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RanestRane - A Space Odyssey, Part Two - H.A.L. CD (album) cover



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4 stars Ranestrane is a Rome 'based Italian group that does NOT fit into the classic RPI mode, as they opt for a more conventional methodology, staying away from the classic RPI ingredients of injecting such influential details as operatic vocals, pastoral acoustic tinges, wild changes of pace and mostly, the tried and true influence of canzone, Italian folk/popular music that gives it such character. Though they are listed here as RPI, the focus is more on Floydian soundscapes, elongated mood samples on which the soloists (Massimo Pomo the guitarist and the talented keysman Riccardo Romano). In fact, at the very best, Ranestrane encompass a new and modern style of prog that looks at the future and less at the past. Ironically, the theme here is both an old and a new one, clearly proving once and for all, how the 60s minds were deeply forward-thinking and futuristic, as Arthur C. Clarke's monumental masterwork '2001 Space Odyssey' really remains far-flung, even by today's standards. Yes, we know, the latest I-Phones have more memory than the Apollo missions to the moon combined but the concept of computers having a soul and feeling regret, like HAL, WOPR (Wargames) and Colossus (Colossus: The Forbin Project) was quite a stunner back then but if you look up the number of movies where computers take over the world, you will be wired out!

Ranestrane made quite a deal with Marillion's stalwart guitarist Steve Rothery as a backing band for his solo live Steve Rothery in Rome, with Romano even invited to play on the stupendous 'Ghosts of Pripyat' album. Only fitting that the Marillion man returns the favour by guesting on Ranestrane's 'Monolith-live in Rome' (2014) extravaganza. Needless to say, we are in tremendously gifted territory and as such 'HAL- Monolith Part2 'is the furtherance of the Monolith concept, all referring to the black floating obelisk that has puzzled and startled readers and movie goers for over 45 years. Interspersed with samples of HAL's monochrome voice, a tone both puerile and evil, the tale takes on conceptual form in a naturally efficient sci-fi style that just takes the listener to another plane of enjoyment.

As befitting the subject matter, the operatic 'Jupiter Mission' sets the tone right from the start, almost an overture to a modern soundtrack for this hallowed 60s cinema classic, docking into the sophisticated and Italian-sung theme of 'Discovery One', which seeks the instill both a sense of voyage and song, with both guitarist Massimo Pomo and keysman Riccardo Romano doing a stellar job of setting the right cosmic mood. This segues naturally into the instrumental jewel 'Broadcast News', a heady mixture of multiple voice snippets, various sonic effects as well as exalted playing by the synthesizer, piano and electric guitar, in an overtly bombastic fashion that hits the emotional mark successfully. HAL gets to 'speak' in a media interview and begin defining his eventual 'humanity', as Romano's refined piano duels with cymbal slashes and the rumbling undertow of Maurizio Meo's fretless low end. The resulting music is 'foolproof and incapable of error'. 'Freddo al Cuore' sparkles with deepening melancholia, featuring a dramatic whispered vocal from drummer Daniele Pomo, lush with delicate crispness and intensity, a sweltering synthesizer foray leading the charge. HAL then announces the first 'mistake', a fault in the 'AE-35' unit that is underlined by huge swaths of sorrowful synth loops and jangly piano amid colossal orchestrations and propellant rhythmic support. The main synth solo is squarely spectacular though simple in its execution, all of these natural sounds swim in a cosmic ocean of voice effects. 'Spacewalk' evokes the sense of floating and endless drift that the universe provides, echoing voices bouncing off the passing asteroids and a sizzling guitar/synth booster fuel duel that excites and explodes the senses. There is little doubt that the musicianship is deliberately restrained yet highly creative, just enough pizzazz to effectively titillate the senses and move to the next plateau. Guest Steve Rothery unleashes one of his patented bursts, a whopping and glorious comet that whizzes by at the speed of sound. Back to the song in 'La perfezione che si cerca', a tune that reattaches the Italian vocals to the whole, here with a typical RPI-like delivery (wink, nod) and a relatively straightforward modern prog piece that broods and soothes equally. The mid-section fusions Floydian exhilaration with an almost soundtrack-like theme, sweet and eternal. Rothery again caresses his fretboard like only he can, full of romantic inference and dazzling efficiency. 'Sono Come Morte' is the longest track at 7 minutes+ , boosted with more sampled commentary (a trait which would normally distract but not here, as it clearly parallels the story-line) and a hyper-mood that underlines the weirdness of space travel and all its fatalistic impulses. This is perhaps the trippiest track here, even though there are more Italian vocals but the overall feel is one of a frozen and dying cosmic corpse plugged into some electronic machine, with a main refrain that is absolutely cinematographic (sounding almost like an old Bond theme). Ponging electronics lead into the gorgeous piano and voice duet of 'Buio Interno', a diminutive yet striking ballad of intense purpose, Pomo really showing off a strong and operatic voice. But the true highlight of this recording remains the massive finale, the aptly titled 'Computer Malfunction', a sensational piece of bravura and pathos, completely bombastic with those patented 'zipper' synth slashes, the anxious drumming, amid arching crescendos and rash guitar orbits.

Yeah, this is a really entertaining discovery, a remarkable challenge and a brilliant endeavor. Fans of sci-fi and prog- rock are most welcome to join the ride.

4.5 kubricks

Report this review (#1548543)
Posted Tuesday, April 5, 2016 | Review Permalink
5 stars It's tough to rate this album for me considering the progarchives rating system. This isn't particularly an essential ablum, but for people like me who love themselves some sci-fi Space Rock/Rock Progressivo Italiano (Neo-prog?), it is. If you are not a fan of Space Rock or Rock Progressivo Italiano or Neo-prog, then you are not likely to find anything here that will change your opinion, but for those who are I thoroughly recommend.

The album is intermittent with dialogue taken from the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. I'm a big fan of this film. The dialogue segments taken from the film are dealt with very well, with the band playing over the dialogue with spacey atmospherics. Again, if you aren't a fan of the film or the use of audio tracks in this manner, be wary.

'Jupiter Mission' is a short track featuring lovely operatic vocals and introducing the spacey atmosphere. The track builds and feels as if it's about to explode but stops abruptly leading into the next track..

..'Discovery One'. A spacey synth riff and wailing guitar introduce us to the general feel of the album. The highlight of this track for me is it's fantastic chorus, I find myself singing along without having a clue what is exactly being said (oh yes, I butcher it).

The next track, 'Broadcast News', is a real gem. Here a dialogue segment introduces us to the crew of ship with a mission statement. An absolutely beautiful instrumental section follows with a great little synth solo and some downright tasty drumming. Another audio segment introduces to the "full-proof" artificial intelligence system H.A.L. through a dialogue segment. H.A.L. tries to reassure us that we are in good hands, what can go wrong right? A great guitar solo follows, ending with a last bit of dialogue Interviewer: "Do you believe that HAL has genuine emotions?" Dave Bowman: "Well, he acts like he has genuine emotions. Um, of course he's programmed that way to make it easier for us to talk to him. But as to whether he has real feelings is something I don't think anyone can truthfully answer."

Man, HAL creeps me out. Why the hell would they would they program him with "emotions"?

'Freddo al Cuore' is a nice slow track which slowly builds to a breakdown with a gorgeous guitar solo with some great drumming. The calm before the storm.

'AE-35' starts with HAL talking to Bowman: "I know I've never completely freed myself from the suspicion that there are some extremely odd things about this mission.( Nice rhyme there HAL - maybe HAL just wants to be a singer or poet or something) I'm sure you agree there's some truth in what I say." After some chatter between the two, HAL informs us of a "fault in the AE-35 unit". The beginning of the storm. There is a shift in atmosphere as a haunting synth solo backed with a pounding drum bit explodes into one hell of a haunting jam.

'Space Walk' starts off with an audio of someone breathing heavily with a sound of seeping oxygen in the background reminding us that this is happening in space, thousands of miles from the comfort of our atmosphere. Soaring vocal passages evoke a feeling of despair throughout the song. This is a more restrained track with some very solid playing all around without taking focus on the poignant and evocative vocals and atmosphere. Great outro jam.

'La perfezione che si cerca' takes us back to a pretty straight forward track. That's not to say that it isn't great, nothing to hate here.The ending guitar solo and drumming steal the show here. "It can only be attributable to human error." reminds HAL regarding the supposed failure of antenna on the ship, which HAL himself falsified. HAL... you literally heartless bastard!

'Sono Come Morte' is yet another fantastic track. Absolutely beautiful instrumental passages definitely make this a highlight of the album.

Dave Bowman: I'm not sure, what do you think?

Dr. Frank Poole: I've got a bad feeling about him.

Dave Bowman: You do?

Dr. Frank Poole: Yeah, definitely. Don't you?

Oh hell yes I do. In space, rogue AI governing your actions, what could go wrong?

'Buio Interno' is a vocal and piano driven ballad where Daniele Pomo shows us his vocal chops. Beautiful piece.

The album comes to an explosive end with 'Computer Malfunction' which is a bombastic track with all the bells and whistles. The 'computer noises' at the end send a chill down my spine much like the movie. We are living in one hell of a time where Kubrick's fears seem more real and impending then ever. A great ending to a great journey.

So all in all, I unabashedly love this album. I even sat on this review for a few weeks to ensure I wasn't being swept up in the moment. There is not a weak track on the whole disc, the musicianship is downright fantastic. Easily one of my favorites from 2015, probably listened to it more than any other album considering I love to drum along to it. What would have Stanely Kubrick thought? Who knows, he probably wasn't much of a prog fan. But as a fan of both the movie and prog I feel that this album does do the movie justice evoking the horrific implications of space travel and unruly AI, even if it relies a bit heavily on it the material. I think I'm gonna go watch myself some 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Report this review (#1555136)
Posted Saturday, April 23, 2016 | Review Permalink

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