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Corde Oblique - A Hail of Bitter Almonds CD (album) cover

A HAIL OF BITTER ALMONDS

Corde Oblique

 

Prog Folk

5.00 | 5 ratings

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kenethlevine
Special Collaborator
Prog-Folk Team
5 stars Riccardo Prencipe and his hand-picked and plucked entourage succeed even better this time around in producing the truly modern equivalent of middle ages troubadour music Italian style. The improvement is principally in the wholeness of this entity, as songs and courtly dances merge into one like predestined partners.

Prencipe's dedication to classical and acoustic guitar ensures the decidedly unplugged aspect of "Almonds", but the deliberately ancient sounding melodies soar atop stellar production that miraculously preserves their fragility. The title cut and opener initially appears as little more than throwaway until the 3rd or 4th listen when the urgency of Floriana Cangiano's voice and and the piano rolls of Luigi Rubino portend the coming delights. "Together Alone" is one of only 2 tracks sung in the masculine, by Sergio Panarella, although he has plenty of help. Here is the song which won't leave my head for hours if not days, an utter delight of transcendent romance with an unfailing chorus and Spanish styled guitar fills. From here the remaining beauties come as no surprise, although many listens are required for full osmosis. "Paestum" is in two parts, the first somewhat poppy, the second a tongue dropping wordless delight. "La madre che non c'e" follows a similar pattern, but with an instrumental first half and more sublime vocals and violin on the home stretch. "Slide" is one of only a couple of instrumentals and is also among the tunes that can't help recalling ERIS PLUVIA.

You might ask if there is any edge here at all. Well, not much in the conventional sense, but the reworking of RADIOHEAD's "Jigsaw Falling into Place" is quite a revelation, and probably the closest to raucous. "Crypta Neapolitana" is quite spooky as implies its title, and where CORDE OBLIQUE earns some of its dark wave credentials. "Goia di vivere" is more subdued than might be expected given its translation as "joy of living". Conversely, even the saddest themes here are somehow uplifting. One of my favourites is "The Man of Wood", the other tune sung by Panarello, coincidentally both being among the few on the disk sung in English. Here is approach is phonetically based, but the emphatic afterthoughts in his style work wonders in creating a solemn masterpiece. Halfway through is a shift to a somewhat more indie rock anthem, naturally understated. "Piccolo rose" is a sweet ballad that accomplishes much in barely two and half minutes in terms of solidifying the atmospheres aimed for and achieved.

If the last couple of tracks slow down the momentum a tad, I do have to point out that the vocal style in "Pietra Bianca" owes a debt of gratitude to the CRANBERRIES Dolores O'Riordan. At the same time, while less blatant, the group clearly benefits from past excercises by both versions of RENAISSANCE, CLANNAD, and KATE BUSH, while references to OLOFERNE are not out of place.

My initial intent was to award another easy 4 stars, but there is nothing here that, taken in the context of its surroundings, detracts in the least from a perfect work, even if the first half dozen listens might suggest otherwise. From that point on, these bitter almonds leave a sweet aftertaste to the palate starved for grace.

kenethlevine | 5/5 |

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