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Corde Oblique - The Stones Of Naples CD (album) cover


Corde Oblique

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Prog-Folk Team
4 stars Plenty of progressive folk has emerged from Italy over the years, whether under the rubric of RPI or not.. Recently a new wave seems to be breaking, with groups drawing more on their own roots in the Renaissance period and tempering it with allusions to the much more recent psych period. For me the tip of the iceberg was OLOFERNE, whom I have examined earlier. CORDE OBLIQUE, at least here on their third release, remain in a consistently romantic folky mood. If you have heard MIA, this is like a downbeat more melodic version. A better reference might be the obscure MAGMA from Argentina, but in a medieval mood. But I'm sure a few Italian groups unbeknownst to me might have been required listening. Well, gotta start somewhere.

And wow what a start. Riccardo Prencipe has assembled a compatible group of skilled musicians and ethereal female vocalists for this "project", and, considering he is the only glue holding it all together, he really knows how to make it stick. This is luscious ancient sounding music with plenty of plucked acoustic instruments and violin. No electric guitar and it is not missed. The vocals are mostly in Italian (presumably), but the occasional English ones and wordless workouts are no less impressive. Several tracks are longer, and these are among the highlights, which to me marks a litmus test of sorts as to the prog credentials of a band, especially since they betray nary a hint of ambitions in that realm.

"Flower Bud" and "Barrio Gotico" top the list for their effortless development, shifts of mood, sultry vocal sections and instrumental virtuosity, but "Nostalgia avanguardia", if not living up to expectations that RIO fans might set, and "La citta" are also triumphs of nostalgic provocation even among those who weren't alive 500 years ago, or at least don't remember it. This is stirring stuff. A few more sedate mainstream tracks (like "Flying"), and a general lack of hard hitting material are among the factors staving off perfection this time around.

All points of comparison would be mere oblique references and unfitting substitutes for the real thing, so I recommend you find this posthaste, godspeed, and affrettatevi!!

Report this review (#607674)
Posted Wednesday, January 11, 2012 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This is the third of RICCARDO PRENCIPE's neo-medieval folk fashioned music presentations. This album sees a definite step forward in the compositions' leanings toward folk and medieval music and away from straightforward neoclassical music. For me, this pays off with The Stones of Naples feeling like the most accessible and most enjoyable Corde Oblique album yet. Plus, The Stones of Naples enjoys the benefit of vocal contributions of no less than six woman, each of outstanding voice, including: Caterina Pontrandolfo (familiar to us from the previous album, Volontrą d'arte) on songs 1, 6 and 10; Floriana Cangiano on songs 2 and 9; Claudia Sorvillo on songs 4 and 11, Monica Pinto, Geraldine Le Cocq and Alessandra Santovito on songs 7, 5, and 3, respectively. Because of this last fact, I will add that more than either of Riccardo's previous two Corde Oblique albums, this one is much more song/ballad oriented. You have to travel eight songs into the album before you get to an instrumental, and, again, unlike the previous albums, this one has much more of a medieval folk feel to it. This album contains songs of such consistently high standards that are all so enjoyable that I prefer to not single out any songs that I like more than any others (though, between you and me, I find myself swooning with absolute bliss during this string of five songs: "Flower Bud," "Flying," "Like an Ancient Black and White Movie," "La cittą dagli occhi neri," and "Nostalgica avanguardia"). Let's just say from the album's opening notes and song to its last you are in for a real treat.

1. "La quinta ricerca" (3:13) opens the album with Riccardo's lute serving notice that this is going to be music that feels like it comes from five hundred years ago. When sublime singer Caterina Pontrandolfo joins in with the accompaniment some other medieval instrumental accompanying her the ancient resolve is affirmed. An orchestral finale is unexpected but wonderful. (10/10)

2. "Venti di sale" (5:29) is opened with solo grand piano for the first minute--laying down some gorgeous introductory work--before vocalist Floriana Cangiano and a full force folk ensemble rush into the void with some quite dynamically diverse music--both acoustic guitars, violin, and hand percussion, and modern (fretless bass and drums). Lacking a memorable melodic hook to make this total ear candy. (9/10)

3. "Flower Bud" (5:46) a stunningly gorgeous song with just the music but then you add the incredibly sensitive vocal of Alessandra Santovito (in English!) and you get bliss, utter bliss. The start of that string of five songs of Olympian perfection. (10/10) 4. "Flying" (5:44) is a gorgeous remake of an ANATHEMA song (from 2003's A Natural Disaster), with the crystalline pipes of Claudia Sorvillo delivering the vocal--though she is later beautifully doubled (by another vocalist?). The rock drumming and piccolo-like arpeggio notes from the classical guitar in the final minute and a half are sublime! (10/10)

5. "Like An Ancient Black & White Movie" (2:10) opens with delicate piano, strings and Riccardo's classical guitar setting up a dreamy mood for yet another stunning vocal (the third one in a row in English!) this time by the ethereal KATE BUSH-like voice of Geraldine Le Cocq. (10/10)

6. "La Cittą Dagli Occhi Neri" (5:44). Caterina Pontrandolfo, voice of the opener, returns to sing this one in Italian, accompanied by Riccardo's lute and bass. Though it feels like she is singing in a relaxed, even lazy fashion, her slight rasp and gently trilling vibrato are sheer perfection here. Drums and rock instruments join in for the final 1:10 as Caterina sings some non-lexical vocables with the violin. (10/10)

7. "Nostalgica Avanguardia" (5:14) a gentle, almost religious-feeling song as sung by Monica Pinto in Italian. The music becomes almost Gypsy fast while Monica continues to sing with what feels like respect and reverence. (9/10)

8. "The Quality Of Silence" (1:48) is a nice little instrumental duet between Riccardo and pianist Luigi Rubino. (8/10)

9. "Barrio Gotico" (7:16) sees the return of Floriana Cangiano to the vocal mic as Riccardo and a simple Spanish folk ensemble supports. Riccardo on guitar, hand percussionist Michele Maione also on board. Well performed but a little long-winded and monotonous--though the final two minutes sounds like primo soundtrack music to a classic Italian Spaghetti Western. (8/10)

10. "Dal Castello Di Avella" (3:58) Caterina Pontrandolfo retirns to the vocal helm for the third and final time with a song brimming with feelings of love and nostalgia. This woman could sing anyone into peace, calm, and, dare I say it, love. The spiritual intentions behind her singing remind me of American spiritual singer, SHAINA NOLL. An eminently simple song--just Caterina and Riccardo--but one that comes across as utter perfection! (10/10)

11. "La Gente Che Resta" (3:24) opens with solo clarinet before a fully-scored folk troupe gather behind him in support of another Claudia Sorvillo vocal effort. The clarinet interplay behind and with the vocal is quite magical but the song lacks any memorable melodies. (8/10)

12. "Piscina Mirabilis" (2:56) is a nice little solo classical guitar piece from Riccardo to close out the album. Nice. (9/10)

This is without a doubt a five star masterpiece of progressive rock (folk) music.

Report this review (#1338797)
Posted Saturday, January 3, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars A darkly majestic brand of progressive folk music is offered up by Corde Oblique on The Stones of Napes. Applying folk music structures and compositions to orchestral instrumentation, with delicate, magnificent vocals in the performers' native Italian, results in a blending of distinct historical musical traditions into a novel and deeply moving new style. It's no surprise that Corde Oblique have been cited by some as part of the whole "neofolk" style, though happily to my knowledge their work is genuinely free both of militaristic/fascist imagery and of far-right ties, so those who are concerned about the way other neofolk groups toy with such things can breathe a little easier here.
Report this review (#1728324)
Posted Tuesday, May 30, 2017 | Review Permalink

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