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Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars Occupying a particularly dark corner of the Italian Prog scene, DAAL, a duo comprised of Alfio Costa (with an army of vintage and modern keyboards) and Davide Guidoni (an assortment of acoustic and electronic drums/percussion), couldn't be further away from traditional RPI sounds. Instead, they favour a varied mix of very modern sounding dark electronics, classical sophistication and avant-garde sophistication in their music, and their fifth release since 2009 offers their heaviest, most gothic flavoured work to date. Predominantly instrumental, the bafflingly titled `Dances of the Drastic Navels' (a reference to several pieces from their previous albums) confirms that the band and their music keep growing in stature and maturity with each release, delivering more intricate and lavish music each time, trying to balance gloomy darkness with reassuring light, and it's one of the standout progressive releases, Italian or otherwise, of 2014.

Opener `Malleus Maleficarum' instantly grabs you by the throat and squeezes, an unholy trinity of shimmering electro-pop synth sleekness, intimidating slab-like sludgy metal riffing and eerie piano ambience. Davide's skittering clipped percussion loops and bashing drums, disorientating warping effects and hissing voices recall fellow Italian gloom-mongers Antonius Rex. The DAAL fellas seamlessly bring the piece out of a reflective ambient passage in the middle by way of heroic and grand electric guitar soloing, perfectly displaying their mastery of build and drama. `Elektra (An Evening With...)' opens in a very ambient manner with sustained electric guitar notes over gentle lapping washes of synths before lurching monolithic riffs oppress with a variety of twitching programmed beats. Fellow Italian prog-related musician Ettore Salati's emotional guitar ruminations make the piece resemble a more darkly symphonic version of Pink Floyd.

`Lillith' is a sorrowful, reflective, impossibly beautiful and fragile lament, like the most pitch-black morose version of King Crimson you've never heard before. Mud-thick Mellotron full of infernal regal majesty drones over ghostly piano, chiming acoustic guitar and groaning cello that puts most gothic bands to shame. The 24 minute title track epic has the band incorporating reprises and themes from previous instalments of the piece on past albums, but it more than stands on it's own feet. Due to the longer running time here, there's plenty of room for the band to deliver ambient and slowly building intimidating atmospheres. Droning treated voices, trickling electronic bleeds, hypnotic pounding drumming and maddening repetitive electric guitars wear down the listener. The second movement resembles a magical gothic pantomime, searing violin crying around ominous Mellotron, Bobo Aiolfi of Italian prog band Tilion's forceful bass and Alfio's cascading piano. The next passage moves into a nightmarish Tangerine Dream-like electronic breakdown before a Mellotron soaked King Crimson-styled symphonic finale, all delivered with power and grandiosity.

But the band save the best until last. Letizia Riccardi's weeping violin, stark piano, uneasy ambient white-noise and fluid fretless bass mourn together with guest Tirill Mohn's incomparable feminine sadness on the final piece `Inside You.' The Norwegian prog-folk artist, ex of White Willow, is no stranger to wounded yet hopeful music, and her voice here is defeated yet defiant, full of longing that cries tears of downbeat beauty. This exquisite closer is one of the absolute greatest and most moving moments to appear on a progressive music release in all of 2014.

Band member Alfio spoke of isolating himself away to write the compositions for this album, and that sense of loneliness and seclusion permeates the entire disc. With it's sinister and unsettling cover artwork to the gothic inspired creeping suspense with the music itself, DAAL's fascination with real mood and black atmosphere ensures the album is their most cultivated and mature work so far. Those who find darker Italian prog artists, as well as the poetic sadness of bands like My Dying Bride will very much relate to this one, and even more adventurous metal and gothic fans will find plenty to interest them here. It's amazing to discover how DAAL keep refining and perfecting their mix of dark ambience with modern electronics, and it's another winner for the Italian duo. As mentioned at the beginning, it just may also be one of the standout moments in progressive music in 2014...if you don't mind a walk on the dark side!

Four and a half stars.

Report this review (#1302322)
Posted Sunday, November 9, 2014 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars You have to hand it to the Italians, they are a crafty bunch, always looking to provide fun, pleasure and emotion in whatever they decide to sink their talents into. Cooking, fashion, cars, design, footy, wine, architecture and of course, music. So veteran RPI masters Alfio Costa of Tilion and Prowlers fame and drum maestro Davide Guidoni (Taproban, Nuova Era, Aries and Gallant Farm) searched out a niche for their deepest creative urges, effectively combining sweeping electronics in the Tangerine Dream, Vangelis, JM Jarre mode and infusing them with symphonic prog, a dab of gothic ambient and some old school King Crimson motifs that, all combined in a bartender's shaker, provides a heady cocktail of astounding sounds and amazing music. The result is an original take on soundtrack panoramas, mind music of the highest order and an intense, I daresay, explorative demeanor. Dodecahedron was a masterpiece but all the Daal albums are impressive, including remakes of Pink Floyd's classic 'Echoes', and Pain of Salvation's "Undertow", ballsy and successful moves indeed! Daal is rapidly becoming a personal all-time favorite for many prog fans, yours truly on the front lines. On board are some amazing guests , the trustworthy return of marvelous guitarist Ettore Salati (The Watch, The Redzen, SoulenginE) is only trumped by the vocal presence of Tirill Mohn of White Willow fame, as well as Bobo Aiolfi on bass (a Tilion pal) . Alfio Costa handles a vast arsenal of analog and digital keyboards, uniting the Froese with the Wakeman. The mood has always been dark, brooding and hinging on evil, loaded with despair, perspiration and palpable fear, it's actually quite hard to explain or categorize.

So the mood on this strangely titled disc gets even more sombre, a spectral world of surrealism, abstract emotions and a visceral sense of suspended animation. The devilish "Malleus Maleficarum" has all these attributes in copious amounts, slashed by a lightning Ettore Salati guitar rampage. Like some fugitive train, the gruesome pulse seems both controlled and rather haywire, as if to underline the sheer audacity of playing such a style of cinematographic prog. Alfio's various sleek electronics provide an utterly modern sheen, soundtrack to some suspenseful movie. Davide shows little pity on the drum kit and Bobo follows along, smiling as his instrument rumbles mightily. Unsettling, slightly menacing and totally brilliant.

The wily titled "Elektra" suggests all manners of fantasy, a misty unfurling of swooning ambient sound that gradually involves a stylized rhythmic track, paralleled by Salati's urgent axe scouring the heavens, then followed by an assortment of synthesized gurgles, rasps, collisions and detours. Cripplingly mind-altering, the mood merges Pink Floyd's ambient ruminations with a harder edged Wagnerian psychosis that is wholly original. The insistent piano chaperones the exalted fret board most convincingly, waltzing frenetically into some unknown void. I feel this is all so disturbing!

In contrast to all the heroic Sturm und Drang, "Lilith" extols the virtues of a more sensually romantic direction, fueled by a repetitive Chopin-like piano sequence that screams both splendor and sorrow. This gentle 'berceuse' swings back and forth serenely and while highly romantic, the music remains firmly slotted on an underbelly of palpable angst. The vivacious guitar repeats the theme, ultimately veering back to piano, mellow cello and military snare drum as it evaporates into the clouds. This is perfect.

La piece de resistance is the title track, a monstrous affair that spans nearly 24 minutes, "Dances of Drastic Navels", a slow burn entrée that infuses a wide variety of effects, enough sampled distant voices, shudders, pants, clicks and beeps to fill a sound gallery. The Gothic straight jacket guitar has an ominous tone, the piano remains chaotic and slivers of synthesized spittle adorn the echoing drumbeats, the progression stays laborious and unhurried. The second part involves even more weird sweeping electronics, dense mellotron carpets and that aggressive low guitar tone that recalls Mick Ronson, though in an obviously more sinister environment than the Spiders from Mars! The perverted piano asserts the degenerative illusion of something going gradually bonkers, the feverish mood is impeccably classic King Crimson inspired, while the sequencer- crazy synths offer up a near Klaus Schulze/Tangerine Dream feel, less Teutonic and way more insanity- oriented. The final section reverts to shimmering beauty ,after dealing with the nasty beast and shows clearly that Daal can master both extremes, perhaps even boldly going even further into the depths of such a 'starless' universe. Tranquility returns in the guise of an achingly gorgeous piano, entwined with the most subtle mellotron I have ever heard. The mighty string machine flickers along majestically, Salati pointing his guitar gun and firing in semi-automatic mode and Costa pushing the ivories along. Astonishing yet also disconcerting stuff!

Just when one expects another tenebrous arrivederci, the Daal crew set out to completely astound with a piece that is out of context though not necessarily out of character, the sweeping melancholia of "Inside You" will have you scurrying to find your misplaced jaw, accidentally kicked in all the commotion, to the trash-infested curb. Tirill Mohn of White Willow and solo fame, takes over the microphone with her panting and sensual voice, with the mission to thoroughly stun and surprise. Guest violinist Letizia Riccardi plays with masterful emotion, compounded by the multi-layered voices of the Norwegian star.

This is not RPI, not really Symphonic, definitely not Neo or Crossover, Daal is a one of a kind purveyor of drastic plastic (to quote Be Bop Deluxe) that truly seeks to take the musical adventure into further realms of creativity, further stretching the boundaries between genres and sub-genres. Their catalog has kept on growing in quality and stature, so this will remain one of my 2014 favorites. It goes without any wonder or surprise that my most esteemed colleague and, to a certain extent common prog traveler Aussie-Byrd-Brother, has anointed this with equal universal acclaim.

5 dire umbilici

Report this review (#1311657)
Posted Monday, November 17, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars The Italian band Daal was formed by Alfio Costa and David Guidoni towards the end of the 2008, and released their first cd "Disorganicorigami" in 2009. "Dances of the Drastic Navels" is the fifth album.

For those unfamiliar with the productions of Daal and who would like to explore their material, one should note that this is a band that operates well outside of classic borders of prog. What we're dealing with here is a band that defies a true genre placement. Electronic, art rock and progressive metal are all part of the proceedings, with a fair amount of experimentation thrown in for good measure too.

The compositions are all challenging and sophisticated in both structure and arrangements. The common denominator throughout is a dark, industrial prog atmosphere. All pieces feature multiple themes and motifs, twisting and turning in quirky sequences where careful subtle developments are just as common as dramatic, sudden shifts in arrangements, style and expression.

Giving a totally accurate description of these constructions would take a lot of space, if at all possible. It's a case of expect the unexpected, created and performed with a high degree of excellence throughout. One may describe the end result as avant-garde or experimental in scope, and definitely as a part of the progressive rock universe: versatile, challenging, sophisticated, and most certainly innovative.

Like most artists that aim to reach beyond the established boundaries and conceptions.

A special mention for the song "Inside you", with a special appearance by Tirill Mohn (Ex-White Willow) on vocals, a poignant atmosphere!!

Daal conceive an album is an album that showcases a band that aims for innovation and versatility. Compositions and arrangements are complex and challenging, the individual songs and the album as a whole unpredictable. Prog, metal, electronic and experimental are several expressions utilized within the vast musical universe Daal explores, but can to some extent be described as the outer limits. A high quality production by a high quality band, well worth exploring by adventurous progressive rock fans with a vast and liberal taste for all aspects of the genre. In particular by those who treasure productions of a highly challenging and innovative nature.

Report this review (#1319250)
Posted Wednesday, December 3, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars Fifth disc for the avant-garde duo Alfio Costa and Davide Guidoni. After the critical success of the good "Dodecahedron" released two years ago the two polinstrumentist with solid roots in the scene of progressive italian rock, under the now consolidated Monicher Daal, Give life to a new creative path, in need of infinite plays, to be fully understood. The proposal of Daal it is almost fully instrumental except the vocals from the lending Tirill Mohn (White Willow). In excellent "Inside you" that makes further experimental attitude of the Binomial Tricolor. "Dance of the Drastic Navels" delves into progressive territory with stratification of keyboards, which constitute the supporting heart of composition never dull, which tracks we encounter ambient not Always usable but fortunately the Daal cure in a maniacally care; also the emotional aspect of the own composition, as also demonstrate in the beautiful graphic work. Always managing to leave something to the listener.
Report this review (#1323379)
Posted Friday, December 12, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars Dances Of The Drastic Navels is the fifth album by Daal, a project that began life in 2008 on the initiative of composer and keyboardist from Bergamo Alfio Costa and Roman drummer Davide Guidoni. It was released in 2014 on the independent label Agla Records and confirms all the good qualities of Daal's previous works. During the recording sessions Alfio Costa and Davide Guidoni were helped by some guest musicians such as Ettore Salati (guitars), Bobo Aiolfi (bass), Tirill Mohn (vocals), Letizia Riccardi (violin) and Guglielmo Mariotti (vocals) and the final result is an interesting, well balanced mix of vintage sounds and electronica, classical influences and an experimentalism that never falls in the trap of self-indulgence and never loses touch with melody and rhythm.

The dark opener "Malleus Maleficarum" is a long epic that could recall Goblin or Antonius Rex. The title refers to The Malleus Maleficarum (Latin for "The Hammer of Witches"), one of the best known medieval treatises on witches whose main purpose was to challenge all arguments against the existence of witchcraft and to instruct magistrates on how to identify, interrogate and convict witches. Although officially banned by the Catholic Church, it soon became a kind of handbook for witch-hunters and Inquisitors throughout Late Medieval Europe. So you can imagine charms and spells, wicked monks and exorcisms conjured up by the music... This track is completely instrumental but for the murmured narrative vocals in Latin provided by Guglialmo Mariotti and it goes through many changes in rhythm and atmosphere. Anyway I can find in this piece also a pinch of light irony that every now and again makes me think of Good Omens, a funny novel written by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman about the birth of the son of Satan and the coming of the End Times...

Next comes "Elektra (An Evening With...)", an eerie instrumental piece that, according to Alfio Costa, was inspired by the memory of a dear friend of the night who's not with us any longer. It features an exotic, disquieting atmosphere and alternates calm passages to sudden surges of electric rage. The title and the music could recall Elektra, a 2005 Canadian-American superhero film directed by Rob Bowman... It leads to the following "Lilith", a short, delicate track filled with a nice sense of ethereal romanticism. According to Alfio Costa, it's an hypnotic lullaby that was inspired by a carving on a tree...

"The Dance Of The Drastic Navels" is a long, complex suite that in some way summarizes, develops and concludes the story begun on Daal's debut album Disorganicorigami and its sequel on the following Destruktive Actions Affect Livings. It's the story of a man from the future bewitched by a strange, beautiful creature half-woman and half-robot. Eventually the unfortunate man becomes just a toy boy in the hands of the cybernetic witch but most of the narrative is up to your imagination that the music just tries to inspire and stir... On the conclusive track, "Inside You", Tirill Mohn's suggestive vocals in some way give shape to the witch, a dark angel in a dream that becomes nightmare, a magic dancer able to drive you insane and to damn your soul... "We'll never be the same / We'll never see this light / Your sun will fall in my dark sea / And my drastic navel will dance over your soul...".

Well, probably the beautiful art work by Davide Guidoni describes better than all my words the spirit of this excellent album. Anyway, have try and judge by yourselves: you can listen to the complete album on bandcamp!

Report this review (#1327159)
Posted Monday, December 22, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars If you ask a fond of prog (Italian but not only) to name the most important musicians of the genre in Italy, two of the names that you can certainly hear are Alfio Costa and David Guidoni. The Daal come from the province of Bergamo. They debuted in the prog music world as a duo in 2009 with "Disorganicorigami" appreciated by international critics.

The work follows "Destructive Actions affect livings" title which, among other things, provides a new interpretation to the meaning of the Moniker chosen by the duo.

Several prominent guests have accompanied Daal through the realisation of this record. They were Bobo Aiolfi on bass guitar, Ettore Salati on electric guitar and Tirill Mohn on vocals.

The Daal pick up where they left off with the previous album "Dodecahedron" with the personal style that borrows ideas from Pink Floyd, Emerson Lake and Palmer and Balletto di Bronzo; also from Echolyn and Magma and the mixture melts and blends up to make them distinguishable and original.

The introduction to the CD is given by "Malleus Maleficarum" ten minutes of heavy rock interspersed with intimate moments at the limit of experimental, characterized by perfect arrangements.

Then, comes "Elektra and evening with....", one of the most important pieces of the album. The track starts very sweet and then dives into the original and pleasantly inconstant style of Daal, with some really hypnotic steps.

"Lylyth" is once again a rarefied piece. Maybe the most "progressive" song which reports to the Crimsonian glories of the beginning.

The title track is the longest and articulated movement of the whole record, with regard to the deconstruction of the preconceived ideas of the song; while the first part forces the listener to pay attention to the continuous surprises, the second breaks into a mid-song leading to an electronic vortex which only Daal know how to correctly propose today.

The last five minutes offer recognizable harmonies and catchy closures: "Inside you" opens up with heart melting piano and the only addition of the voice of Tirill Mohn, so nostalgic and magical.

All in all, an impressive Album of varied styles. All with tremendous skill and taste confirming the Daal among the stars of first magnitude of the Progressive Universe.

Report this review (#1328926)
Posted Saturday, December 27, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars Dances of the Drastic Navels has a mixed style of industrial, progressive, space, and experimental that often reminded me of Pink Floyd, Fates Warning, King Crimson, and something of cosmic couriers. "The dance of the drastic navels" is a 23 minute gem that has all those elements, along with guest musicians on guitars, bass, and strings. Daal have a formula of moving fast through their music and in the beginning, it felt disassembled and somewhat unfocused. After more listens, I saw they intended a partially chaotic music, after all, the songs are written about the heavy topic of death, doomsday and sex with female robots!! Davide and Alfio play lots of different instruments and take advantage of the modern keyboard technology that will allow most anything to be done with an entire orchestra of instruments so realistic that it will fool anyone. The last song "Inside You" starring Tirill Mohn and his magical voice, is simply beautiful, using grand piano, Violin, haunting cymbals, gongs, keys: This song reminds me of something the White Willow (obviously) but also some reference the brand of Swedish Anekdoten ....What a nice song!!!! And a perfect ending to a somewhat frightening concept of things like Witches and dark rites, Daal present things in a very artistic way, as each song stands like a portrait. The music here does not terrify you, but it seems to just be sad that things are the way they are, and wonders how they got like this. I really liked this release and look forward to many more from Daal.
Report this review (#1332979)
Posted Thursday, January 1, 2015 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The curiously titled Dances Of The Drastic Navels is the fifth album from Italian duo Alfio Costa (Keyboards and Davide Guidono (drums and percussion). The title track is a continuation of two pieces that appeared on their first and second albums though I haven't heard them, my introduction to Daal being Dodecahedron, their excellent fourth album. The duo is joined by a number of guest musicians adding guitar, bass, violin and vocals.

Dances Of The Drastic Navels consists of five pieces, all largely instrumental with the exception of album closer Inside You. Daal are well placed in eclectic prog, their music being quite difficult to pin down as it draws from many styles including neo, symphonic, with samples adding an ambient and electronica feel in places, bringing Pink Floyd to mind ocasionally. Though Italian they share little ground with the bulk of bands in the RPI genre though elements of Goblin can be detected at times.

Highlight of the album is the twenty four minute The Dance Of The Drastic Navels. After an avant/ambient intro it gives way to some Dave Gilmouresque guitar leading us into a very dark section before voices lead a change into slightly more upbeat territory. Whilst good, the mid- section does outstay its welcome slightly becoming a little repetitive until a sequencer brings us out into electronica territory before some lush keyboard work leads us towards the end of this moody piece.

Biggest surprise of the album comes in the final track Inside You. Tirill Monh's breathy vocals perfectly suiting this lovely reflective piece which includes some haunting violin work.

Overall whilst Dances Of The Drastic Navels didn't hit the spot with me quite as much as the last album, the first half here not having quite the impact of the second half, Daal have nevertheless made another good album. If you haven't already, Daal are definitely worth checking out.

Report this review (#1339833)
Posted Sunday, January 4, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars At the beginning it seems was a temporary project and instead the Daal ​have accomplished the fifth album!!

The music created by Daal could be the perfect bound of the Poe and Lovecraft; also in this opportunity , different guests attend to in rich the various instruments from keyboards, percussion, bass, guitar, and wind instruments.

Is a pleasure to emphasize that the artwork is very much taking care by (Guidoni) by speaking about music contex. The opening "Malleus Maleficarum" shows a different work from the previous, because of the technological and modern sound which could be asphyxiated and that is the dark connotation.

"Elektra..." is a claustrophobic example of rock experiment to remember the pages of king Crimson and Pink Floyd.

The connection with classical music can be see in "Lylith" with the sounding keyboard. Costa dictate the dances with powerful impulses and epic counterbalanced from inserts more sedate but less guitar claims.

A "epic" piece that will not disfigure on Island of King Crimson.

We starting to have a picture of the situation with this sonority that shows at the same time Majestic, elegant, and decadent; that unify all the electrical/electronic with acustic sound of the classic instruments.

Lots of instruments emerge in the suite "The Dance of the Drastic Novel" to date their best piece. Closing the trilogy started on their debut album "Disorganicorigami".

Exotic melody and grandeloquest, sometimes threatening in many facets with the keyboard in a growing load of tension and evocative percussion experimental and avant garde. The duo Costa Guidoni, with the contribute of absolute value musicians the (Always beautiful Tirill Mohn voice guest in the final Inside you).

He gives us one more great work, which the progress succeeds without loosing the experimental features and the research found that was fundamentals of the first album, maintaining a considerable dark component and at the same time becoming even more symphonic.

The Polyhedral Daal have done a mature work and energetic in comparison with the pass one , but continues a good path more and more engaging and intelligent, with which it continues to look ahead.

Looking for sound solution non conventional that against lead to a music fairytale.

Report this review (#1341457)
Posted Wednesday, January 7, 2015 | Review Permalink
3 stars Would have loved to love u!

Daal's , 2014, ¨DOTDN¨, starts with the super proggy ¨Malleus Maleficarum¨, which main riff is the less inspired riff I´ve heard in DAAL´s records, but the middle synth parts are quiet good, so it holds on. I start to get the idea of an ultra polished work with somewhat unsubstantial and not that original electric guitar songwriting, as soon as track 2 ¨Elektra (an evening with...)¨ , and things slow down and they start to blend into something a bit more hypnotic , eventhough the intro reminded me completely of Fripp´s tone scale sustained solos, again the Prog-Rocker spirit appears now in form of a mild-Black Sabbath meets DAAL, which is kind of fun, but not ground breaking at any point, again the keyboard sections are the real thrill.

Track 3 ¨Lilith¨is a four minute romantic and epic piano song accompained by some nice synth work and a more subtle but useful electric guitar. More in tone with the DAAL I knew, but not as astounding nor experimental or a bit daring.

Long track 4 holds the record´s so-so name ¨Dances of the Drastic Navels¨ which starts in a more experimental way, also kind of un-humorous, but then suddenly a Sabbath meets Universe Zero like harmless riff takes possesion as main theme, and the synth work is relegated to supporting actor to a quiet unimaginative and not that original, guitar work. The middle section although very ¨Underworld¨ like (the dance-trance duo, not the movie), is by far the best part up to this point, due to its more experimental and daring nature. The song´s final part is less experimental, sound wise its sounds are novel but the songwriting does not hit home (at least not mine).

Wow! Seems like the prog-reviewer who rated this album 3 stars was not joking!

The album closes down with a piano love song (a la YELLO, but taken seriously, or so they suppose), with very pretty arrangements, which is not a compliment. A good Pop song, with very nice female vocals and a movie like strings environment.

My Gods! I am extremely dissapointed!

*** 3 (minus) PA stars.

Report this review (#1341892)
Posted Friday, January 9, 2015 | Review Permalink
3 stars Italian instrumental duo DAAL's preceding album Dodecahedron (2012) was inspired by twelve Gothic mini tales written especially for the project (if I remember right), and was pretty dark in atmosphere. Already by looking at the cover, one is not expecting lightness from this recent fourth release either. The poetic title is strange, probably not meant to make much sense in the first place. In the leaflet Alfio Costa tells how he started composing the music in an isolated, "slightly unnerving" cottage in October 2013.

There are only five tracks. The 10-minute opener 'Malleus Malecifarum' is a Crimsonesque, threatening slice of modern Eclectic Prog with some retro feel. Mostly it goes in a fast tempo but several slower sections build the dynamics effectively. I like the PINK FLOYD reminding part starring a wailing guitar and a delicious bass. 'Elektra' is in Costa's words "a thoughtful, electronic piece with a strong rock aspect, dedicated to a friend of the night who's not with us any longer". The electronic side is alluring while the sinister, heavy mourning of low-toned guitar repeating its pattern is to me mostly tiresome.

The shortest track 'Lilith' ("a hypnotic lullaby", well said) is quite beautiful and brings more emotion to the relatively *cold* album. The nearly 24-minute ambitious title composition is the undisputed central piece. Again there are lots of low guitars creating a sinister mood. The unpredictably progressive structure prevents the epic to become boring (well, perhaps it does that occasionally...), but to me it functions better as a background listening than as an object of full concentration. Interestingly, around the 14th minute there's a section that sounds like the Stratosfear-era TANGERINE DREAM.

The tender, though rather sad, final piece 'Inside You' features the vocals of Tirill Mohn (comparable to the likes of Stina Nordenstam and Julee Cruise). In my opinion the elegant song brings the very needed contrast to all the alienating coldness of this album, and it also features violin played by Letizia Riccardi. All in all, a strong album in the chosen (depressing) atmosphere, but personally I'm not getting very deep pleasure out of it. Hence my 3½ stars are rounded down.

Report this review (#1345021)
Posted Tuesday, January 13, 2015 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars The dynamic duo of Guidoni and Costa are back with their fifth studio album. In the liner notes Costa describes how this new record was inspired by the good things they had done on their first two studio albums, in particular they wanted to do a conclusion to the long "The Dance Of The Drastic Navels" that had begun on the debut album "Disorganicorigami" and continued on "Destruktive" with a "Volume 2". A friend of Costa's lent him his small holiday home in this beautiful, isolated place where the atmosphere was quiet by day and dark and silent by night. Over two days he wrote the five tracks that would consist of this new album along with ideas later from Guidoni. By the way i'm going to track down the debut as the PINK FLOYD references have me very interested.

"Malleus Maleficarum" is an uptempo rocker until it settles right down 2 minutes in. It starts to build before 4 minutes as the guitar solos over top. Another calm after 4 1/2 minutes but this one is darker and quieter than the earlier one. it kicks back in just before 8 minutes as we're rocking again. it turns haunting just before it ends. "Elektra(An Evening with)" has to be about Carmen right?(no it's not). Percussion and atmosphere as the guitar solos tastefully over top. Some heavier moments start to arrive around 2 1/2 minutes and they will start to dominate the soundscape as the guitar gets more aggressive. A beautiful calm takes over before 5 minutes then it starts to build after 6 minutes. This is so good as it continues to the end. "Lilith" has this dark and eerie start with sparse piano lines. That haunting atmosphere disappears as we get this trippy and relaxing soundscape that takes over.

"The Dance Of The Drastic Navels" is dark and it sounds like someone walking as distant vocal melodies can be heard. A change after 2 minutes as we get a soundscape fitting of a horror movie. The piano plays over top then this heavy almost SABBATH-like guitar comes in. Great sound here. It all stops 7 minutes in and you can hear people talking in the distance. It kicks back in before 8 minutes then piano arrives after 10 1/2 minutes. It turns Electronic ala TANGERINE DREAM after 12 1/2 minutes. This stops after 16 minutes as it turns atmospheric with guitar playing in a relaxed manner over top. Some heaviness after 17 1/2 minutes as a strong rhythm kicks in. A calm with piano only after 19 minutes then it builds back to that heavier sound. Piano and atmosphere come in late to end it. "Inside You" features guest violin and female vocals. She really reminds me of the lady from PAATOS in fact the whole song does. Piano and violin to start along with some really good bass playing throughout. A cool way to end the album.

Another excellent album from these two Italians who have carved out for themselves a unique niche when it comes to Progressive music. Highly recommended.

Report this review (#1353044)
Posted Sunday, January 25, 2015 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Alfio Costa's brainchild from 2014 has fallen short of the previous release with which I am familiar, 2012's Dodecahedron. From first listen to this my twenty-somethingth I have felt the same: that something is lacking, something causes this mix of very different songs to fall short. To be sure, Dodecahedron left me with very high expectations. Maybe this is the whole problem, but I think not. I think it's more. Some intangible zing or emotion or excitability is missing. It is competent but flat, professional but lacking freshness or innovation.

1. "Malleus Malleficarum" (10:17) is a driving, trip-hoppy instrumental that sounds like it could have been taken straight off of the Dodecahedron album. Tension and drama are all-pervasive, setting up for psychological "fight scenes" in the fifth minute as played out by electric lead guitar, spacey synth incidentals and percussion. The music slowly rebuilds as a slide guitar solo plays before piano arpeggios enter and try to soothe us. Then, at 7:48, the original hard-driving section bursts back onto the scene to play out almost till the eerie spacey end. Unfortunately there is nothing in this song that catches hold of me and makes me want to come back. (7/10)

2. "Elektra (an evening with?)" (7:42) opens with some Frippertronics playing over a succession of several sustained low synth chords. At 1:30 another synth enters and ten seconds later a programmed world drum sequence. Then at 2:33 the listener is jarred awake by two strokes of a guitar/bass power chord. A new sequence of power chords is established with synths and drums in support to set up a bluesy Gilmour-esque guitar solo. By the five minute mark this has stopped and some spacey synth sounds wash over the otherwise empty soundscape. In the seventh minute the Frippertronics have returned along with bass, drums and piano. Awesome section! Continues to the ending piano notes. (8/10)

3. "Lilith" (4:15) is a decent cinematic ambient Math Rock kind of song. Built from a base of piano and acoustic guitar arpeggios, tuned and untuned percussives and bass, synth, and electric guitar chords are added, little by little, with the usual climb toward peak and climax, then again in a different and less dynamic way. Well done, if nothing particularly extraordinary. (8/10)

4. "The Dance of the Drastic Navels" (23:50) is an epic suite that lacks anything new or extraordinary. It kind of plods along and puts forward several synth sounds and computer programmed "instruments" that, to these ears, sound awkward and even cheesy or cheap. (I know from all of the keyboards my brother has collected over the years that not every keyboard nor is every computer sound created equally.) The most interesting part of the song is the 'psychological breakdown' of the piano player near the very end! (7/10)

5. "Inside You" (5:20) is the highlight of the album due to the extraordinary vocal contribution of Prog Folk singer Tirill Mohn. Unfortunately this song is constructed with very, very basic elements: first verse with slow piano chords for accompaniment, second with the 'gentle crash' arrival of cello, fretless bass, drums and acoustic guitar. The "C" section's cello solo is gorgeous but none so gorgeous as any whisper, "Ahh" or word from the angelic Tirlll. The song tries to end strong but? It is a beautiful and memorable song but not anything that will keep one coming back in order to unravel its hidden secrets. (9/10)

After 2012's solid Dodecahedron I had high expectations for their next release but this, unfortunately, feels like DAAL by the numbers; it's missing passion and fire.

3.5 star effort rated down.

Report this review (#1358162)
Posted Friday, January 30, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars I confess I was surprised by Daal because the album had been introduced as generically progressive but from the first notes of the Malleus Maleficarum, it is clear that this record must be understood in a broad sense. The final result of the efforts is a product a with very deep contamination: primarily electronic and ambient, creating a very special cd. We could loosely describe it as a combination of all Tool with Tangerine Dream, grafted on a basis that is undoubtedly progressive but is disrupted, changed, hidden even by Industrial insertions that make it potentially attractive both for standing progsters and for audiences that pass with ease from the Pink Floyd to Balletto di Bronzo. The main feature of Dances of the Drastic Navels is that it is liquid, suspended, always laying somewhere between dream and reality through the judicious use of electronic effects and those percussive elements (cleverly inserted inside a musical texture); the mesh always seems very wide but actually built to drive through a difficult to be followed path that carries within oneself; it's the theme of Elektra, introduced by a dark landscape which then gives way to a dark piece, between the tribal and the disturbing, that I find very successful. In The Dance of the Drastic Navels we find a piece from the strong electroprog, unsettling and disturbing, a suite that starts in an almost relaxed way and then accelerates and evolves into something even vaguely black and not some relaxing, worthy of attention. Inside You closes the work offering a tribute atmospheres ranging from poignant passages most typically prog; the yield fabulous voice Tirill Mohn (former White Willow) Dances of the Drastic Navels is hard-to-swim; we must move ourselves setting our minds free to give personal interpretation within the sound and emotional sensations that the musical constructions of Daal are able to offer. Hard to be approached but without expecting something rigidly framed in a scheme and within a specific genre. and nowadays this is probably a quality itself.

Report this review (#1361794)
Posted Wednesday, February 4, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars Some of the important names Italian Progressive Rock is now basing on are artists that with perseverance and hard work have aquired a style recognizable to "our" kind of vanguard. Alfio Costa: we find him on keyboards in many projects like Prowlers , Tilion , Colossus Project , in collaborations with Malaavia , Ars Nova , The Samurai Of Prog just to name a few , and with David Guidoni on percussion (great drummer and art graphic, as well) created this lucky project called Daal . " Dances Of The Drastic Navels " is the fifth embodiment of the studio after the success of " Dodecahedron " released in 2012. The album consists of five tracks and is published in a cardboard box as always curated by Davide Guidoni . The recorded sounds are contaminated with halos of darkness, to create an always intriguing and surprising atmosphere. On the record, they work with support of friends like Ettore Salati guitars , known within the Prog environment as active in many projects in this regard ( The Watch , Alex Carpani , Archangel , The RedZen , SoulenginE etc. etc. ) , Bobo Aiolfi on bass guitar also with the Prowlers , Letizia Riccardi on violin , Tirill MONH voice in " Inside Out " and Guglielmo Mariotti ( voice ) . The title of the first track " Malleus Maleficarum " is already a prediction of what the listener is going to find out. The music is composed by Costa with a big support of Guidoni for what is about the intro and the sounds that remind to a heavy style of Goblin or Antonius Rex . Remarkable the central part of the song , when the atmosphere subside for a Psychedelia with stretches of Pink Floyd reminiscence. " Elektra ( An Evening With ... ) " is a variant of electronic and instrumental , enhanced by the percussion of Guidoni . The track, anyway firmly rock-styled, is dedicated to a friend of theirs who died on a tragic night . " Lilith " is a sort of lullaby inspired by a drawing found carved on a tree by Alfio . Hypnotic and haunting , bases much emphasis on the notes draining from Costa's piano. A composition as exciting and profound as few can conceive. With the title track "The Dance Of The Drastic Navels" we find the classic Daal sounds, those that were able to hit the listener's attention gradually since 2009. The few lyrics in the work are still the continuation of the topic of the first album; they tell the story of a man of the future who falls in love with a witch half-woman and half-robot, able to turn that man into a personal toy of hers. The track spreads Nordic atmospheres, very close to the Swedish Prog and some King Crimson's; these given by the darkness of the passages, especially characterized by the sound of mellotron. By the mddle of the track, electronic sounds take over, as usual, a Daal's trump card. The album closes with "Inside You", originally composed to be the conclusion of the just heard suite but, instead, left to live of own life. The song (because that's just what it is) is sung by the beautiful voice of Norwegian Tirill Mohn and is enhanced by the "nostalgic" violin played by Letizia Riccardi. The piece alone is worth the price of the CD, as is often said in these cases, seal worthy of the job. The Daal do what they feel like doing, not paying attention to styles or trends, changing though always being themselves! "Dances Of The Drastic Navels" is a journey to be undertaken with no inhibitions, no fear, just setting the spirit free to find out, in the darkness hidden among the sun rays, what seems to be a new road... Daal, now a name and a guarantee.
Report this review (#1365616)
Posted Tuesday, February 10, 2015 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars After the fruitful years of 2012 when DAAL released not only a full album but also an EP they took a couple years to hone the latest chapter of their musical world into DANCES OF THE DRASTIC NAVELS. The past several years has seen the duo of DA-vide Guidoni and AL-fio Costa (with guest musicians) make some waves in the progressive music universe and on this 2014 release they continue their propensity to follow in the wake of space rock giants Pink Floyd mixed with healthy doses of Klaus Schulze type progressive electronica.

While most DAAL albums take their sweet time to usher in the more energetic phases of a track, the opener "Malleus Maleficarum" has none of that predictability. We get some energetic rock kickin' the album off from the start with keyboards adding the mood building touch that eventually slows down to include a spooky theremin sound settling in a dark and chilling mood. The music continues its ebb and flow of spacey mellow passages and rockin' outbursts with piano accompanied by a guitar solo but about the 4:40 mark changes back into a spacey progressive electronic segment reminding once again of "Dark Side Of The Moon." This pattern continues building segments and climaxing and then abruptly transitioning into something new. DAAL have become very good at this Frankenstein approach of sonic seamstressy and keeps it all feeling very natural.

The second track "Elektra" takes the opposite approach and begins with a more expected slow spacey build up eventually being accompanied by some energetic tribal drumming and slow synth run offering contrast. It turns into a fun bounciness in proggy time signatures that lasts for over seven minutes but offers up enough variety to keep the whole thing interesting.

Another propensity DAAL has mastered is the melodramatic piano riffs as heard on the third track "Lilith" that wouldn't sound out of place as a TV soap opera theme bringing the US soap "The Young And The Restless" to mind. Some may find this a bit cheesy but i find the sweet and syrupy riff actually works well once all the counterpoints are added to expand its melodic possibilities into different directions. The slow addition of layers of instruments brings a veritable post rock feel to many of the tracks on DANCES OF THE NAVELS with "Lilith" being at the shortest track that lasts just long enough before becoming stale.

The longest and most varied behemoth on this album is the title track and begins with a steam train kinda chugga chugga rhythm overlaid with an unrelated vocal track and spacey synth line. Kinda has a Faust feel as it brings a collage type effect into play. All the disjointed and unrelated parts exude a strange tension that makes one ponder what's ready to unleash at any moment. Finally we get "Dark Side" Floydian bass accompanied by some tinkling piano and then adds some serious rock guitar. At 23:50 the track takes plenty of time to develop a plethora of passages that tend to alternate more the subdued mellowness to establish and re- establish the hooks while the harder sounds tend to allow the music to drift more into chaos before being jolted back to the main melodramatic piano again. Once again the post rock formula is well exhibited with building tensions constantly exploiting new layers of sounds like a violin segment that really brings acts like Godspeed! You Black Emperor To Mind."

Unfortunately i find DAAL's albums to be excellent but there always seems to be a song that rubs me the wrong way. In this case it's the finale "Inside You" which seems a little too tame to be in the company of such progressive beasts. Not that it's a bad song or anything but it just isn't a great one either and although i can understand the intent for it to be a sanity check after such frenetic instrumental prowess, i just find it is lackluster and skippable.

There is a feeling at this point that DAAL may be rehashing their sounds a bit and that they might be in danger of becoming stagnate as there really isn't a lot to distinguish this album from the others but the arrangements are interesting and DAAL has really tapped into some fusion possibilities that haven't been developed to this extent. Except for the last track i find this music to be captivating and thoroughly intriguing. I do hope they find a way to up the ante on future releases but at this stage i don't feel they've thoroughly exhausted the compositional possibilities of the style they have created. An excellent album filled with DAAL-lisciousness but falls a bit short from being a masterpiece.

Report this review (#1390805)
Posted Monday, March 30, 2015 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Italian project DAAL was formed in 2008 by Davide Guidoni (drums) and Alfio Costa (keyboards), with the latter the main creative force of this venture. In addition to contributing to various project albums they have also been actively recording and releasing studio albums ever since their debut album "Disorganicorigami" appeared in 2009, with five full-length studio recordings to their name so far. "Dances of the Drastic Navels", the most recent of these, was released by the Italian label Agla Records at the end of 2014.

"Dances of the Drastic Navels" is an album that has its foundation in a hard to define variety of progressive rock, featuring plenty of careful electronic flavoring and occasional visits into a more purebred variety of electronic progressive music, an eclectic blend of styles and approaches, where the main recurring element is that the music tends to stay on the dark side of things as far as moods and atmospheres are concerned. I'd suggest that those who find Trey Gunn's various excursions to be of general interest might want to have a go at this one as well, and otherwise, those who enjoy King Crimson just as much as Tangerine Dream might perhaps also be a crowd that will find this production intriguing.

Report this review (#1594443)
Posted Wednesday, August 3, 2016 | Review Permalink

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