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D.F.A. - Duty Free Area CD (album) cover



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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars Second album from this unchanged quartet and released on the same Mellow Records label, its title could be what the band meant when they chose their enigmatic name. Musically speaking, this album is quite different than its GG-influenced predecessor; here we're dealing with a much jazzier feel, often ogling towards space rock, sometimes towards symphonic as well. One of the things that will surprise you (outside the relatively cheap artwork) is Minella's much softer guitar, abandoning the hard rock feel of the debut album.

Quickly announcing its colour, the opening Escher pulls a very Ozric-ian soundscape, courtesy of Bonomi, but De Grandis' drumming is the star of the show. This track is such an enjoyment that its 8-min+ doesn't overstay its welcome, in spite of its repetitiveness. The following Caleidoscopio is rather different, a slow-starting affair gaining momentum and once on top, the feeling is of a space/Gong-esque ELP (plus guitar) and symphonic overtones are there, with guitarist Minella pulling some Hackettian lines. Clearly since their start DFA has been under the wings of its bigger brother Deus Ex Machina and here singer Alberto Piras has a go at the third track called GG-inspired Esperanto (the hopeful universal language that never came to be), here sung in Italian alone. Unfortunately for DFA, Piras' personality is simply over-powering, and we're having this track transformed into a DEM track.

The two instrumentals Ascendente Scorpione and Ragno) are both in the space-rock mould, sometimes between Ozric and Gong, the former being similar to the opening track, while the latter is more in line with Caleidoscopio with its symphonic intro. The closing Malia gets another guest singer in Georgia Gallo, but it's the weakest track on the otherwise excellent album.

DFA's second album is just as worthy as their first, despite the surprising different musical direction - let's face it, we're not used to have Italian groups diddling with space-rock. With just two albums under their belt, DFA has the particularity of being Italy's brightest 90's band, IMHO, of course.

Report this review (#1677)
Posted Tuesday, June 8, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars Another fine prog band from Italy in the scene of 90's progressive rock. DFA or Duty Free Area is a four piece band. The band displays their ability and strong sense of prog in their 2nd album which was taken by its name itself. I own their three albums only i.e. Lavori in Corso, DFA and a live performance album Work in Progress, being recording of their performance in NEARfest 2000.

After listening to their music I would like to say that the drummer Alberto de Grandis and keyboard player Alberto Bonomi are the key persons of the band. In this recording, these two guys had composed all materials. The drum playing of de Grandis is the most attractive parts in the band. As to the music, DFA can be described as a fusion prog which combines with elements of spacey psychedelic, jazzy and symphonic (but not much).

Let's go to the details, 1st track ESCHER, s spacey psychedelic instrumental song, with medium tempo. This song displays how superb the drum playing from de Grandis.

2nd track, CALEIDOSCOPIO, a Gentle Giantish typical song, started with a mellow sound of keyboard but surely after that the tension gets higher.. along with the male vocal from de Grandis.

3rd track, ESPERANTO, a jazz rock typical song but sounds very progressive, a male vocal contributed by Alberto Piras, the frontman of DEUS EX MACHINA. An acrobatic opera typical vocal... This is an interesting piece.

4th track, ASCENDENTE SCORPIONE, an instrumental track, the sound similar to 1st track.

5th track RAGNO, still an instrumental song, but now opened with the kinda sound of symphonic with keyboard parts take important roles. This the longest track in this album, repetitive style is the main color of this track. Bonomi shows his virtuosity in keyboards playing.

Last track, MALIA, can be described as a prog ballad, using the female vocal from Giorgia Gallo. One of the finest typical of female vocal I love very much that performed in this beautiful song

I don't think I can find the weakness point in terms of music, song compositions and arrangements. One of the weakness, I think the bass playing which was played in this album by Luca Baldassari. He was supposed to be mach more attractive, even tighter that what he was. I think it would be wonderful, if he could play in the way of Jonas Reingold of Flower Kings way... ;-) But anyway, this is a good stuff, worth to buy and Highly recommended..

Anto Sulistianto - Indonesia Prog Lover

Report this review (#1678)
Posted Friday, January 28, 2005 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars This Italian Jazz / Fusion band came highly recommended to me but I wasn't expecting the Spacerock flavour that is on that first track. In fact the OZRIC TENTACLES came to mind throughout it. The rest is very much a keyboard driven brand of Italian Fusion. When there are vocals they sound great..

"Escher" is one of my favourites. Deep bass sounds opens as synths swirl about. Guitar comes in grinding out some melodies.The guitar takes off as it's played with some energy before 3 minutes. The percussion before 6 minutes is cool. Sounds like fuzz organ 8 1/2 minutes in. Nice. "Caleidoscopio" is a mellow, relaxing song with vocals. We get some spacey synths plus vibraphone. It starts to get heavy but not for long. This is really good ! Vocals are back 4 minutes in. Lots of keys and spacey synths as drums pound away. Quite jazzy 5 1/2 minutes in with some excellent guitar a minute later.

"Esperanto" features the vocals from the singer (Alberto Piras) for DEUS EX MACHINE. D.F.A. have been compared to this fellow Italian band, but they're not as crazy. Alberto actually produced D.F.A.'s debut album and signed them to his label. He can sing man ! This song is an uptempo Jazz / Fusion style song with the vocals arriving 3 1/2 minutes in. Guitar, synths and keys all share the spotlight. "Ascendente Scorpione" opens with light drums and synths.The sound then becomes more powerful as this contrast continues. "Ragno" has some great angular guitar in it. More Jazz / Fusion with spacey synths coming and going. Quite the haunting and spacey atmosphere 7 minutes in. Some great guitar follows as drums and keys join in.Nice sound. Angular guitar is back 11 minutes in. "Malia" is another terrific track. Beautiful instrumental work as female vocals come in. Male vocals join in as a support. This is very laid back with synths. Gorgeous song.

I think this recording will please a lot of people. It crosses into a few territories. Highly recommended.

Report this review (#148503)
Posted Friday, November 2, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Duty Free Area's second release is self titled, kind of anomalous as the debut was "Lavori in Corso" (Work underway) which I smeared with unflinching praise as a factual "chef d'oeuvre" and it has progressed even further along the road to recording maturity, now possessing more depth and breath as ever.. The same musicians are here to take this next step into the "gagazone" (even sounds Italian!). Surprisingly, the icebreaker "Escher" has an overt Ozric Tentacles meets Djam Karet feel to it, with twirling synthesizer modules, rubbery bass flurries allied to heady drum patterns, responsive guitar rhythmics and sibilant synth soloing that exudes speed and resilience while the patented Hammond keeps the linear sound well furnished and ready to devastate. This is exhilarating music bursting with adventure and technical prowess, drive to reach a certain state of supreme excellence that is undeniable. "Caleidoscopio" weaves a spiritual enchantment, with serene vocals and wispy arrangements, slowly morphing into an exalted symphonic statement, flush with assorted detailed restraint and composure, like the sweet vibraphone flutter in the onset as well as the judicious use of mellotron dashes to enhance the pomp. The jazz leanings certainly make their presence felt as Silvio Minella's guitar in particular stretches into new horizons, soaring and plaintive, curious and raging but the general feel here is way more misty and ethereal than the debut chopfest! Luca Baldassari's thrusting bass wobbles intensely, assertively leading the way, providing the solid spine for De Grandis' intense drum and cymbal festival , as well as Bonomi's luscious keys to splash intense colourings where needed. "Esperanto" is a jumbling, bumbling and slippery workout, very "free for all", unendingly swift technical brake-jobs, with a jazzy and quirky vocal roller coaster courtesy of the incredible Deus Ex- Machina lead singer Alberto Piras , all this to highlight a series of solos, guitar first and foremost, somewhere in the McGill/Goodsall/Holdsworth realm. That whistling synthesizer takes another bow before giving way to some rather sumptuous e-piano noodlings, with that ultra-cool vocal theme returning ("Hasta la Vista"and "Wunderbar" mixed in with some genuine Esperanto). "Ascendente Scorpione" wallows in dense atmospherics, a vehicle for drummer De Grandis to show off his considerable talents, gentle when needed as well as assuredly complex and powerful, while the soloists shoot laser guided volleys into the ether. Groovy, man! "Ragno" is another extended folly, with some cybernetic electronic explorations on a variety of synth tones, a slight return to the Ozric groove, with a slight Pierre Moerlen's Gong feel (mostly due to the drummer's supremacy), all trying to hold back the tense guitar explosion that bursts through the fog, torching everything in sight., all soloists weaving some dense series of notes but Bonomi's Hammond plays its part in the devastation. Midway through, the pace ebbs briefly to a sensational e-piano crawl, full of Crimsonoid effects, Michael Giles'-like cymbal work, and suddenly zips forward as if a turbocharger was activated , plowing ahead like some foaming missile. Prime example that technical prowess needs to be thought out and gutsy to really hit the mark. The organ solo is simply gorgeous, a classic romp down the ivory trail, replete with vim, vigor and vitality. The pastoral, almost Devadip Carlos Santana-like "Malia" is the finale, introducing Giorgia Gallo's trembling voice into the mix, a charming romantic journey through the jazzier confines of sonic peace, fluttering with simplicity and serenity. DFA have now a reputation of RPI giants, allegedly their live shows are incredible, certainly one to watch intently in the future. Without even the slightest hesitation, this deserves another 5 orange pylons.
Report this review (#207482)
Posted Monday, March 16, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars D.F.A. is a great Italian band playing jazz-rock with lots of spacey and psychedelic elements. Duty Free Area is their second cd studio effort, very complex, carefully planned and brilliantly played music, with breath taking keyboard and guitar passages and excellent rhythm section. By its singing aspect D.F.A. reminds me on another dazzling Italian group - AREA, but its atmospheric background definitely suggests Ozric Tentacles' influence. There are lots of good groups nowadays and when you notice one of them and become interested in its whole production, it's a sign it has offered something unique and valuable. Caleidoscopio is my personal favorite, 9 minutes and 34 seconds of pure nectar, De Grandis -Bonomi masterpiece. By its rich playing potential, by prurience of music they play, D.F.A. seems to be an honorable successor of the great names of jazz-rock in early seventies.
Report this review (#271375)
Posted Friday, March 12, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars The second (third ?) album from D.F.A is a substantial departure from their debut album. And an unexpected one, I have to admit.

D.F.A created quite a successfull formula on the Lavori In Corso album. So it speaks volumes about this band's courage and not at least; abilities that they have changed course in these stormy waters and gone for a slightly more adventerous route.

This album is much more a fusion of jazz, space rock and ELPism like symphonic prog than on previous album. D.F.A really surprises me here. Not at least when they also have Genesis like melody lines too. That made my eyebrows really stand vibrate. The Italian vocals should indicate some RPI influences, but they are not. The music is much more like vocals based Jazz than RPI. There are also some Canterbury scene influences here. And that more in the direction of Caravan than the likes of National Health. But it is obvious that D.F.A is influenced by National Health and Hatfield & The North too.

In short; this is a huge mouthful.

Despite of changing course, D.F.A has again pulled off a great album..... again ! The musicianship is absolute top notch. The melodies are great. This album is a very good example of how to be progressive as a band. It is an exploration of musical landscapes too. In short; this is a great album. Nuff said.

4 stars

Report this review (#398934)
Posted Saturday, February 12, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars D.F.A. alas Duty Free Area is the second release of this fantastic jazz fusion band from Italy. Issued in 1999 , was immediatly accepted by the listners and music media as one of the most acomplised jazz fusion albums of the '90's, not only from Italy but in Europe in general. The album has lenghty tracks, 4 out of 6 , very complex, with top notch musicianship, great ideas, every single track is excellent in its own way, providing in the end a whole new dimensions in jazz fusion realm. The band manage to combine very eficient jazz fusion with some space rock elements not far from Ozric Tentacles in their heyday, making a very special atmosphere where the organ and keybords have an important role.. The pretty good idea of how great this record is is by just listning to the opening track Escher - simply brilliant from start to finish, lenghy track with a lots of twists and turns, musicians are simply shining here. There is also besides instrumental pieces, some with vocal offered by some guest like on Esperanto, featurig Deux Ex machina vocalist Alberto Piras, another great tune with a lot to offer. So, easely one of the most as I said acomplised jazz fusion albums, with great performance and stunning ideas. All listners of the genre and including progressive rock fans must take some spins of this album, worth it for sure.4 stars for sure.
Report this review (#564073)
Posted Tuesday, November 8, 2011 | Review Permalink

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