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Locus Amoenus

Rock Progressivo Italiano

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4 stars Forming back in 2010 at Irpinia, Italy, and spending a couple of years touring and eventually recording, Locus Amoenus released their debut album `Clessidra' (Hourglass) on September 28th 2013, and it keeps up the strong tradition of dynamic Italian progressive releases from recent years. However, what sets them instantly apart is that band work at the darker, noisier and dirtier end of RPI, more influenced by the likes of Biglietto per L'Inferno and the dark jazz of Delirium due to the heavy attacking presence of sax and flute. The musicians contrast soft and heavy, electric and acoustic passages with plenty of building, brooding atmosphere, and despite moments of heavy riffing, they never simply fall back on heavy metal clichés.  Listeners who don't enjoy the often pristine and polished production of modern RPI albums should appreciate this one more too, as the band favour a scuzzy, more dangerous murkiness to their sound.

The opening instrumental `Tra La Mente...' welcomes droning immersive and slightly creeping feedback atmosphere, metallic King Crimson-styled electric guitar razor blade slices through sludgy stomping riffs over huffing flute and filthy mucky sax. A skipping beat over `Inverno's looping electronics and galloping bass quickly turn to harsh noise, buzzsaw electric guitar wailing and thundering drumming. There's wild disorientating flute, unexpected tempo-change surges back and forth and passionate pleading vocals, with just dark addictive grooves all around. The next two tracks lull you into a false sense of security, `Il Suono Di Lei' beginning with more gentle chiming guitars, an up-tempo beat and warmer voices, `Lettera di un Folle' a reassuring classical acoustic guitar warmth and soft soothing vocal. But before long, the band roars into aggressive tsunamis of Osanna and Van der Graaf Generator-styled sax violence, smoky dark Delirium-like jazz strolls with nimble little fiery electric guitar fills and thick bass eruptions.

Flute flitters around cool mysterious electronics and ranting droning fragments of other-wordly treated voices on the disturbing psychedelic jazz of `Amleto', the sombre `Anima' twists into a boisterous storm of hard guitars and urgent forceful vocals. The final track is the deeply melancholic `I Segni Del Mio Tempo', lost flute and careful acoustic guitar beauty offers a great deal of loneliness, with drifting lonely saxophone and blistering electric guitar filled with a grinding frustration that ensures it's a deeply emotional and powerful closer.

Confronting, powerful, often frightening...there's a grit, an unpredictable approach and a sense of daring that reminds of the best vintage RPI albums to this band that is often missing from modern Italian prog groups, and fans who don't mind getting a bit of dirt under their nails should investigate this exceptional debut right away. By adding a youthful heaviness, Locus Amoenus are a very modern sounding kind of RPI that respects and acknowledges the vintage masters without ever feeling the need to merely imitate them, while also bringing them screaming into the present era, and the band have more than enough talent and edge to make a strong impact in the modern RPI scene.

Four stars.

Report this review (#1277067)
Posted Tuesday, September 16, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars Locus Amoenus began life in 2010 in San Michele di Serino, a small town in the province of Avellino, in an area called Irpinia. The name of the band comes from a literary quote that refers to an ideal place where you can reflect about life and reality: an imaginary, beautiful spot and a real source of inspiration for the mind. After a hard work and a good live activity on the local scene, in 2013 the band self-released an excellent debut album, "Clessidra" (Hourglass), with a line up featuring Alessio Vito (vocals, guitar, flute), Raffaele Purgante (electric guitar), Antonio Di Filippo (sax), Alessandro Ragano (bass) and Mauro Cefalo (drums). The overall sound draws on many sources of inspiration ranging from classical music to jazz, from folk to metal, but the members of the band managed to add a good deal of original ideas, personality and freshness. The result is pretty good and even if on the album you can hear echoes from the seventies you can feel that this is not a clone act at all and, in my opinion, the music is really worth listening to from start to finish with an open mind.

The opener "Tra la mente e gli infiniti inverni dell'anima (Preludio)" (Between the mind and he infinite winters of the soul) sets the atmosphere of this work. It's a beautiful instrumental piece that starts at the sound of a bell and features many changes in mood and rhythm. The title is in some way related to the art cover by Davide Panarella that, according to an interview with the band, tries to capture the spirit of the whole album representing a glance through the soul's eye over an arid, cold reality.

Then comes the long, complex "Inverno" (Winter) that every now and again recalls bands such as Osanna, Van der Graaf Generator and Jethro Tull, with a good interaction between sax and flute. The music and lyrics depict an eye in the sky observing the bitter destiny of the earth: it looks at the earth's defeat from above while a tear wets its hermitage, sweeping away its malignity. Cold winds blow shaking the dry branches of a tree, then the tree drops its fruits and disquieting instrumental passages evoke a never ending winter. Clouds of smoke cover the sky and the light gets lost into the darkness while the tired eye keeps on looking at the gloomy landscape below, crying...

The following "Il suono di Lei" (Her sound) is another long, complex track. The mood is lighter, here the music and lyrics try to conjure up a mystical character, a goddess who can breath a new life into a bleak reality, waking up the senses with her singing. It's almost a parable about the cathartic power of music: there's no hope without the charming sounds coming out from some mysterious, enchanted woods... Only those sounds can break the chains of the daily grind!

"Lettera di un folle" (Letter from a madman) begins by the sound of a quill writing frantically on paper and a delicate acoustic guitar arpeggio, then the rhythm rises. There are many changes in rhythm and mood, some soft passages remind me of Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, some others are wilder and remind me of Area and Il Balletto di Bronzo. The music and lyrics depict a man halfway between lucidity and folly who's drawing some images taken from a blurred reality that Time is blotting out. The words are moving on the paper like leafs falling from a tree: tired, they get lost along the way, in an eternal quest for a Love that whips the heart...

At over six minutes in length, "Amleto" (Hamlet) is the shortest track on the whole album but it's not not an easy listening one. In fact, this is an experimental piece featuring a free jazzy approach and confused voices in the background declaiming some verses from Shakespeare's Hamlet. The atmosphere is dark, suspended between dream and nightmare...

Next comes the melancholic "Anima" (Soul), a bitter-sweet reflection about life and afterlife where for a moment your soul breaks through and your mind begins to fly across a crying sky, over dreams and illusions, over hopes and disappointments, towards a fairy land where there's no room for pain. The come back to reality is hard when the parallel world you were dreaming of suddenly clashes with the usual routine of a life where everything is normal and boring.

The dreamy "I segni del Mio tempo" (The signs of My time) closes the album with a touching reflection about the effects of consumerism. In a world where materialism and money rule without mercy there's no room for real beauty and feelings. Music dies and poetry fades away while freedom fails... Well, after a silent pause there's still time for a sudden, hidden burst of rage and indignation!

On the whole, I think that this is a very good album where the poetical lyrics perfectly fit the music drawing melancholic, beautiful wintry landscapes suspended between dream and reality. Anyway, have a try and judge by yourselves: you can listen in streaming to the complete album on bandcamp!

Report this review (#1278015)
Posted Wednesday, September 17, 2014 | Review Permalink

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