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Controtempo - Controtempo CD (album) cover



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Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Luxurious and appealing 90s prog

Controtempo were a band from Naples Italy who began working together in 1995, when many Italian bands were experimenting with neo-prog. Indeed the group enjoyed Marillion but also wanted to blend in the luxurious classic sound of favorites like Genesis as well as RPI legends PFM. They were able to record a bunch of tracks in 1998 which were not released until 2013, when Psych Up Melodies rescued them. In 2005 Controtempo went on indefinite hiatus but there may be a chance they'll record again.

The six tracks of the debut range from 5-9 minutes in length and comment nicely on the band's illustrious influences: there is the grandeur of Trick-era Genesis with the 90s sheen of neo-prog, there is the well rounded RPI vibe of PFM and a bit of the diverse spirit of Pino Daniele whom the band were fond of. I love the dual keyboard attack with modern synths and piano side by side ("Gente"), punctuated by a warm pulsing bass guitar, complex, sophisticated drumming, biting yet melodic lead guitar, and romantic vocals. They also have a strummed acoustic behind many busier sections which again, adds to the richness of the sound. The tracks are largely upbeat and sunny, very little in the way of darkness. They are well arranged and have some nice changes to keep things interesting.

"Guerra" has a lovely classic prog progression of songwriting with big and bold themes, capped off with a gorgeous Howe-like guitar solo. There is a frisky folk-pop influence to "Jesce O Sole" and a crossover appeal to "Tiempo" that reminded me of Moongarden. The nearly 10 minute "Nun Dicere Niente" attempts a more dramatic and ambitious feel, with plenty of emotional variation, and varying sections like a suite. In the middle it stops and begins again very slowly and deliberately, each musician playing with great thoughtfulness and gelling wonderfully with each other. Good stuff. The closer "Vierno Vene" throws a lounge-ish curveball that sounds like a prog version of the Love Boat theme song-this is the only track that fell short (and way short) for me. It sports a relaxing vibe with some nice guitar work all the same.

This is a surprisingly solid album that snuck up on me after repeated plays, despite my tendencies to be disappointed by many 90s bands. For an "underground" band they are well recorded, they are excellent musicians, and the songwriting should have wide appeal to prog (excluding those who like it dark, metal, or avant influenced). 3 1/2 stars.

Report this review (#927160)
Posted Saturday, March 9, 2013 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Another total obscurity, from Italy this time, Controtempo originated from Napoli and were found in 1995 out of the ashes of the group The Alleys Of Mind, led by guitarist/singer Francesco Vitiello.The rest of the crew were Luigi Scialdone on bass, Gianluca Canitano on drums, Davide Smiraglia and Francesco Basso, both on piano and keyboards.Some songs of the band dating back in 1998 were gathered by Psych Up Melodies and released as a self-titled digital download.

This is not among the albums the Italian label is used to release.Far from anything related to Psych/Prog, Controtempo's album is a huge suprise, having a very melodic Neo/Symphonic Rock sound, occasionally colored by romantic folky touches.The suprises continue with the vocal department of this release.During the first listening I thought something went completely wrong, all lyrics sounded very Spanish to my ears.A search through the net would unleash the truth.All Controtempo's compositions are sung in their native language, the Neapolitan dialect, which adds a very personal touch to the album.Musically the band has composed six very strong, well-crafted and melodic pieces, full of inventive keyboards themes, romantic singing parts and nice guitar lines, while the interplays are not absent.The longer pieces even contain a good amount of breaks or some delicate Meditterenean passages with warm vocal work (like coming from somekind of South-Italian traditional tunes) or acoustic vibes.The influences are more than evident.GENESIS' lush orchestrations and MARILLION's edgy synth-drenched soundscapes are the main inspirations of the group, but you should add a strong dose of South-Italian flavor into this very interesting blending.The arrangements of the group are both smooth and passionate, depending on the mood, with full-blown band's collaborations followed by calmer and more downtempo textures.

The story says that Controtempo were put on ice sometime around 2005 with the members spending their time in different projects.Hopefully this release is a good reason for a triumphant comeback.

It would be a crime if this album had never seen the light.Basically it even sounds more interesting than plenty of albums related to the Neo/Symphonic Prog sound, that have been heavily promoted.Strongly recommended, definitely the best among the first releases of Psych Up Melodies...3.5 stars.

Report this review (#932424)
Posted Monday, March 18, 2013 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Italian band CONTROTEMPO was an active unit back in the 1990's, but never came round to releasing any material back then. They did record just about an albums worth of material back in 1998 however, and when small indie label Psych Up Melodies was given the chance to enhance these recordings and release them they grabbed that opportunity.

This just under 40 minutes long affair is a fairly nice one too. Apart from the fifth piece Vierno Vene, with it's disco-tinged lounge music arrangement that is. Admittedly well made, but it takes much more then merely well made material for me to enjoy that type of music.

The majority of the other compositions are of a rather different character however. Opening piece Guerra has a few harder edged passages that remind ever so slightly of Rush, Jesce O Sole sports a recurring accordion driven, folk oriented affair and concluding track Nun Dicere Niente concludes with an elongated movement with a guitar riff and organ construction central. But apart from these mostly minor deviations we're treated to a band that know their symphonic progressive rock, are fond of symphonic textures in general and familiar with gentler arrangements of the pastoral variety. Acoustic guitars, occasionally replaced by wandering piano, combined with a toned down or otherwise careful organ motif with gentle symphonic backdrops as the alternative options. With ample room for elegant synthesizer soloing in appropriate places. Italian lead vocals, sung in a dialect from what I understand, and the overall mood is a positive and jubilant one. That's about it really.

If you enjoy accessible, mellow, positive symphonic progressive rock performed by a band that most likely know the gentlest sides of classic Genesis by heart, then Controtempo is a band you most likely will enjoy immensely.

Report this review (#999115)
Posted Tuesday, July 16, 2013 | Review Permalink

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