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Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Occasionally out of the blue skies comes an album that can truly be anointed as a progression , beyond the valleys of symphonic, through the dense forests of experimental and over the mighty Italian RPI peaks. Celebrated multi-instrumentalist and prolific maestro bassist Fabio Zuffanti (having a glorious recent past with the legendary Finisterre , the heady La Maschera di Cera, the pastoral H÷stsonaten, folky Aries, experimental Zaal and La Zona, to name just a few) has outdone himself with this supremely evocative and original offering. Firstly beyond the vivid green artwork that glorifies the music even more, the amalgamation of keyboardists Agostino Macor (the next Wakeman/Emerson in my opinion) and Boris Valle has only managed to make us prog fans fantasize even further over ivory pleasures, with colossal use of piano and mellotron throughout the wheezing, highly cinematographic arrangements. Toss in fabulous drummer Maurizio di Tollo (another stellar career) and Fabio weaving his wand and a slew of guests make this a breezy winner. It must be revealed to the unknowing that Rohmer relates to French film making icon Eric Rohmer (A Night at Maude's, la Marquise d'O), a rebellious iconoclast of the silver screen with a strong penchant for exalting the emotionally confused world in which we live in.

Zuffanti emulates appropriately by offering ponderous fluffs of musical puffy clouds, floating in at times unfussy magnificence, occasionally dripping in suave electronics and effects but relying on conventional instruments (piano, flute, reeds, violin) and some superb lead guitar soling as on the opener "Angolo 1", a masterful opening stroke that weaves with intense brilliance, fiery calm and soaring melancholia. The veiled "Ecran Magique" is a short piece that defies simplistic logic, desperately gentle and moving, as voice effects hover within serene strings (that darn violin again!), a perfect intro into the immediately heart rending classic "LHZ ", a dozen minutes of sheer bliss guided by the most elegant piano ever playing a romantic voyage into the foliage of introspection. The Mellotron burns brightly, while the sultry sax of Edmondo Romano expresses some deep pain in accessing some much improvised spacy sprawl, recalling debut King Crimson (what with Ian MacDonald wailing in the background!). Not exactly heavy prog by any stretch but great for sonic contemplation! The piano even does a Keith Tippett-like run on the hypnotic mid section, aided and abetted by some slanderously controlled percussives. Just like a movie soundtrack, man! When the glorious theme returns, it grows in blanket intensity, warmly caressing the soul in some comfortable embrace. English vocals colour the mild "V.(Moda Reale)" , a piano-voice duet that is ultimately very pleasant and "molto Italiano". The next shining piece is "Wittgenstein Mon Amour 2.12", fueled by piano minimalism, jazzy cymbal/snare work and bubbling synths , as a sexy French female voice effect tries the coy telephone approach, a mundane conversation that may infer some hidden feminine agenda. When the trumpet blares its sweet despair and as the mellotron gently heats up the space with warm grace, the enjoyment becomes apparent. "Cifra 3" retains a bleak outlook with its overt yet brief fašade, a piano ripple with the same trumpet crying in vain. "Angolo Due" seems to wink at the meanderings of the much maligned MacDonald-Giles album, presenting a gorgeous lilt on the keys, with slow drum fills and rolling bass, so very cool and wispy that one can only daydream even further! The next 2 tracks really shove the mood into the experimental forefront by juxtaposing distant telephonic effects with simple piano, wood and brass winds on "Melodiche di Salvezza" and especially on the whopping 22 minute + "Elimini-enne" , where a Chinese language broadcast (the male voice) is fluttering in the backdrop, synths gurgling anew, pinging and ponging when prompted and strings riffling through the air. This is perhaps closer to the electronic experimentations of the Cologne school, like Stockhausen but also Faust, Can and company.

If one expects some fanfarish extravaganza then you will be far off the mark, because Rohmer is all about feel and texture, much like the soundtrack to our mind's inner working and perhaps even beyond, where the relaxed soul can rest and gather its thoughts. Ideal music for a classy dinner with friends, odorant foods lurking in the kitchen and bottles of Amarone on the table. A find of great magnitude that will catapult you elsewhere. Yeah, I am back !!!!!

5 Polaroids

Report this review (#261822)
Posted Thursday, January 21, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The elegant haze fails to stir me...much

While music must be able to stand on its own accord, I am someone who pays attention to album covers and other visual imagery recording artists choose to present. It is another layer of the work and when the cover art meaningfully ties into the musical themes it can add to the experience. The ghostly yet calming green sky cover shot of Rohmer works as beautifully as any shot could at supporting and revealing the feel of the music you will listen to. It is music for listeners who wish to detach from direct interaction with their surroundings and simply take in visual stimuli, hearing these sounds rather than the actual outdoor noise. Music for floating through an hour using your eyes and the pores of your skin to feel your surroundings, drifting on the ambient jazztronica within, perhaps satisfying some distant craving for days of stoned immaculate.

Rohmer is yet another incarnation of Finisterre featuring four members of the influential modern Italian prog band, Boris Valle, Agostino Macor, Fabio Zuffanti, and Mauricio DiTollo. The tracks float along on a dreamy bed of keyboards, piano, bass, and light drumming. Things get very meditative and laid back in a jazzy way (sometimes feels post-rock influenced too) and the songs get fleshed out to some extent by flute and guitar solos, male and female vocals, and assorted strangeness. While traces of Finisterre are mostly out the window, little bursts of my favorite album "In Limine" come wafting back into the room on occasion in the form of the whispers, those parts where we hear human conversation in the background, sometimes audibly, sometimes very quiet and mysterious. It adds a nice element of connecting the current project to the past one. "Wittgenstein mon amour" is my favorite track, with spoken word female voice over piano in a lovely meditation, with nice bass and a brass solo. On occasion, I find another reviewer able to summarize a particular sound better than I, so I take no shame in including those quotes in my review, in an attempt to provide the most useful piece of information I can. These words from fellow RYM reviewer Wago perfectly describe the journey you can expect with the Rohmer album:

"...captures the subtle geometries, the ungraspable moments of beauty that appear and immediately fade away while driving in the hinterland or walking on a rainy day, looking outside the window of the train. Minimal piano arpeggios wander in a pale landscape of reverbs and apparently lifeless metronomic Talk Talk drumming. But feeble hints of life populate the space: the dreary breath of the mellotron, foreign voices reporting distant conversations, slowly metamorphosing electronic backgrounds...other influences are fleeting mirages, emotional chimeras. Faint viola lines, the saxophone, the autumnal sun glimmering in the piano harmonies. They're too feeble an apparition to reach the awareness: the only trace they leave is a spark of lukewarm melancholy." -Wago, RYM

Too feeble an apparition. Not an unfair conclusion. While I love the cover art enough that I'd put a print of it on my wall, and while it is well done and occasionally beautiful, only sometimes does it move me. Often it lacks the tension and passion components I crave and indeed get from a project like Sigur Ros. When I crave "daydream rock," bands like Sigur Ros or even Paese dei Balocchi are able to move me and do something with that mood. They are able to take me somewhere. Rohmer, classy and elegant as it is, only passes the time with little afterglow. Then again, perhaps we all need an album that allows time to just pass, without much raw feeling. It's pretty stuff for sure, I just don't know if that's enough. And I feel bad saying that, because I truly love the work these guys did with "In Limine." A conflicted impression. 5/10.

Report this review (#281164)
Posted Sunday, May 9, 2010 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Rohmer and their eponymous debut album (their only one so far) are the items that now catch my attention as a PA reviewer. This Italian band is new but the members are not neophytes at all, since this is the very off-shoot of the defunct Italian 90s prog champion Finisterre. Rohmer comprises the ever-busy Fabio Zuffanti on bass plus two keyboardists long associated to him (Boris Valle on piano and organ, Agostino Macor on synths and mellotron) and drummer-percussionist Maurizio di Tollo (also on occasional guitar). In a few words, this is latter-days' Finisterre minus guitarist Stefano Marelli and drummer Marco Cavani with La Maschera Di Cera's drummer instead. Having two keyboardists on board who intertwine with their own personal styles to build melodic developments and effective layers, the guarantee for a rich sound is strongly there, but the Rohmer people augment their deliveries with the guest participations of several occasional guests on flute, sax, viola, trumpet: there is also a presence of vocal samples along the way, making the whole result sound eerie and enigmatic. Despite the abundant instrumentation, this is not a loud or pompous band, but it creates a powerful provision of eclectic sonorities where the relaxing cool jazz-rock of Zaal, the stylish psychedelia of "Meccanica"-era Finisterre and the ethereal post-rock of LaZona combine in a framework that also gives ample room to soft electronic ambient and new-age moods. Mostly dreamy and atmospheric, Rohmer finds a way to grow some energetic moments in a most subtle way among the dominant softer passages. 'Angolo 1' starts the album on an evocative note, very melancholic, until the guitar solo during the closing climax brings things to a different light. 'Ecran Magique' is a gente exercise on minimalistic ambient that mostly works as an interlude toward 'lhz', a lovely nu-jazz oriented piece where the guest sax and flute players add tasteful colors. I can describe this track as a hybrid of Zaal, 90s Wyatt and "Laughing Stock"-era Talk Talk. There is a moderate sense of tension in those moments when the piano and drum improvisations rush in as an anticipation of the coda built by piano, sax and mellotron. 'V. (Moda Reale)' is a brief piano-based ballad: the final flute solo provides a bucolic texture in an efficient manner. The title of 'Wittgenstein Mon Amour 2.12' makes a reference to the aphorism in the "Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus" where the Austrian philosopher states that "the image is a model of the real world" (there was also a Wittgenstein mention in Finisterre's 3rd album): musically speaking, this track exhibits a warmth atmosphere. 'Cifra3' is a delicate elaboration of mysterious textures on pianos, bass, synth and glockenspiel, followed by a very dreamy 'Angolo Due': regarding the latter, I personally find the bass clarinet and cello interventions quite appealing as complementing aids for the featured piano melody. 'Metodiche di Salvezza' goes to similar places, yet with an accentuated lyricism that makes the whole sonic framework become softly surreal, almost like an oasis in a desert of serene loneliness. The album's last 22 minutes are occupied by 'Elimini-enne'. Its initial minimalistic layers bring a mixture of calmness and latent disturbance, with the sampled percussion beats bringing a mechanized mood and the trumpet drawing warm colors. This exercise in musical introspection lasts almost 10 minutes, and then things get much more solemn with a robust delivery of jazz, electronics and musique concrete (plus a female soliloquy). As things go on, they get a bit denser with the electronic factor disappearing in favor of a chamber-rock-like structure: the sonic framework is now intense and distant, quite cerebral indeed. The track's final section is a return to the original minimalistic approach, filling up all spaces like a dream that surrounds the listener's body and soul. This is the "Rohmer" experience from my point of view, this is why I regard Rohmer as an excellent jazz-prog ensemble.
Report this review (#282429)
Posted Monday, May 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
2 stars Jazz-Rock/Fusion? I beg your pardon?

It's hard for me to fathom as how this release was listed under that genre. With the same token, it could have been listed as virtually anything else, on the basis that the same instrument could have been used in many different styles. Period.

Now, don't get me wrong, these soundscapes would provide quite pleasant background music to a romantic, candlelit dinner for two. Maybe Nature movies where glaciers are slowly crumbling to their majestic expiry. Or filler material on Enya albums.

Meandering piano, gentle woodwinds, some vocal noodlings deliver pleasant and inoffensive minimalist pieces that virtually any age group of any musical preference could sleep right though during a Sunday afternoon siesta. But Jazz-Rock/Fusion it ain't.

Honestly, I enjoyed listening to this material while pottering around at home as it took absolutely no toll on my attention to other things.Would I put it on again? Highly unlikely, unless wanting to break the uncomfortable silence when there is little to talk about with visiting in-laws. This piece would put them to sleep and me to comfort, so maybe I'll keep it after all...

Again, it's pleasant enough, but hardly essential as one can hear zillions of the likes any day on Radio, or TV, performed by faceless hired hands. I'd rather FINISTERE, any day.

Report this review (#963275)
Posted Tuesday, May 21, 2013 | Review Permalink

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