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Nichelodeon - UKIYOE - Mondi Fluttuanti (with Insonar) CD (album) cover




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Mellotron Storm
4 stars Claudio jokingly mentioned to me that he's the Antichrist of Italian Prog because he does things so differently from the norm. No solos, no fairies, in fact the sounds, harmonies and structures associated with Prog are all thrown out the window here. We get over 30 people participating on this release playing a huge variety of instruments, some of which i've never even heard of before. This is a 46 minute album that will challenge you on many levels. I keep hearing new things everytime I spin it, and man this sounds amazing with headphones on. In the liner notes the musicians are listed under heading like "Strings", "Winds", "Voices", "Electricity", "Multi-Instrumentalists", "Pecussion" and more. Two dvds came with this cd and once again the packaging is gorgeous. Oh, and INSONAR is back joining Claudio and his band once again.

"Veleno" features Claudio on vocals as mechanical sounds support. Female soprano vocals will come and go. A change before 3 1/2 minutes as it turns darker and more atmospheric. Eerie is the word. Violin, cello, harmonium, upright bass, clarinet, electronics and more provide the backdrop to the vocals. "Fi(j)ura D'acqua" opens with piano an electronic beat and effects all sounding incredible as the vocals join in. Accordion follows then the vocals start to dominate. A change 1 1/2 minutes in as a bass horn, vibes and what sound like kettle drums come and go. The vocals are back 3 1/2 minutes in with some strange background noises. "Marinaio" features these unusual sounds and a beat that build. Seagulls can be heard then the vocals arrive as the intensity builds. So good until it settles back after 2 minutes as strings and vocals lead the way. Strings only 4 minutes in then the seagulls return followed by vocals and piano. Piano, percussion and strings create suspense 5 1/2 minutes in. It's haunting with intricate sounds before the song winds down late.

"Ohi Ma(Nel Mare Che Hai Dentro)" has these determined vocals with lots of intricate sounds and insanity. Avant vocals and more lead the way in this crazy but short piece. ""I Pesci Dei Tuoi Fiumi" is led by percussion and atmosphere as vocal expressions come and go. Man Claudio can reach those high notes and sustain them. A calm 1 1/2 minutes in then vocals, horns and more arrive. The vocals are bizarre to say the least. "MA(r)LE" is the over 19 minute closer but it is divided into three parts beginning with "Tsunami!" where we get relaxed sounds before the vocals and percussion take over. It picks up after 2 minutes then becomes very strange(haha). The next section is called "Into The Waves" and is led by accordion early on as the vocals join in around 2 1/2 minutes in. This is all very "out there" but i'm digging it. The final section is called "Mud" and it's dark with guitar sounds, strings and more that create an unsettling mood. This one has to be heard to be believed.

As much as this is an audio cd I have to say that it creates so many pictures in my mind when I play this, especially the fact that it has a nautical theme to it. This might be even better than their debut called "Il Gioco Del Silenzio" and probably closer to 4.5 stars. Music for the adventerous right here. I'm so impressed. I wanted to mention some of the albums that Claudio lists in the liner notes as influencial to this recording, I won't list them all, but here are some. "L'Apparenza by LUCIO BATTISTI, "In Camera/Consequences/Thin Air" by Peter Hammill, "Rock Bottom/The End Of An Ear/Cuckooland" by Robert Wyatt, "The Seer" by SWANS, "In Praise Of Learning/Concerts" by HENRY COW, "Hail To The Thief/Kid A" by RADIOHEAD, "Assurdo" by GARDEN WALL, "Hunger's Teeth" by 5UU'S, "Metropolis" by ART ZOYD, "Lateralus" by TOOL and many others. This is avant-garde music at it's best.

Report this review (#1331960)
Posted Wednesday, December 31, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars This new album by Nichelodeon - Claudio Milano - is quite a treat to the senses. It seems to just flow over you with waves of unique, personal, emotions. Claudio, through the mechanism of "Nichelodeon" has always brought us adventurous RIO / Avant-Prog / music, but this is quite a change. All of the previous works were, of course, wonderful, but this is a true "vision" and done in a very manageable listening time.

The loose English translation of the title (UKIYOE - MONDI FLUTTUANTI) of this work mentions "Floating Worlds," and that is what you get with this work of art. It's still in the unique Nichelodeon style; mixing dreamy / RIO / Avant-Prog music together, but this album paints a wonderful picture of both beauty and violence. The album opens with the more dreamy side of the creation, and slowly, although not heading in a straight line, winds into the finality of dark, vocal magnificence. The instrumentation, although vast in quantity, is so smoothly woven in that it becomes the tapestry that Nichelodeon has always been looking for, and now found. The mixture of real and syntetic instrumentation is seamless, and becomes more than just a backdrop for Claudio Milano's incredible, emotional voice, as it is a mature, boundless vehicle that takes the listener into images of the aural picture that Claudio meticulously paints.

I loved this the on the first listening, and by the third time around, over the course of a week or two, have had that "can't get enough" feeling with every experience. This last listen was; myself, sitting in a recliner, middle of the night, lights off, headphones on, and just "letting it take me" to where this quality of music can travel. Sometimes scary, sometimes dreamy, immersing you into Claudio Milano's "Nichelodeon" world of art.

Brave Claudio, Bravo!

Report this review (#1332429)
Posted Thursday, January 1, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars Claudio Milano has long brought his unique and impressive vocal talents to bear with two different bands, Nichelodeon and InSonar. In 2013 he took the radical new step of not just having both bands do double albums, but then packing them both together in a boxset. What we should have realised then was that he was about to have his two projects come together for a single album with a whole new vision for his music. "UKIYOE" is that album, a short but dynamite record that brings the two together for a strange, nautically minded collection of ever great tracks. As usual he nails his singing; here, he is reminiscent of Scott Walker on "Bish Bosch", but in Milano's case there is a concrete set of lyrics he wishes to share. As for the music, his bands pull out some great avant- prog, at once familiar yet wonderfully unique, and goes from there into even more different territory. On "Fi(J)uru D'Acqua", for instance, the initial beat sounds reminiscent of a dour electronic beat. And the strings, when they appear, really stick out. The sound runs from eldritch to beautiful, and Milano and his bands all do each perfectly. This is just plain an excellent and one of a kind avant-prog album. Highly recommended.
Report this review (#1340129)
Posted Sunday, January 4, 2015 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The newest release from Italian composer/vocalist/artist Claudio Milano, here under the name of both Nichelodeon and InSonar. The latter project released a great album in 2013 which prog fans should check out. This time we have a new album coupled with a film on DVD. It was a great idea for a musician and director to put their works together and release them that way; this should be done more often. The short "Quickworks & Deadworks" by Francesco Paolo Paladino is an avant-garde film following two shipwrecked couples. Only some of the music on the album is featured. A bonus video (which can be watched on YouTube) was made for a track that was left off the album, "Tutti i Liquidi di Davide." A humourous but also sad tale about the love between a man and his balloon (no, seriously).

If you are unfamiliar with Mr. Milano or his work you should expect some very versatile singing in either 5 or 7 octaves (can't remember exactly). Everything from dramatic talking to screams to operatic singing to whatever else could be done with the human voice. Here his voice is sometimes electronically altered. The music itself is generally avant chamber prog, not a lot of 'rock' per se but the Italian vocals do sometimes remind one of some RPI. Piano, accordion and wind instruments are mixed in with electronics and percussion (both electronic and not). There is a list in the booklet (which contains some of Claudio's paintings) of albums that inspired this album. Some of the albums may be familiar to people who visit PA, like Radiohead's Kid A, Swans' The Seer, Art Zoyd's Metropolis, Robert Wyatt's Rock Bottom, Tool's Lateralus and Henry Cow's In Praise Of Learning (amongst others).

"Fi(J)uru D'Acqua" opens with electronic percussion and piano before moving on to accordion and glockenspiel, all while overdubbed Claudios do their thing. In the middle is some atmospheric and symphonic synth backing while wind instruments and tympani play over top. "Marinaio" has seagull sounds and pounding programmed percussion fading in. A violin mimics a seagull. Eventually piano, overdubbed Claudios and some 'real' drums show up. At one point a nice melody is sung and then doubled on violin. Seagull sounds return in the middle along with some of Claudio's trademark 'little girl screaming' vocals. Gets dissonant and difficult for awhile before ending with icy synth effects.

"I Pesci Dei Tuoi Fiumi" starts with some Art Zoyd-like programmed beats and percussion effects. Then come the Claudios to both impress us and freak us out. Just one Claudio and a saxophone at one point. bell-like synth sounds as Claudio holds some long notes. The last track "Ma(r)LE" is listed as one but is three tracks on the CD. It is the most dissonant and avant-garde piece on the album. Overall yet another great release from Milano. I will give this a 3.5 but round it up to 4 stars.

Report this review (#1344432)
Posted Sunday, January 11, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars A tapestry of chaos!

...(or an "Opera for the 21st. century schizoid human being".)

NICHELODEON UKIYOE: "Mondi Fluttuanti" (with Insonar)-2014, featuring mainly Claudio Milano & Paolo Siconolfi, accompanied by a bunch full of willing, top of their trades musicians, ready to play into this structured, entirely uncompromising, highly chaotic musical work.

A strong emphasis is made in its exploration of the human voice in all its possible extensions as music or noise. Meaning that if you are aquainted with the Avant Garde or RiO ways of gutural expressions, well, you are half way in. Comes to mind in this regard: Zamlas mockery, as Zappas "manic" laughters or Magmas choir progressions.

But it does not stop there, the real deal, talking about the human voice solely, is the overwhelming sensation of irreverent human madness, shamelessly displayed, yet like it or not, human to the bone!

And of course the before mentioned "Interactive Orchestra" is not just there to watch their impetuous front man explode into delirium just for kicks! Massive, fearless, structured yet willing to bend any rule, if by chance they encounter a good musical idea, no matter how small. They will stop and smell the flowers that come along the way. As a result, this work is full of astounding, highly visual, frantic yet comprehensible but never giving a damn to satisfy no one, completely instrumental musical passages, which balance equally, this 45 minutes long, apparently unconnected into 6 songs, "one mans opera".

Therefore, as it usually happens with groundbreaking works in these AV/RiO sub-genres, your full participation is required. No cheap frills, no catchy riffs, no bargains, nor "preachers" to enlighten your way. In fact, just exactly the opposite!

****4.5 PA stars.

Report this review (#1347810)
Posted Sunday, January 18, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars I was asked to review 'UKIYOE' by Claudio Milano a while ago, and I'm both grateful to have had the opportunity and sorry not to have listened to this album or band sooner, because this is a very accomplished and detailed album.

This is my first foray into the music of Nicholodeon, though I had heard of the band and of Claudio's vocal prowess before- and from the beginning of the very first track, the uninitiated will find that his voice is the focal point. He describes himself as, among other things, a "researcher in the fields of human voice possibilities", and the vocals on the album indeed aren't just putting a voice to the music, but are rather an open-minded exploration of seven octaves of range, of different timbres, articulations, and expression. There is both great beauty and pure singing talent to be found here, but that's not all; there are wails and shouts, abrasive sprechstimme and guttural drones, hurried gestures and sharp breaths, and stranger things I'm not sure I have words to describe. These 'explorations' may be a bit more than some listeners can stomach- but those listeners would miss out on Claudio's straight singing voice, which is fantastically clear and pure of tone, especially in the falsetto, is evidently classically-trained (it would be hard to maintain and manage such a range without training!) and is a joy.

With all this talk of vocal exploration and experimentation, a reader might be worried that this is a single-focus album, leaving the compositions & instrumental backing by the wayside, but luckily that isn't the case here. After a few more listens, and possibly after getting used to a few of the stranger vocal moments, the music itself comes to the fore as being wholly brilliant in itself, and the vocals are revealed to be not self-indulgent, but rather a part of the whole. The music here feels coherent, yet is very diverse and changes tack on a dime (occasionally a little too much so). There is a lot of strongly melodic and beautiful (albeit dark) material here for a an avant album, especially on 'Veleno'- there are a number of melodies throughout the album that feel like lullabies, madrigals, folk or gondolier songs, and so on. On the other end is the avant-garde material, exemplified by the final track, the lengthy freeform maneuverings of 'Ma(r)le'- which possibly could have been scaled back a bit, as it does stretch on at times. The instrumentation has a largely chamber music feel, with a strong emphasis on strings and winds. There is also considerable use of electronic effects, beats and industrial noise (such as on 'Fi(j)uru d'Acqua', which also happens to feature an extremely cool ostinato section with bass clarinet), frequently tormented solo violin lines that are heavy on scratchy sul pontincello and other non-traditional techniques, clever saxophone counterpoint, plenty of accordion and keyboard, and even the sound of seagulls on 'Maranaio' (tying into a overarching nautical theme).

But it is, in the end, the listener's reaction to the unusual aspects of the vocal experimentation that will make or break this album for them. This is an extremely enjoyable album, and the diversity and great attention to detail in composition and arrangement makes it all the more impressive.

Report this review (#1364346)
Posted Sunday, February 8, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars Dear reader: Imagine a puzzle that is consisted of thousands of tiny pieces that form a wonderful, colorful but somehow abstract and blurred picture, one that you are not so sure about what it shows. Now, try to imagine that this picture is moving, that there is motion in this puzzle and that every time you're looking at it, it seems different, as if dimensions, angles and colours dance in a mysterious movement. Finally, transfer this impression from the realm of sight to the realm of hearing, transform vision into sound and you'll start to have an idea what ''UKIYOE'' is about. Reviewing such an artistic construction is really challenging and we have to clarify the basics first.

This release comes in a beautiful digipack and contains one cd and one dvd. The first disc is Nichelodeon/InSonar's ''UKIYOE'' (Mondi Fluttuanti) - meaning Flowing World - and the dvd features Francesco Paolo Paladino's short film '' Quickworks & Deadworks''. We'll say some things about the film later, for now let me just say that, though the two projects can be enjoyed separately, it's their unification that provides a full aspect of how grandiose this work truly is.

Nichelodeon and InSonar are two different collectives led by the mastermind vocalist/composer/lyricist/painter/visionary Claudio Milano. These collectives join forces for this concept and Milano, along with the sound engineer Paolo Siconolfi and Paladino, is the unquestionable maestro of this effort. Claudio's unbelievable 7 octave-ranged voice may outshine everything else but don't underestimate the other two guys ' part. Paladino provided the primary idea for ''UKIYOE'' and Paolo's outstanding work holds everything together. If Claudio's voice is planet earth then Paolo's soundscapes are its axis. This duo coordinates a tremendous 30 people personnel, producing any sound, instrument or mood you can imagine, in only 45 ecstatic minutes. It seems that the cream of Italian - and not only - avant scene is gathered here. Representatives of other collectives (OTEME, Deadburger Factory, Alessandro Seravalle of Genoma and of the mighty Garden Wall, to name a few), composers, classical and jazz musicians, experimentalists, etc. One might be concerned that such an ambitious gathering would create a chaotic result but fear not: every sound and performance, no matter how epic or tiny, serves a specific role in forming the big picture I described earlier. Everyone is in balance before the great artistic aspiration of creating a magnus opus.

The thematical core of the concept is water - literally and metaphorically, as I perceive it. The state of flowing, in mind-body-spirit, as Plato would say, the realization of life and of the world as a constantly moving organism that one cannot grasp, imprison or entirely comprehend, a mystical entity of its own. The music delivers the same ''liquidness'', it always slips your fingers the exact moment you think you caught it. Don't expect genre analysis here, it is pointless. If I said to you that there are classical, jazz, RIO, electronic and whatever else elements, this would be a hubris to art itself. This is avant garde music at its best, art beyond space and time and as every great avant album, it cannot be fit into words but can only be experienced. The depth of the experience depends on the listener: if you surrender to it, you will be wholeheartedly rewarded.

Before proceeding to the album tracks, a very important fact in ''UKIYOE'' must be explained. All music is built in an interactive manner. This means that during the production, each channel of sound has been treated in an aperformative way - in Claudio's words - raised and lowered spontaneously, so that the right conceptual mood is expressed, making studio console the final and definitive creative tool. This produces asymmetrical sounds and catalysis of form but, thanks to the excellent production and sound design, no sound ''hole'' or ''peak'' is ever being realized. Instruments come and go unexpectedly, in unpredictable colors and rhythms, like an anarchic tide. Still, the higher law of nature rules all tides, as art rules this album's unconventional form, sounds and structures. A deeper harmony can be sensed. The final factor of interaction comes from the listener: Having to focus on so many different sources and aesthetics means that every listening differs from the other. The listener has the power to shape '' UKIYOE'' by will, depending on his/her receiving point of view. So, it's time to dive in this musical ocean!

Track 1: Veleno (Venom, thankfully in the booklet all titles and lyrics are translated in English), 6'35''. Lyrics by Milano. This Milano/Siconolfi composition is the perfect introduction as it is relatively easy to approach. It is the most classical song of the album and is based on Claudio's operatic vocals -supported by soprano Laura Catrani. His performance is almost frenzy as he goes up and down in notes and modes for 6 minutes, building amazing harmonies and demonstrating the melodic strength of his voice. Strings support this atmosphere whereas the clarinet is also a bit jazzy. In the middle, an almost drone part steps in (obviously Seravalle is the man responsible), strings grow tension and walls of sounds and effects lay discretely at the back. It's probably my idea but I sense an irony in Claudio's performance in the major parts, especially if the surrealism and deep agony of the lyrics are taken into account. In the second part, Luca Pissavini's upright bass is simply genius. ''Veleno'' is astonishing, mild as a summer breeze but with many treasures if you dig in.

Track 2: ''Fi(j)uru d' Acqua'' (Flower/Son of Water), 4'52'', based on a Rilke's poem. (If you haven't read Rilke's poetry, well, you should visit the nearest library right now). This is probably the album's most ''prog'' moment, mainly because of the complex time signatures and the brilliant arrangement of many different sounds and grooves. Great performing and orchestrating work by OTEME's Stefano Giannoti here. In the beginning, the song is structured upon the piano and electronics of the composer Josed Chirudli (the electronic rock of Puscifer came to my mind) before it is all smashed into pieces. The percussion parts are truly majestic, Claudio's lines are quite abstract and the harmonium (which is the basic instrument throughout the whole record) creates a certain color of melancholy, all forming a ''Mediterranean Rock In Opposition'' indeed. This flower blooms in both poetic and schizophrenic ways!

Track 3: ''Marinaio'' (Sailor), 9'06'', lyrics by Paladino. Vittorio Nistri and Erica Scherl join the rest of the composing crew; this is mainly a string composition after all. The apparent goal is to represent a ship voyage, a rather adventurous one I might add. And what an epic voyage this is! There are many violin experimentations, Milano gives his polyphonic show for almost three minutes before he disappears, leaving open space for the creation of incredible instrument noises. Piano, strings, bass, electronics, seagulls, everything works together in order to transcend the boundaries of music. As the ship heads slowly in a straight course, so music evolves in a linear way, with the progressive building of an enigmatic, haunted feeling. In the end, everything fades slowly, like no one is left alive in a ghost-ship that still moves towards the shadows of the most distant horizon. Paladino's lyrics are simple but magnificent, it seems that heavy symbolisms lurk beneath words - something dark and subconscious.

Track 4: '' Oi Ma-Nel Mare che hai Dentro'' (Oh Mother!-Inside the sea you hold), 2'00'', lyrics by Milano. Now, if you think that 2 minutes isn't enough time for a masterpiece to be composed, you are clearly mistaken. This distorted-jazz pandemonium is beyond belief! Camillo Pace is almost my new hero after his composing and upright bass contribution to this track but let him not take all the credits: amazing vocal contribution by Dalila Kayros, Stefano Luigi Mangia and Luca Milano surround Claudio's jaw-dropping, breathless performance (do you see a strong resemblance with Mike Patton's experimental works?), ''normal'' drums and percussion by Andrea Quattrini (making it sound even more intense and vivid), and an orgy of tenor and soprano sax, leading things to a Lynch's ''Lost Highway'' kind of finale. The song also features the only chorus of the album and it has been stuck in my head for a week now...! Great, surreal lyrics, hard to be decoded but with glorious moments: '' I have good teeth but they are not clever enough to bite life''. Wow.

Track 5: '' I Pesci dei tuoi Fiumi'' (The Fish of your Rivers), 4'02'', lyrics from the Holy Bible, adjusted by Paladino. This is a very free and quite dark composition by Milano and Nistri. Claudio reaches his expressive peak with really weird and experimental sounds, in a track that at first unfolds like an industrial nightmare but it eventually transforms somehow into a religious, hymn-like tune (or actually its exact opposite). Of course the biblical theme pushes things into that direction but the saxophones, playing simple notes in Phrygian mode in the middle of the track, provide equivalent awe! Nistri' s noises lead the arrangements and Quattrini' s percussion once again offers a different, organic pulse. Hidden religion references lie throughout the album and this track establishes a solid connection between Nichelodeon/InSonar and the divine world. A song of pure mysticism, in sound and spirit.

Track 6: ''Ma(r)le'' (Sea/Evil), 19'18'', lyrics by Paladino. Actually, this is a 3 part composition. Part 1 is called ''Tsunami'' and it lasts 3 minutes. Stefano Ferrian's sax kicks off this epic trilogy, before percussion and vocals take over, though it is Marco Tuppo's electronics that ultimately steal the show. The 9 minutes long Part 2 ('' Into the waves'') is basically an improvisational dialogue between Claudio's vocal acrobatics and Fabio Zurlo's magnificent accordion. Violin and distorted upright bass also contribute to the creation of a very colorful track, with intensive shades of cinematic nature. Belgian artist Erna Franssens (aka KasjaNoova) provides pre-vocalic/shamanic sounds and makes an instant impression! Finally, part 3 (''Mud'') is truly a twisted guitar concerto, expressed through Seravalle & Eugenio Sanna's experimentations. Don't expect riffs but noises and drones coming out of an instrument we all believe we know well. Strange and dark guitar soundscapes are constructed while Scherl's violin increases the feeling of suffocation. Probably the album's most experimental track. The end of the voyage!

Milano states that this record is the voyage of a ship on top of a maelstrom. Personally, it felt more like an odyssey within waters. One begins from a cool mountain spring, becomes river and waterfall, meets the vastness of the ocean, dissolving into the depths or swimming close to the sunny surface, turning into waves and finally mud. Concentrate on all of the above as emotions, not images. One last remark: to surrender musically to dark paths would be the easy way, as many avant garde artists usually do. Nichelodeon/InSonar's approach remains close to the light though; I believe that there is optimism behind this quest, a yearning for happiness in life. I think that this is very important - and admirable.

There is an amazing list of references in the booklet, ranging from artists that one could expect (Swans, Henry Cow, Art Zoyd, John Zorn etc.) to big surprises like Radiohead, Kate Bush, Tool, Burial, David Sylvian. My vote goes to Ulver and Devil Doll, bearing distant artistic resemblances with Claudio's visions. Allow me to add some references of my own, not to clear the mist around this album but to further thicken it! Barry Truax - Riverrun. Coil - Musick to play in the dark (one of the best headphones-album ever). Eyes Wide Shut OST. Puscifer. Definitely Grails. Diamanda Galas. Univers Zero. Erik Truffaz.

''Quickworks & Deadworks'' is a 25 minutes short film by Paladino. It is slow, kind of weird, filled with symbolism and surrealism. It features music from ''UKIYOE'' ? perfectly fitting ? and it, somehow, carries the philosophical messages of the album into the real world, into people's relations and desires. In my opinion, the film strengthens the music and vice versa, like watching two good friends talking about the same things in completely different ways. Illustrations and paintings on the digipack by Claudio himself. Jellyfish fly in the sky. Is this prog or what?

This is Nichelodeon/InSonar's ''UKIYOE''. A piece of art that is truly important, independent and free. An album that demands many things from the listener and gives many in return. Of course, it is not made for all, but the ones that should pay attention must have taken the message so far. According to my rating system, this is a 91/100 album and certainly one of 2014's highlights. Congratulations to Claudio and co. Eagerly waiting to see what's next!

5 very liquid stars!

Report this review (#1372226)
Posted Tuesday, February 24, 2015 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Exceptions. Exceptions to the conformism of modern society and its abusive Ministry of entertainment that has always sought to shovel the same pre-fabricated pap/sonic manure on millions of ovine obedience adherents. Prog has always been the bastion of rock adventurism and promoted rebellious disdain for the formulaic pop foisted on us all. Yet even within the prog community, with so many options, there is a certain amount of loyalty to a few styles, perhaps at the expense of others that would merit at least more interest. As team collaborators, we have the duty and the privilege to decide the level of progressive content and suggest inclusion or exclusion into Progarchives. Hence, we are asked to examine recordings that might not necessarily be our favorite style but fueled by the prog guidelines, we can somehow judge accordingly. Enter Claudio Milano, a multi-octave singer of incredible talent, fluent in many facets of art even beyond music and a visionary musician with a multitude of ideas and the tools to deliver them. His previous work with In Sonar and Nickelodeon was well-received by the community and this latest release goes into even higher elevations of creativity, that bodes well for both his future fame and our acceptance as progressive fans. Clearly avant-garde music, even in its classical phase at the turn of the 20th century, was always about a special relationship between artist and audience, in some cases impossible to enjoy unless physically present with the musicians. As a fine example of this theory, I experienced a live concert in Budapest, an odd 2 part presentation of Richard Strauss, followed by Bela Bartok. The Viennese classic piece was enjoyable in that everyone in the house recognized it as a familiar if not famous section from the opera Don Juan but was literally blown off the stage by Bartok's excitingly dissonant string quartets, with so much angst and Kafka-esque anguish that the whole audience was perspiring heavily, even the buzzing solitary fly landed for a breather! Visceral, personal and yet deeply emotional. Listening to "Ukiyoe", one gets the same impression of distance, of oblivion, of escape and of adventure that affects and infects each listener in distinctly different ways, the polar opposite of pop music, if you will.

Normally, a track by track breakdown is something this scribe prefers, as a complete understanding of an album can only be achieved by describing the constituent elements that make up an opus of this, or any progressive calibre. Our colleague "Aldebaran Well" has expressed this so utterly perfectly that I will humbly and willingly desist and urge you to defer to his visionary words with avid interest, as he is spot on in his vivid descriptions. The lovely package comes with splendiferous artwork, a DVD movie of a separate work by filmmaker Francesco Paladino which can be enjoyed entirely on its own, as well as the CD that handles all the lush music we live and breathe for.

Instead, may I take this opportunity to put into words the kind of emotions I have channeled in listening to this breathless music, a lyrical descriptive of the statuesque sounds and the tectonic rhythms, as well as all the interval silences that provide the joyful drama embedded within this release. This is perhaps the ultimate goal of the artist, to have each listener identify their own internal muse, channel their receptors and then provide images to the brain, like some virtual or sonic LSD of sorts. There is a house of multiple vocal doors, the voices used as vehicle for expressive spirituality, shrill walls of stridency, profound balconies of reverberation and Claudio Milano using his arsenal of tones, with operatic insanity. The overall feel is somewhere in the realm of a futuristic ritual of kaleidoscope lungs, screeching orchestrations and eyes pointed skywards. The voice swoons into a cauldron of sizzling electronics, colliding dissonance with praetorian beats, lilting piano rivulets, minimalist convictions in a psychotic universe, the leather pigeons in the piazza wondering who will feed them next, the martinets losing their control over the airwaves, the hustle and bustle of the night denizens gulping down a final Amaro, before seducing their pillow. The osso bucco was really quite divine, signorina! The never tardy train rolls into Termini station, disgorging the coastal sailor seagulls searching for the nearest fish monger, psychopath urgencies whispering sweet everythings into the night lady's ear, alternating collapse and distant erection and finally drowning in their own liquescent fears. Oceans bubble, flying bulbous eyed fish leap into the saline sky, blustery clouds and gale force winds, all compressed into the tiniest velvet-rimmed box. Mephisto seduces, lying through his bloodstained teeth, laughing and bellowing at the innocents, the 'pazzi ragazzi' who only care about their next sensational fix, Morse code to the submariners scouring the abyss. An oceanic empire of ghostly gods, Neptune sitting on a reef, blowing a blowfish with his blowtorch while the Greek Poseidon is counting his deutschmarks (I know, its euros!), while Volturnus, Salacia, Juturna and Fontus play floating plastic cards on the back of some giant tortoise. The accordion leaks, the moray eels coughing up phlegm, the violin scales filleting the sordid sturgeon, emptying its filth onto the Via Appia.

Challenging musical adventure that is so off the charts, clearly the antithesis of pop culture, a delirious soundtrack to spook your unfriendly, square Lady Gaga-loving neighbors and the ideal background music for a naval academy diploma celebration. Like the Pope recently stated in his Argentine-tinged Italian, "In Questo cazzo"!

4.5 Venomous mariners

Report this review (#1386843)
Posted Tuesday, March 24, 2015 | Review Permalink
Retired Admin
4 stars Olives

Fellow esteemed reviewers have already gone into detail about this highly interesting offering from Claudio Milano and his cohorts Nichelodeon. Fact of the matter is this man has been rummaging round the outskirts of the Italian prog world for nigh on a decade now - still very much the outsider. Hell one of the first times I spoke to him over mails, he mentioned this outsider status had rubbed off to the outside world - leading the cutting edge RIO festival in Carnaux to ditch him because he didn't make the kind of music they were looking for.

So he's not RIO or avant enough for the cool cats in France, and he's not close enough to the old prog rock of yesteryear to be mentioned in the same breath. Basically this music is outside of the norm - beyond stickers. That additionally means it makes it almost impossible to convey in words just how this really sounds......that is without resorting to the glib ways of nonsense, which I naturally am about to do:

In many ways you could say that Ukiyoe sounds like a series of disturbing lullabies handed over to you by a vocal sorcerer of the wind....or maybe this is neoclassical folk music with a romantic yodeller floating elegantly overhead?

No matter how you approach this bugger you'll be struggling with your boxes. There just aren't any befitting ones available. To me that is a good thing. Considering that 90% of the current prog scene is enamoured with a style of music that seized to be progressive some 40 years ago - again and again trying to regurgitate a sense of structural complexity and far reaching sonic and intellectual motifs, it becomes all the more important that people like Claudio and his compatriots actually try to focus on what made prog of the 70s so vital and fresh, although with a completely new sound behind them.

With over 30 musicians lending a hand to this massive project one could easily be lead into thinking that Ukiyoe is a case of too many cooks in the kitchen. That is not the case though. The tunes all reek of intimacy and acoustic instruments - like a small gig in a beautiful shrubbery with harp and violin players dangling from the trees.

For points of reference........hmmm yeah...maybe go back to the earlier glib descriptions - that's all I can say. That and then occasionally I'm reminded of the wonderful operatic lunacy of yet another Italian group: Opus Avantra. Whilst they were fronted by one furious woman named Donella Del Monaco, it's the music and overall feel I'm referring to here. The combination of wildly experimental, yet at the same time gentle and soothing, vocals and this wafting kind of modern classical music rather mimics or indeed reflects some of the same strengths as Ukiyoe. To top it all off throw in some electronics, carefully placed usage of dissonance, folk music that isn't folk, classical music that isn't classical, bongos, the sound of seagulls, the odd drone and........wait for it.............. a boat! -Then you're almost there.

In truth, there is no way on earth to properly explain how this album sounds, and I find that exhilarating to say the least. If we are ever to find the spark that once lit up the 70s in fire and flame, then we have to start looking in places we haven't looked before. We have to be willing to taste a bit of something new before we proceed to knock it.

I hated olives growing up. They tasted like an unwashed bellybutton or wet lycra socks, that is until I overcame my fears and tasted them again at 29. My girlfriend at the time were lying in bed with me - obviously more interested in munching on something indefinable from beneath the bed than watching The Shining with your's truly. She then kissed me softly, but instead of enjoyment and the subsequent hand down her trousers, I was repelled by the smell coming off her breath. WTF had she been eating!?!?!?!!! Yup, turns out it was olives. Irritated by this pseudo Greek lying next to me and the fact that I had to stay with her for the remainder of the night, I decided to take the plunge... 'Hand over one of those bad boys baby'...and wow am I glad I did! Not only did I overcome my fear of olives - I additionally got into her panties.

Report this review (#1389822)
Posted Sunday, March 29, 2015 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic
5 stars Both NICHELODEON and InSONAR are projects initiated by the vocal star of the show Claudio Milano who created these projects to be large collectives designed to revolve around a rotating cast of avant-proggers who want to create some most unconventional music. NICHELODEON dates back to 1997 while InSONAR only began in 2010. On this collaborative affair the two collectives merge to bring us some of the most fluid and visceral music i have ever heard. This is one of the most complex albums i have ever listened to and likewise one of the most difficult to review. Everything about this album demands extreme diligence in paying attention to the details. Even the titles are complex! This album is officially a collaborative release called UKIYOE (MONDI FLUTTANTI) / QUICKWORKS & DEADWORKS. The artists are NICHELODEON with InSONAR and FRANCESCO PALADINO. Let me clarify this for you. This is a double release that contains one CD and one DVD. The CD musical journey is performed by NICHELODEON with InSONAR and it is titled UKIYOE (MONDI FLUTTANTI) while the DVD part was created by FRANCESCO PALADINO and is titled QUICKWORKS & DEADWORKS.

The theme of the whole project actually revolves around water. Water is the focus because it such a main component of all of life and the main constituent that allows our planet to sustain it. This work is chock full of symbology and once i inquired into the subtler meanings i was bombarded with all kinds of analogies, proverbs and unlikely influences. Worry not for you don't have to understand all of this to enjoy this music but it does allow you to explore as deeply as you wish. Putting that into the context of water, you can either choose to merely skim the shallow shores and only get your feet wet or if you are brave enough you can plunge into the deepest recesses of the the oceanic trenches where only bio-illuminating creatures break the cold abysmal monotony.

Claudio has explained to me that these musical expressions were created in the 2013-14 time continuum when he experienced profound insight and spent an entire month creating the accompanying beautiful paintings and illustrations that grace front, back, the inside and out with a whole little booklet included. Everything on this release is tied to the overall theme starting with the visual art itself. The jellyfish serve as an omen of how beauty can be dangerous, fragile and most of all fleeting, which brings us to the title of the album.

The title of the album UKIYOE comes from UKIYO MONOGATARI which is a concept that was put out in the first works of Asai Ryōi (浅井 了意?, c. 1612 ? January 29, 1691) who was a Bhuddist priest in the early Edo period in Japan. UKIYO is the concept that life is transitory and nothing lasts forever and that one's energy must be put into lasting spiritual matters that would continue on to the next life. I see the jellyfish as representing the beauty of the physical world but the dangers of handling matters in the wrong way can leave you wounded and scarred with precious energies wasted and a spiritual stinging. The imagery of the jellyfish and impressionist artwork lends well to the music at hand with its often ethereal and ability to evoke a sort of liquid conscious response to its fluidity and rhythmic drifting hither and tither like a jellyfish at the mercy of the tides. The music itself seems to follow the same ebbs and flows only in the sonic ethers of music.

The music was constructed in a most ambitious way. Each member created his/her own arrangement for each track with Claudio Milano acting as the conductor as well as avant-opera star. The tracks were mixed with the contributions of the acting members in order to create the larger-than-life kaleidoscope of sound that this music exudes. On board with this project are several musicians with an interactive orchestra that amounts to over 30 individuals. The music is really hard to pigeon-hole into any particular category and is fairly eclectic but there is a strong underlying theme of both Mediterranean cafe music with a heavy use of traditional accordion sounds, classical opera and on the wilder sides can conjure up Henry Cow, early King Crimson and even some jazz, electronica, drones and percussive outbursts that find their way into the mix. The music tends to begin the album on the more accessible side and ends with a kind of Krautrock chaotic ending.

Each track is filled with complex life experiences dealing with all kinds of human experiences that tend to be quite difficult. For example:

1 Veleno (Poison) is a tale of a failed son who wants to die but cannot bring himself to suicide for love of his parents so he turns to the fantasy world to escape life's disappointments

2 Fi(j)ru d'Acqua (Flower/Son of Water) takes lyrics from a Rilke poem and deals with concept of nature as benign and creator of all beauty.

3 Marinaio (Sailor) deals with the concept of needing to kill in order to survive and how promises can become betrayal.

4 Ohi M - Nel Mare che hai Dentro ? (Oh Mother! About the Sea you have Inside) is about the reduction of dreams and dignity to mere economics in order to survive in a world where everything has become a market commodity. This track is sung in a local dialect of Southern Italy.

5 I Pesci dei tuoi Fiumi (The Fish of your Rivers) is taken from Ezekiel in the Old Testament where God is described as the Bringer Of Abundance.

6 MA(r)LE is the agglutination of "Mar (sea)" and "Male (evil)" in Italian and represents the sea as a bearer of death as an uncontrollable fury such as experienced by the shipwrecked people in the short DVD film that accompanies the disc.

Ah, now for the film! It is a short one at just over 26 minutes. It is tied in to the overall theme of the music and is presented in a surreal detached manner. In this regard it reminds me of "Eraserhead" in the fact that there are long dramatic pauses accompanied by TV narration and just plain strangeness! It starts with two couples, one older and one younger staring at the boat that they had to dock because of a reported storm. They decide to wait it out in one section of a castle i presume. The next twenty minutes or so shows them mostly staring at each other but interacting in strange ways. I have only seen this once and it obvious there's all kinds of subtext to it all. The dialogue is minimal with most talk being from a TV narration about snakes! It is very surreal to say the least. Claudio's vocal acrobatics pop in from time to time with some accordion music. I was originally unable to view the DVD because of those damned regional variations that prevent us in North America from viewing European DVDs but Claudio was gracious enough to convert it to a file i could download. Grazie :)

All i can say is this is one strange album but it has more than enough to reel you in instantly and then keep you hooked by constantly unleashing new surprises. It is as murky as the turbulent ocean and as placid as an alpine lake. The interaction of the musicians is impeccable and the orchestral cooperation is on the highest level of professionalism. I will have to count this one as a slow burner and one that gets better the more i experience it. Claudio has the vocal range of Celine Dion but the creative display of Mike Patton. The accompanying vocalists seem to dance together in the sonic dance floor and the instrumentation can create the most pleasant and addictive melodies or act as the musical equivalent of a tsunami crashing against the shores sweeping all life and structures out to sea. While i can't say i comprehend every aspect of the symbology i have learned about this release, i can say that i have been really enjoying this one a lot lately and since this is my very experience of anything by NICHELODEON or InSONAR i have high hopes that there is much more intricate creativity just bursting out in other releases. Highly recommended.

Report this review (#1426128)
Posted Thursday, June 11, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars Review n° 235

Nichelodeon's distrubed lullabies, and a short film reccomended by me to David Lynch fans.

Nichelodeon UKIYOE - Mondi Fluttuanti (with Insonar) / QUICKWORKS & DEADWORKS is a CD+DVD project and conducted by Claudio Milano and a huge ammount of people (and seems each one had written it's own arrangement), a list too extended to post here, sorry. When I got the album files, there were so many stuff I didn't even know where to begin. Pictures, an experimental/surreal movie -probably inspired by David Lynch short films & Jodorowsky- directed by Pietro Cinier (never heard of his name before, but great weird job, man!), something like a nonsensical photo slide show featuring a romance with a skeleton furry toy, and a music album. The music presented on the album is absolutely hard listening, and it deals with water and ocean subjects. While listening to the album I thought of retarded children in a haunted submarine-hospital driven by an ethereal moanin' friendly jellyfish secretly carrying evil intentions. Fok Progressivo In Opposition distmembered leftovers randomly clued to each other. That's nice.

Report this review (#1426300)
Posted Friday, June 12, 2015 | Review Permalink
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
4 stars I have almost stopped writing reviews, but hearing that this album has achieved so few consensus has forced me in picking back my virtual pen and write few lines. Both NICHELODEON and INSONAR are projects lead by CLAUDIO MILANO, and after the 4cd boxset containing the previous works of the two bands grouped together, here we have the first step of what in future may be a single band.

UKIYOE is a Japanese graphic art, just google it to find some examples, the meaning is "Floating World" which is also the album's subtitle.

The album is opened by "Veleno"(Venom). It's about the frustration of a son who has to admit his failure in front of his parents, so painful to hope for a sudden death. What I initially wrongly interpreted as a reference to the "Opera" is instead musically inspired to the pre-baroque music with armonic influences from 20th Century athors like Satie, Ravel and in particular Romitelli, the artist who introduced electric guitar in the classical music. "Fi(j)ru d'Acqua" and "Marinaio" are based on vocals and also in this case there are references to contemporary classical music. Claudio Milano mentions Berio, Stravinskij, Schonberg and Ligeti but also Robert Wyatt as influences. A curiosity: the arrangements were obtained giving a mixer channel to each of the performers.

"Ohi M" is a "Pizzica". A genre typical of the Southeast of Italy where Claudio is from. In this song we can hear the very high pitch of Dalila Kayros and one example of "Diplophony", the technique to sing two notes simutaneously which was explored by Demetrio Stratos. The lyrics are very tragic. Again, pain and death are the main theme. This time is a mother who is invoked as bringer of death other than life.

Claudio Milano describes the last two tracks as "explosions", with quotes from the Bible (ancient Testament). It's a mixture of vocals in all the possible expressions, including growling, falsetto, diplophony, ancient lyrical chant, and percussion, drones and industrial sounds.

In a mail conversation with Claudio, I told him that "MA(r)Le (Sea/Evil)" has given me sensations similar to Ummagumma (the studio album). Of course the track doesn't have much to do with Pink Floyd. The reference should be John Zorn, instead. What Claudio calles "Zornian magma" is then followed by a sort of improvisation for accordion, voice and violin then replaced by drones and guitar inspired to Pierre Schaeffer's "Musique Concrete".

Included in the package there's also a single: "Tutti I Liquidi Di Davide" (All the Davide's liquids). Liquids are intended as "movement". After the darkness and the drama of the album, this is a lighter song, with a touch of folk and a bit of optimism inside. It's in my opinion one of the songs in which Claudio Milano gives a demonstration of his vocal capabilities.

I must admit that I'm cheating a bit. I would have been unable to identify all the references to the contemporary and not, classical authors without Claudio's help, and I have omitted to mention those I've never heard up to now.

For whom is not familiar with avantgarde music, it's a challenging album, but not impossible to appreciate if you want to approach the genre and have enough patience to listen and relisten to it carefully enough. Pleasure requires effort.

Report this review (#1462929)
Posted Sunday, September 13, 2015 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Italian ensemble NICHELODEON has been an ongoing entity for almost 20 years, with vocalist and composer Claudio Milano as the main creative person in a venture, with a flowing succession of members otherwise. InSonar is one of his side projects that came to be a few years back. Both projects are combined on this most recent product to be released under both of those monikers: "Ukiyoe: Mondi Fluttuanti". The CD was released in 2014 through the Italian label Snowdonia Dischi, combined with Francesco Paolo Paladino's short movie "Quickworks & Deadworks".

This joint venture by Nichelodeon and InSonar, if it is at all possible to separate what is made by whom without reading the liner notes, is another album containing excellent material in the avant-garde oriented vein with vocals as the dominant element and, as I experience it, the lead instrument. Claudio Milano excels in using his vocal capabilities in an expressive manner, and appears to be most comfortable when doing so inside an avant-garde oriented context. That is the case here, and those who find such a description alluring can most likely regard themselves as a key audience for this release.

Report this review (#1594631)
Posted Thursday, August 4, 2016 | Review Permalink

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