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BLEMMEBEYA

Akt

Eclectic Prog


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Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The journey continues...

More than a band, Akt is an experimental group who have been searching for something elusive since 1998. Born in Bologna, the band went through line-up changes but now consists of Simone Negrini, Marco Brucale and Alessandro Malandra. Akt has a strong philosophy that music is meant to be shared, criticized, and manipulated by the user. They give their albums away for free on their website, encourage downloading so as not to pollute and waste resources with physical CDs, and generally seek new ways for their eclectic progressive rock to be composed, recorded, and used. Their sound reminds me a bit of another Italian group called The Natural Mystic, though perhaps softer than that.

Their first album called "Déntrokirtòs" came out in 2007 and was well received by those who heard it. They now have released their 2nd full length album called "Blemmebeya" and have been quite pleased at the amount of downloads to date. The new album is presented with another new artistic feature called "OpenBlemme." As I understand it, when finished, their web site feature will allow the user to take the downloaded tracks and dissect them, removing various parts of the Akt members and inserting their own playing. Thus, musicians will be allowed to "jam" with Akt from their own home across the globe, and create some unique improvisation.

While their previous work seemed inspired by Belew era King Crimson, the new album finds Akt in a bit warmer, more organic, more flowing mood. It's still tight and refined stuff, but there are longer, dreamier passages that sometimes sound Floydian, and other times very much like classic RPI with flowing acoustic piano and plaintive vocals. Beginning with a spoken political rant about how the "limits of debate are established before the debate even begins", the songs are assembled like brushstrokes. The piano, guitar, and percussion parts seem very well thought out, and yet they do feel ready for the OpenBlemme project. I was listening with that in mind. I kept thinking, yes, if you remove that part, you could insert a great guitar part there. If the OpenBlemme comes to fruition (watch their site for updates), I think musicians will really enjoy this.

There are some nice moments where swirly keyboard runs tangle with tight guitar and bass lines, with light, disciplined percussion. More keyboards offer background coloring behind the main sections of playing. Acoustic guitars find their way into the sound as well. Really soaring electric leads permeate several tracks but for the most part the modern edge is retained. A slight fusion bent inhabits "Stati d'animo Uniti." This is one of those modern groups like Il Babau Maledetti Cretini for whom you don't know what to expect. There are nods to the classics but the music is always forward looking. The 10-minute "Di Vento" builds slowly to some great ending lead guitar. The final track "La Fine" is a lovely, slow reflection with melodic acoustic lead guitar over sad, spoken vocals. It almost sounds like a solo Roger Waters track. Aside from sound quality that is thinner than I like it, Akt's "Blemmedeya" is another unique and interesting excursion that satisfies.

This free recording is highly recommended to Eclectic prog fans and fans of Italian prog. Check it out and get involved in the Akt universe.

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Send comments to Finnforest (BETA) | Report this review (#442944)
Posted Wednesday, May 04, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars This second I work of the Italian band AKT entitled "BLEMMEBEYA", it is a disk that, although it presents high and low moments ( more higher than low) in my opinion it deserves the attention of the Ecletic-Prog style fans , because represents very well the style . Showing influences from traditional bands of the progressive movement of the seventies, such as (King Crimsom, P F M, Banco and even Genesis and Jethro Tull) doesn't behave as a mere clone. Their high points are in the track 2 " L'assalto " (whose opening reminded me a lot of Thick the Brick, and that it presents in this same opening a guitar solo that seems to want to break the melodic structure of the remaining of the music,sometimes doing sound as an inverted recording) I still highlight in the same track the session that begins about the 4:00 min execution that it mixes influences of Genesis with Banco. Other high point comes soon after in the track 3 " TG Egeo ", a essentially jazz-rock track , almost that totally inspired in Mahavishnu Orchestra & Return To Forever. Another prominence is the track 5 " Stati D'animo Uniti " that presents in the beginning a etinic percussion (synthesized ) in the molds of world or new-age music, to develop a theme in the America-Latin music with prominence for the melody executed by the acoustic guitar and the bass. Another interesting point to highlight in the disk is the full use of acoustic instruments as nylon, steel and twelve-strings guitar, acoustic bass (in the track 4 " Favonio") , acoustic piano and glockenspiel. My rate is 4 stars!!!

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Send comments to maryes (BETA) | Report this review (#443923)
Posted Saturday, May 07, 2011 | Review Permalink
octopus-4
COLLABORATOR
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
4 stars That being with no head and a face on his body is a "Blemma". It's one of the figures that were used to fill the blanks of the maps containing unexplored lands, the same as the latin sentence "Hic sunt leones" (here are the lions) put in the middle of Africa.

The album starts with a spacey soundscape and a speaker's voice saying of conspiracy. This short track is "Prima della fine" (Before the End). Just an intro to the first excellent "L'Assalto" (The Assault), a song with odd signatures and in line with the big ones (KC and YES mainly) with a hint of RPI specially in the vocals. This is an album for all the prog tastes: those who like the old-fashioned soundscapes and those who are interested in exploring new lands. Even this track is almost symphonic for the first 5 minutes, then it passes through different moments and this is what makes it an excellent short epic. Also the lyrics are interesting: "We are only a stupid wind in the blades of a windmill which mills us (note that in Italian "mill" and "to mill" are very different words).

"TG" in Italy is an acronym of "TV news" and "Egeo" is the Greek Sea. Initially the sounds are almost middle-eastern, then there's a short reminder to the soundtrack of the national "Tv news". After this quotation the music evolves on dark atmospheres (there's a bit of Fripp here).

"Favonio" is the warm wind that's called Phoen by the German speaking peoples and is typical of the alpine area. Even in Italy "Phon" is the name given to the hairdryers. This song is made of vocals on unusual passages, acoustic guitar and keyboard. In some moments it has a folk flavor but "eclectic" is the right word. The second part of the song makes me think even to Mostly Autumn for its melodic structure.

"Stati D'Animo Uniti" (United States of Mind) opens very spacey and dark. This is one of my favorite landscapes, honestly. If it was for this track only I'd have thought of Akt as an Avant band, but in the middle of the song a short jazz/fusion instrumental chorus arrives, but only for few seconds. As the track title can make you guess, the lyrics are about uniforming the people's minds to think in the same standardized way. Society, mass media and so on, with a clear reference to "the boss" that I interpret as referring to the former Italian chairman Berlusconi. Also the closure of this track is a quote of the TV weather forecasts of the 70s.

Next there's "Di Vento" (Of Wind). This song, specially in the vocals, is similar to an Italian post-punk band that I suggested and was rejected one year ago: the CSI. The lyrics are full of poetry with attention to the sound of each single word other than to their meanings. A very dark track with a joke: "Di Vento" can be spelled "Divento" (I become). This is the longest track of the album and even though the general mood doesn't change, this darkness is carried on by different musical moments. The final guitar riff is excellent (and very Crimsonian with a touch of Pink Floyd).

"Mani Aperte" (Open Hands) is another very interesting track. With the rhythmic part initially based on claps, it quickly turns into dark symphonic prog. Thinking to something similar, just to try describing it, I'd say Canterbury. An excellent instrumental until weird lyrics pop-up close to the end of the song.

"Zeitgeist" (German, not Italian. "Spirit of times") starts instrumental with a 70s sound, then comes "La Fine" (The End) with the vocals over a base of drums, keyboard and bass. The apocalyptic lyrics are very poetic and dramatic. Knowing the language can really help in appreciating this song. The acoustic guitar closes it with a very nice solo. "Each kind of Life will disappear...Each kind of Death will disappear..."

Really an excellent album. I'm reluctant to define it as a masterpiece, but it's not just excellent, it's more. Strongly suggested. Give also a look to the band's website, other than this free download there's a very interesting project behind.

4 deserved stars

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Send comments to octopus-4 (BETA) | Report this review (#583919)
Posted Wednesday, December 07, 2011 | Review Permalink
zravkapt
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Post Rock Team
4 stars There seems to be a wealth of great prog from Italy these days. This album is an example of that. On this album anyway Akt is a 3-piece and the main instrumentation is guitars, drums and keyboards. There is some guitar synth and other electronics as well. This is a free download on the band's website and apparently the download includes a feature called OpenBlemme whereby one could edit, remix, remove and add parts to the songs. I personally would feel no need to try this out, as I enjoy the album the way it is. This is modern Italian prog which takes influence from the past and mixes it with contemporary influences. Akt are a band not afraid to try things.

The album opens with "Prima Della Fine" which features what sounds like late comedian George Carlin discussing conspiracy theories. Great intro. "L'Assalto" goes straight into some playful symphonic prog featuring great melodies. Nice piano during the very Italian vocal section. The singing is really good in this track, including a little counterpoint. Starting halfway is some excellent staccato organ playing. Somebody speaking in English can be heard before a great synth solo. "TG Egeo" has a prominent upright acoustic bass throughout the whole song. In the middle has backward talking with some nice synth playing.

"Stati D'animo Uniti" opens dark and spacey with cool compressed and phased drums. Repeated sinister organ sets the basis for the song for awhile. Briefly gets folky and festive in the middle before returning to the sinister organ. The folky part comes back again. Toward the end is some great emotional guitar playing. "Di Vento" is the longest song. It starts off sounding post-punk / indie / alternative. The vocals at first are almost rapped. Great melodies in this track. Gets more subdued later with acoustic guitar and piano. Laughter brings us back to the indie/alternative vibe. The upright acoustic bass returns in the middle, along with some lovely flute. Towards the end goes into a Genesis vibe with some hard rocking guitar soloing.

"Mani Aperte" features some rhythmic clapping as a cello or something similar plays in the background. Some Mellotron-like sounds in this track. The majority of this track is a mix of space, symph and folk. Good percussion sounds and electric guitar playing. Vocals at the end. A highlight for sure. "Zeitgeist" is an instrumental which has a nice groove that actually sounds familiar to me. "La Fine" features talk-singing (sometimes echoed) and is the least interesting song musically, if you don't count the intro which has an atmosphere which benefits the rant.

Since this is a free download I would encourage anyone slightly interested in this album to give it a try. Prog isn't dead, it just smells funny and Akt are one of the better smelling groups out there. This is a very modern sounding album and they used a computer to record it. You would think that be a bad thing but the result is a clean and clear sounding album with a nice mix and lots of dynamics. One of the better albums from 2011 I have heard. This gets a 3.5 rounded up to 4 stars.

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Send comments to zravkapt (BETA) | Report this review (#595313)
Posted Saturday, December 24, 2011 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars 'Blemmebeya' - Akt (6/10)

As with most things, Italian progressive rock has evolved with time. Although it's doubtful that legends like Premiata Forneria Marconi will ever be topped by the newer acts, it has not stopped bands from marching onward and shaping the distinctive prog sound of their country. There are still certainly bands that hold true to the original sound of the 70's, but Akt is one of the groups that want to put a new modern spin on prog rock. Although comparable vocally to Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso, Akt brings in a number of different sound to create a rather experimental brand of rock music. Although 'Blemmebeya' cannot be accused of lacking ambition, the music's adventurous stance is handled aimlessly, and puts a hamper on an otherwise excellent recording.

Akt's sound is hard to describe, because they bring many different tastes into their sound. The vocals sound very similar to Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso's, but the instrumentation is taken in a different direction. On the spectrum of prog, Akt tends to exchange technical instrumentation for atmosphere; instead of relying on twenty minute epics to get their point across, Akt tightens their ideas into dense songwriting that takes several listens to properly decode. Make no mistake; Akt have not severed their ties to the classic sound of Italian progressive music, but the way they piece together the elements is much different. While much RPI I am familiar with (both new and old) tends to don a theatrical tone to it, the music of Akt stays fairly reserved, even if the music gets complex. Though 'Blemmebeya' is never intense, it isn't ambient either; the flow of ideas is unrelenting, and throughout the course of one song, a listener will often find themselves introduced to a number of different sounds. Akt have arranged these pieces with care and intelligence, and if memorable hooks or melodies had been given the same attention, 'Blemmebeya' would have come out a much more powerfully.

Even after repeated listens, it is still clear that while Akt offers the intelligence of composition and musicianship of a great prog band, they lack the emotional connection I look for. The brooding closer 'La Fine' is as close as the band gets to having something downright 'beautiful' on the album, with instrumentation sifting along as if it were scoring the end credits of some melancholic film. Akt take away its emotional power however by making the vocals so laid-back, blanketed with a somewhat off-putting flange effect. Had Akt performed this music with a greater intensity, 'Blemmebeya' would not be such a difficult record to get into. With the diversity of modern electronic music, acoustic rock and classic prog, Akt comes up with a record that feels like a cup that's been overfilled with ideas, and lacks the passion to make that work.

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Send comments to Conor Fynes (BETA) | Report this review (#608400)
Posted Thursday, January 12, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars An album of amazingly diverse sound and styles, from true symphonic RPI structures to world, new age, jazz, folk, psychedelia and many other forms.

1. "Prima Della Fine" (1:13) starts the album off with a recording of a GEORGE CARLIN rant on politics. Amazing! What a way to start an album! YES! A group with some guts! (10/10)

2. "L'assalto" (9:56) gets the music off to a very, very powerful start--great melodies coming from all instruments, weaving in and out of each other's paths in a beautiful and never overwhelming the listener with "too many notes." At 2:30 male vocals enter, causing the tapestry to be less attention getters--for a while. The vocalist timbre and style is remarkably similar to that of Quebec's THE BOX lead singer, JEAN-MARC PISAPIA. This song has so many twists and turns it's like a maze, yet it never loses the listener, each turn is easy and acceptable. (9/10)

3. "TG Egeo" (5:10) is a great song very much in the RPI tradition, sounding a lot like BANCO DEL MUTUO SUCCORSO from the 1970s. Cool Frippertronics at the end. (9/10)

4. "Favonio" (4:55) begins with acoustic guitar and male vocals--first one then harmonized others. Sensitive, kind of like a great JOHN DENVER song. Piano, double bass, and brushed drums join in for the next section before an awesome guitar riff pulls in mellotron, electric bass, and full drum kit. Yes' or Genesis' best 'surprise' moments never topped this one! And then it just gets better with another shift at 3:30 whereupon an electric guitar--with bass mirroring and harmonizing it--plays an amazing solo to the end. (10/10)

5. "Stati D'animo Uniti" (5:50) starts with some ominous, deep bass sounds with flits and splffs of percussion and other distorted instruments and samples creating a heavy, oppressive feel into which an equally dismal feeling vocal enters. The music and 'noises' plod ominously along, until at 2:35 a brief flourish of tango-like Latin music rushes through the room before, then, just as quickly disappearing to allow the vocalist to carry forward his depressing message (in Italian). The upbeat Latin section returns, establishes some lasting footing, then kind of backs off for a very ALLAN HOLDSWORTH-like guitar solo to play. The song ends with the Latin flourish, leaving the listener quite confused but entertained. Those Italians! They're so dramatic! (8/10)

6. "Di Vento" (10:17) again starts off with a feel and sound extremely similar to several of the kind-of-monotone songs on THE BOX's 2009 album D'Après le horla de Maupassant. This similarity continues throughout the song. Musically there are builds and lulls that are quite reminiscent of the wind. A nice song that seems to want to really build and break out, and threatens to do so several times in a "Cinema Show"-like way, but doesn't really do this until the end of the eighth minute. Still, a satisfying climax, dénoument and finale. (9/10)

7. "Mani Aperte" (4:55) starts off with clapping like PAT METHENY's "First Circle" before evolving into an enigmatic, chameleonic song, melding together some amazingly disparate sounds, instruments, and themes in a rather STEVE TIBBETTS kind of way. Even the guitar solo sounds like its straight out of Yr or another of Tibbets' 80s/90s releases. Then--surprise, surprise--at 3:20 an electric guitar slow strum that just brings everybody into pure prog melodic bliss--and which plays out, with male vocals/lyrics at the very end. (9/10)

8. "Zeitgeist" (3:44) is an instrumental that begins with another ominous, yet beautiful and engaging groove with still more odd and unusual sounds coming from stringed and keyed instruments. (9/10)

9. "La Fine" (5:27) begins with a muffled/treated male vocal backed by bass, far-back keyboard chords and very subtle cymbol play. By mid second minute the intensity and volume of still-slow drum work and vocal are increasing. A nice acoustic nylon string guitar solo in the middle carries the mood forward until a glockenspiel and some television sound samples take over for a bit, over which the voice returns in his treated whisper, before the volumes elevate again for the fifth minute. The final thirty seconds is kind of time echoing away. (8/10)

An album of amazingly diverse sound and styles, from true symphonic RPI structures to world, new age, jazz, folk, psychedelia and many other forms. The only negative comment I might have about this album revolve around the lead vocalist's monotonic singing style: it often seems to weigh down the song, even preventing it from developing more dynamic diversity. Still, this is in my opinion nothing less than a masterpiece of progressive rock music. 5 stars.

(As of 9/24/12 Blemmebeya sits at #167 on my list of All-time Favorite Albums.)

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Send comments to BrufordFreak (BETA) | Report this review (#847404)
Posted Tuesday, October 30, 2012 | Review Permalink

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