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Honorary Collaborator
5 stars First , it behooves me to inform the prog community that no country , not even the mighty Albion (The UK for you Europhiles!) has such a huge array of progressive bands than Italy, pretty much uninterrupted from the early 70s to today. On what do I base such a bold statement? Facts, my friends, numbers my accountants! Well for one, half of the Mellow Records catalog, to name only one, is not even listed on PA! This azure land of talented artists has given so much prog that it's almost beyond galactic parameters, for they have boldly gone where few have dared. The list of one-shot wonders is endless , such as this marvel ,recently added by our esteemed finnforest who will vouch for my statement , as he has been burrowing like a furious mole through the past, looking for those magical albums that we can only imagine exist out there. Sunscape landed in my possession when it was released back in 1999, and has remained in unfair silence for a decade, until finn added it to our sight, as I had mentioned it in a poll as being a killer RPI album much in need of sunlight. To highlight the preciousness of this single recording (they sadly never "sophomored"!), let it be said that Italian prog is not just symphonic (hard or soft), there are a plethora of bands playing every genre within the progressive umbrella (jazz- fusion, neo, eclectic, Zeuhl, folk, crossover etc?) and yet we still see only the Banco, PFM and Museo Rosenbachs! Too bad for you less adventurous fans because this is a jewel and a half , to say the least , choosing a heady mix of dark space prog , laced with softer oh so Italian flute passages and some scintillating playing that will knock your socks off! The vocals in the native language are some of the finest you will hear. There are winks at early Porcupine Tree (the psychedelic parts), some Gong/Hawkwind as well as some personal material that is highly original. The disc starts off like Roxy Music's debut, effects from an airport terminal this time and the booming Matteo Curcio bass sets the mood right away abetted by the raunchy guitars of Marco daRold on one extreme and the sweet flute musings, while drummer Tony Fucci bashes deliriously, ahead of the game, while the glissando lead is almost schizoid (Fripp meets Hillage). "Ewok" has a delightful lilt , fueled by a fabulous melody and dual male and female vocals that conjure a pastoral expanse, whistling synths flutter with dreamy rapture, raging guitar nor withstanding. "2CB- Sunscape" is very near the psychedelic mood that Steve Wilson carved his teeth on , bubbling synthesized backgrounds, bass gurgling confidently, flute painting the space between, while the vocals and the chorus are to die for! "C'e qualcosa dentro me" (there is something in me?) is spooky. Eerier is the next whopper, a majestic classic "Simbiosi". Well if this track doesn't nail you to a cross, well , as Michael Jackson used to say, "Beat It!). The whispered vocal is doom incarnate , that two note bass pummeling your brain, the guitar rippling with agony , the steady Nick Mason-like beat and the breathy singing simply blowing impetuously , Floyd could not have done this better. Sickeningly good space rock! "Prospettiva" launches this clearly into more Gong/Hawkwind territory, showing that they can rage as well as cry. The propulsion is rocket-like in vivacity and then decelerates into a sweepy, sleepy psy-prog psychosis, like a sonic mist curling around the trees. What a ride! The haunting electronic harmonics only serve as a diving board towards a sweet short ballad sung with utter conviction. The very brief "Interno" is a wake-up breezer, a simple gentle riff pushing this along, male and female voices again in interaction, great stuff again! "Consorzio Nettuno" is an epic 12 minute job, where the players get to seduce their most creative musical libido in an inspired cosmic jam improv, the bass pops like a funky firecracker, the sequenced very Tangerine Dream ?like programming battles forward, complete with countering ripples and overt solos . This is another facet of their vision that is so exciting, as if challenged for a reason and going for the prize. The electro-stew that they cook up is stellar, galactic and intense .The bubbling synth echoes are mesmerizing, the congas hypnotic and the sleazy guitar scratching the cortex. Edgar Froese would be proud of hearing this! Too long perhaps for some after all the brilliant short stuff before, this megalith is a pure marvel to behold, flung mercilessly into the farthest realms of musical pleasure. It's supposed to be mind music, mom! (I used to say, as a teenager!). The metamorphosis is complete with a yawning, massive guitar sortie that toys with some earlier and gentler pools of dissonance. "Agibilita Enpals" is a piece that is very close to Mary Newsletter, another intense RPI band that is unafraid to use harsh blasts of bluesy guitar picking to get the mood heightened. This is a contrast laden romp that is perhaps the final clincher in my adulation for this kind of adventurous Italian prog. "Via di Qui" is drop dead gorgeous sample of angelic space prog, forcibly laced with euphoric psychedelia! "Spore" is a brief airy ballad that pleases the ear, especially that little guitar slide. Sweet, la Dolce Vita! "Schüsswassen" is my favorite track here, an instrumental 12 minute escapade that is alone worth the price of this sucker, a disturbingly minimalist opening only deepens the gestalt, ushering in a musical statement on breath, vision, talent and expression. Steve Wilson would flip over this one, including the Colin Edwin-like bass carpeting, the driven and driving drums as well as the dense keyboard colorations. The second section lays down another impeccable groove that will make you shudder in pure delight, the true essence of progressive escape, a merciful adventure of aural bliss. Damn I love this kind of trip! Slowly coming to a halt, it harkens back to the minimalist intro, thus proving their sheer genius and savvy understanding of the genre. Thunderous applause! Possibly the finest space track ever recorded. Floyd and Tree fans BEWARE! This WILL blow you away and hard! I stake my 40 tears as an avid progger on this affirmation, okay? This masterpiece terminates on a final "coup au coeur" (look it up, guys) flauntingly cocky, they bow out on a Hindu-influenced floral carpet of sounds that pummel adroitly, female vocals pulling it along and caressed by a flute heartache that is fully astonishing in its simplicity and heartfelt emotion. The final guitar solo demonstrate the bright side of the scales (closer to Santana than Gilmour) and passes the torch to the sexy female vocalizations as the curtain unhurriedly shuts this one down. How can it be this good and yet so unknown! Injustice repaired, go out and find it, now. YOU NEED THIS, BAD! 5 Supernovas. Easily in my top 20 all time, immovably so !

This review is dedicated to finnforest and sinkadotentree, 2 of the finest music lovers I have never met! Somehow, one day the depth will be even more unending, furrowing into the vast space of prog with smiles and headshaking admiration. Do you guys think I was clear enough on this one? Uhh!

Report this review (#224177)
Posted Wednesday, July 1, 2009 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars Well tszirmay has pretty much said it all about this album (haha). I admire his enthusiasm and definitely have some of my own when it comes to this disc. I was surprised it was released in 1999 because I thought this was a new band not having heard of them before. SUNSCAPE are from Italy and I really like their style as they offer up a blend of ambient, psychedelic and atmospheric soundscapes.

"Nove" opens with the sounds you would hear if you were sitting in the airport waiting for your flight. Some bass comes in before it kicks in before a minute with flute. It settles before kicking in again with some nice guitar. "Ewok" sounds really good then male and female vocals come in.This is feel good music. It's heavier after 2 1/2 minutes. "2CB" is dark with a beat and male vocals. Flute and acoustic guitar 3 minutes in before it kicks in again with vocals. "Simbiosi" opens with bass and almost whispered vocals. It gets fuller but stays fairly restrained. "Prospettiva" is a top three and is led by strummed guitar and vocals early before the flute joins in. Nice bass and a relaxed beat. It kicks in before 2 minutes. Great sound ! It settles back before 3 1/2 minutes. Some cool atmosphere 5 minutes in and then the vocals return. "Interno" is an uplifting tune with strummed guitar, drums and vocals. "Consorzio Nettuno" is the highlight for me. It sounds like mellotron and flute early, it's quite spacey. Bass joins in sounding like PINK FLOYD before 2 minutes. Check out the sequencers that follow sounding like TANGERINE DREAM especially after 6 1/2 minutes. A change 10 1/2 minutes in as flute and a beat take over. Love the guitar 11 1/2 minutes in. It ends in a spacey way. Amazing tune.

"Agibilita Enpals" is catchy before it settles with vocals after a minute. Contrasts continue throughout. It turns spacey 2 1/2 minutes in. "Vim Di Qui" features strummed guitar and a beat then vocals. It kicks into a higher gear before 2 minutes then settles again, this time with flute. "Spore" is a bright and sunny song. I like the tasteful guitar solo after 1 1/2 minutes. "Schuswassen" is a top three as well. It opens with psychedelic guitar that comes and goes slowly. Bass does the same eventually then light drums and flute follow as the tempo picks up. A calm 4 minutes in. A change 6 1/2 minutes in as it picks up again. Some great atmosphere 8 minutes in then a calm arrives 10 minutes in to end it. "Shiva Ita" opens with what sounds like mellotron and spacey guitar as the bass throbs.It kicks in quickly. Female vocals join in. It settles with flute to follow. Excellent guitar 3 1/2 minutes in before it kicks back in.

This was a pleasure and I hope more people will check this band out.

Report this review (#239851)
Posted Thursday, September 17, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Where Porcupine Tree meets RPI?

Sunscape was active in the 1990s with some minor releases before their full length CD release in 1999. They should have been perfectly poised to make a big splash. Their timing was right, dropping a very Porcupine Tree styled modern space-prog album at the very time PT would up the stakes commercially. For a debut album this is a very credible and well-produced project. Instead, like many great RPI acts over decades prior, they had plans for a follow-up, and then vanished into thin air.

Sunscape is far from a predictable, easy to box Porcupine Tree wannabe. There is a base of what could be described as late 90's PT but there are also influences of early 70s space-rock, Krautrock, RPI, and ambient sound. PT and Pink Floyd are frequent mentions in writings about this group, but they have less of the commercial songwriting knack of PT and less grand vision for epic-making than say....Animals or DSotM. What they do bring to the table is a meandering (in a good way) and balanced attempt to do all of the above. Very ambitious. There are some catchy, accessible tracks that will remind you of Signify or Lightbulb Sun, or perhaps the band RPWL. There are long, strange interludes of instrumentals that Djam Karet might try. This is the most interesting stuff to me, tracks like the 4-part "Prospettiva" that are just plain mysterious. Or the 12-minute "Consorzio Nettuno" that combine trippy old school space with modern electronica, the latter which seems a bit forced but is still worth a try. Another 12-minute gem follows later ("Schuswassen") which reminds me of the guitarscapes of Durutti Column. Sometimes dreamy Italian vocals (both male and female) drift in and out of the picture, along with ample flute passages that give the album some RPI flavor. Ambient sound effects open the album giving it a soundtrack quality and this vibe returns here and there. Acoustic and electric guitars are well balanced and melodic, with occasional electric solos which are both pretty yet disciplined. The album is tracked with different songs but to me the whole thing feels like one long piece of abstraction, but with enough glue and cohesion to appeal to fans who favor some degree of "normalcy". It's weird, but not so weird as to send family members fleeing the living room. Still, you'd have to listen to it 100 times before you'll have it assimilated enough to not reveal some surprises with each new listen. Performances and execution are very well done across the board.

Bottom line is that you have a sure fire winner for those who love hazy, dreamy, beautiful passages that sometimes feel complete, and other times lead you to the middle of the desert and fade away. A generous lyrics booklet feature artwork that also seems like something Steven Wilson would approve of. Certainly above 3 stars but not quite enough for 4.

Report this review (#240745)
Posted Monday, September 21, 2009 | Review Permalink

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