into a fever dream. It is surprising then that about halfway through it transforms into a shimmering, textural sequence of near crystalline quality. Light and clear with amorphous synthesizer dancing about in the background. It does not last for long though, as it dies off and leaves room for a towering church organ chord blasting on for several minutes, with minor modulations and changes to it along the way, as well as some lovely colouration from background synths and sparse but poignant vocals.

...and out of the blue, just like that, Canto Fermo starts. More church organ meanderings, working its way from humble and rather dark, spacey ominous beginnings (the stereotypical horror sound comes to mind) up to more familiar Classical themes and motifs, albeit a lot less formal and structured. After a few dynamic minutes of this, warm, indistinct synths gently envelops everything in a soothing and rather beautiful ambiance. Cue another abrupt end.

...and it is time for more church organ in the last track Orient Effects. This one can be seen as the marriage of several disparate parts of the album. The dominance, grandeur and vastness of the church organ finds a way to blend with the more discreet, sequenced textures into a surprisingly successful form of ecclesiastical prog electronic/ambient. It is a refreshing mix of low-key, understated finesse and the awe-inspiring, once again working with the simple of idea of the sustained church organ chord with synths (and I would say even more organ) moving about in wondrous way underneath it.

Gently abrasive, grandstanding, epic and always a bit cold and theoretical. Musically, it is an often overpowering affair, yet equally often very minimal in the same compositions.

So how does it make you feel? Well, in some ways it does not. It is somehow just above and beyond that. But at times it still manages to really lift you up into a sort of higher state of being, a sense of leaving the mundane behind and traveling to a clearer, brighter world of...whatever! It is not joyful, not sad, not spiritual or emotional like that. No, it is something altogether more clinical, pure and refreshingly cleansing. Strange stuff.

Getting there is difficult for me, even though it is rewarding when it happens.

Hard to connect, a bit difficult to digest, widely different feelings about it from listening to listening, but occasionally wonderful. Brr.

On average around 2,5 stars. Rounding down this time.

//LinusW

LinusW | 2/5 |

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