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Avant, Crossover & Neo Teams
4 stars Traditional but novel psychedelic rollercoaster with an artistic female driver has finally landed down upon the world.

SISTRA, an Italian rock project of a versatile artist (and an owner of an Italian independent label Psych Up Melodies) Fabrizio Di VICINO, have got started just under an occasional and fateful encounter with a Neapolitan painter Gaia VITTOZZI. Although Fabrizio had almost completed recording for another project at that time, he got charmed by her artistic dignity and soon persuaded her to be a singer of his new project, called SISTRA. With a keyboardist Salvatore PISANO added, they have re-recorded and released their debut album "Bearing" in 2011 via Psych Up Melodies.

Basically this rolling album has been constructed by Fabrizio with multiple instruments, and this is filled with a flood of dream - Fabrizio himself mentioned he "should" re-record his material (already provided) with Gaia, who should give him serious dream I guess. Let's listen - the second track "Una Pedina" is a gracious keyboard-based one tinged with typically old-fashioned psychedelia indeed (Fabrizio and Salvatore played psychic venom flexibly and pleasantly here and there), but we cannot imagine without Gaia's dreamy mellow sensitive voices. Also in the beginning "Paralleli", that reminds me an aggressive rolling stone, not only fuzzy, dry-fruity guitar kickings but also fluffy, floating voices under psychedelic effects can please us definitely.

Acoustic shootings like "Chiaroscuri" or "Oblivion", and a delightful ambiance like "Onde" can get to be our tonic water in this album, but please don't be confused by such great deceivers. Actually, "Bearing" the title track is a bluesy, freaky one, with an oldie keyboard solo, sharp synthesizer edges, and dark chorus (maybe by Fabrizio) - can make us insomniac. Obviously squeezed and packaged almost every essence of them methinks. And let me say, my recommendation is "Ziqqurath", veiled with quirky guitar pollution, hypnotic synthesizer smoke, and Gaia's spooky lullaby.

Noisy trip will be continued - "Drunk Flight" is a comfortably nauseous (laugh out loudly) song, with keen, ear-achy percussion and deluding, warping sound effects, and "Living Casket" is a toy-box featuring a bunch of electronic blows and calculated but randomized flutters by Fabrizio's mischief (I feel). Interesting and addictive. Suddenly a curtain of the next stage will be opened in the following track (and another masterpiece) "Psiche", a heavy psychedelic buzz-fuzz just like the title. This track always kicks me into the world of Flower Travellin'. And the last aggressive rollercoaster "Stasi" cannot give us permission to close the dark psychedelic nightmare curtain, until Gaia falls into sleep with stopping launching her graceful voices.

A versatile artist has created the basis and a phantasmagorical vocalist has done the final painting upon this creation. Don't miss it.

Report this review (#557357)
Posted Wednesday, October 26, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars I have to admit I did not expect this kind of music here.

The music is space rock, but with a strange twist. The basis is some trippy, naive space rock with some distorted guitars. Krautrock springs to mind too. This album also have some avant garde music too. The music here is very flowery too with a large West Coast/San Fransisco hippie signature too. But Sistra's signature is Gaia Vittozzi's naive sounding vocals which is pretty special.

The music here is good when overcoming the shock. The Krautrock sound is an aquired taste and it took me some time to get used to it. But when overcoming the initial shock and really getting into the groove (literary speaking), I really likes what I hear. There is no killer tunes here and that is my gripe with this album. But this album is still an enjoyable experience.

3 stars

Report this review (#563497)
Posted Sunday, November 6, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Italian band SISTRA is the creative vehicle of composer and multi-instrumentalist Fabrizio Di Vicino, who has been assembling music for this venture since 2005. "Bearing" is the first album release of this project, and was issued in the fall of 2011 on Vicinio's own and recently started label Psych Up Melodies.

Looking at the larger picture, you can basically divide artist careers into a few different different categories, of which two appear to be among the most common. You have the ones who have been toiling away for years, honing their craft and their material, and when their debut album eventually appears it is a stunning one. A production they never manage to best again for the rest of their lifetime. And you have those whose first creation is an imperfect one, more or less flawed, and whose subsequent productions steadily rise in quality. And while time will ultimately have to tell in which of these categories an artist is best placed, I think that Sistra may prove to be a case of the latter.

This initial effort of theirs, while not that impressive to my ears as such, does showcase a band with a great deal of talent. A production to be enjoyed by many people less critical than yours truly I suspect, although lacking in the finer qualities that will give them a strong breakthrough I believe. One thing is certain though: This is a band that merits an inspection by those fond of challenging music. The compositions demand the attention of someone with a taste for the quirkier side of music, their weaker aspects by and large ones of a subjective rather than objective nature.

Multiple themes and motifs is a general tendency throughout, and frequent use of distorted instrumentation and effects common features throughout. If you're fond of atonal details and non-harmonic features there are plenty of such to discover and enjoy, albeit mostly of a nuanced and subtle nature rather than up front and dominating. All and sundry wrapped in psych-tinged arrangements. Droning sounds, nervously fluttering fragile motifs and fluctuating patterns. At times perhaps with a touch of space rock of sorts, on some occasions venturing closer to the realms of electronic progressive music, but most times staying well put within a retro-influenced expression. Tight rhythms and excellent bass guitar are central features throughout, distorted guitars a core element on most tracks.

My personal gripes are twofold, and subjective at that. While she has a good and intriguing voice, I don't find the vocals of Gaia Vittozzi to be a good fit on this occasion. Ever so slightly off in the overall picture, in a subtly different tune to whatever theme or motif that is dominating at any given time. The echoing effect given to most vocal parts perhaps a contributing feature to my perception, but most of all I suspect that this is a case of my rather extreme sensibilities as far as vocals are concerned kicking in here. The opening and final parts of Psiche the sole exception to this, as these parts utilize her voice perfectly as far as my own personal taste go. A second aspect that I found to be negative are the case of thematic shifts and alterations, where I found many of the transitional phases to be too crude and the shifts to not quite fit within the overall scope of the compositions, resulting in a subjective perception of some songs loosing momentum and breaking up. The tendency towards a lo fi sounding production not always to my personal taste either, but that is solely a matter of personal taste.

But critical perceptions aside, there's also a lot of talent at display here. Those less critical of certain features than me will most likely find this to be a charming affair anyhow, as long as sophisticated psychedelic music is a style they enjoy, and even spoiled music consumptionists like myself should be able to find the occasional gem on this disc. My personal choices in that department Drunk Flight, an elegant excursion blending a relatively freely wandering bass guitar with various instances of partially broken and twisted electronic sounds and effects. And later there's Oblivion, an initially folk-tinged affair that incorporates an elongated standalone theme with an enchanting, psych-dripping guitar motif as a dominant feature.

"Bearing" is a slightly flawed album as I regard it, although in this case that is a matter of personal taste to a much greater extent than any objective aspect of this production. Musically we're dealing with a fairly sophisticated specimen within the psychedelic rock universe, and those with an interest in such endeavours might want to spend a few minutes of their time to check whether or not this is a disc that appeals to their personal taste. This is a talented band after all, and for the right listeners I suspect that "Bearing" will be perceived as a disc both charming and enticing.

Report this review (#627341)
Posted Monday, February 6, 2012 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Sistra is another band in the Psych/Prog field as the Psych Up Melodies label has gooten used to release, only this time the band is not so obscure.How is that?Simply because it is a creation of Psych Up's leader Fabricio Di Vicino, who is also a very good multi-instrumentalst.Sistra were set up in Napoli around mid-00's and Di Vicino's main collaborators were female singer Gaia Vittozzi and keyboardist Salvatore Pisano.The album ''Bearing'' was recorded and produced between 2005 and 2007, eventually released in 2011 by Di Vicino as a digital download, getting also help by a few friends on electric piano, choirs and arranging.

Sistra's feet are deeply grounded in the 70's with Di Vicino and Pisano, both the main composers of the group, being inspired by the golden era of Progressive Rock and if you also like some trippy passages and psychedelic hints in your music, ''Bearing'' is the absolute fit for you.Sistra's compositions are rather short but carefully executed, incorporating influences from Psychedelic Rock, Space-Kraut Rock and 70's Prog in equal doses, eventually delivering twelve tight pieces, where every component comes on the surface depending on the approach.Add a female singer with a dreamy and quite personal style of singing, that seals the deal (even if some male vocals are also present) and you should get the picture.Some tracks contain evident traces of the early-70's Kraut Rock movement with distorted keyboards and spacey experiments in one-dimensional outlandish soundscapes.Others are closer to Heavy/Psych with strong use of electric guitars and a more rockin' sound overall, a lot like Czech pioneers SBB.A few of them even offer some delicate acoustic explorations, ''Oblivion'' even offers a nice, vintage harmonica part.The hugest surprise though comes from the opening tracks, where the clever use of organ and electric piano has a very Canterbury-like feel.In the end the album sounds quite flexible and multi-influenced with interesting ideas and decent performances.

The production of ''Bearing'' is quite good and clear, even if a more muddy sound here and there recalls even more the 70's years.I can see a great number of fans appreciating this release, but certainly lovers of trippy Psych/Prog should be the first ones to purchase it.Warmly recommended.

Report this review (#922065)
Posted Sunday, March 3, 2013 | Review Permalink

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