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Unreal City - Frammenti Notturni CD (album) cover


Unreal City

Rock Progressivo Italiano

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Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
5 stars RPI band Unreal City made an instant splash in modern progressive rock circles when their debut `La CrudeltÓ Di Aprile' arrived back in 2013, an energetic and confident first work given a profile boost by the backing of modern Italian prog icon Fabio Zuffanti. The young and talented-beyond-their-years group followed it up two years later with the possibly even superior `Il Paese del Tramonto', and a further two on from that brings us to the crucial third album, `Frammenti Notturi'. It's wonderful to discover that it maintains the exact same quality of their first two discs, as well as frequently introducing a new and fresh approach that ensures the band confirms they have plenty of fiery inspiration and ideas left to be realised in the future!

`Frammenti Notturi' may hold plenty of the usual Unreal City characteristics - doomed symphonic and romantic moods blasted with constant instrumental flights-of-fancy delivered with a youthful zest - check! But this time, the band have frequently given their music a heavier grunt as well as a wickedly addictive dirtier (and more dangerous!) instrumental backing, they've placed a lot of prominence on the addition of violin in the first half to further acknowledge their vintage Italian prog heritage, they've incorporated some subtle and unexpected electronics, and they've even dialled back on the more overly swooning catchier vocal moments of the first two discs. But most importantly, `Frammenti Notturi' also proves to be their most grandiose and often equally (and very importantly) subtle and richly detailed artistic musical statement to date, even more evidence of their growing maturity and surety as a group.

Of the five pieces on offer, the band open with the five-part suite `La Grande Festa In Maschera', and a boisterous, aggressive and tasty behemoth it is, with three of the core founding line-up, joined by new drummer Marco Garbin, battering through a range of loopy and high-energy instrumental symphonic themes. But this time around, there's plenty of distortion and wilder noise throughout to a heavier guitar approach and jazzier touches, and guest violinist Matteo Bertani is given free reign to weave through the bluster and stormy attack with searing feeling. The standouts are Dario Pessina's upfront thick bass bouncing with ferocious purpose around Marco's versatile and peppy drumming, Francesca Zanetta's maddening King Crimson-like guitar splinters and vocalist Emanuele Tarasconi's jagged piano stabbings, and his fuzzed-up noisy Fender Rhodes-like soloing in the climax gives the Italian Canterbury sound band The Winstons a run for their money! Play this piece loud, and especially listen out for the deeply sexy distortion rumbles that start at about the 9:55 mark!

`Le Luci delle Case (Spente)' is dramatic and...even a little playful! Francesca's guitars melt into erupting molten electric distortion and slick electric piano glistenings have the piece taking on a seductive heavy groove early on, and Emanuele's charismatic voice purrs with charm and roars with chest-beating pride in the finale. In it's upbeat jovial moments with rollicking synths and scratchy violin, the track actually almost embraces a fancier and whimsical quality that may remind some listeners of seminal Italian prog band Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM).

The shortest piece at just under six minutes, `Barricate' is perhaps the closest to a `traditional' lovingly melancholic and romantic Unreal City tune, but teasing a low-key jazzy buoyancy from electric piano tiptoes. It then proceeds to gently introduce spacey fizzing electronics and diverts into an aggressive solo spot in the middle highlighted by supremely dirty Hammond organ and grumbling bass, and the ringing guitar shimmers sound like they've wandered off a modern Marillion album. The stuttering bass stabs, whirring keyboards and snappy drumming of horror tale `Il Nido delle Succubi' suggest the musical approach of Unreal City's current touring friends, fellow young Italian band Kalisantrope, might be rubbing off on them, but the piece eventually comes to resemble a captivating spectral pantomime laced with prancing harpsichord, ghostly Mellotron choirs and eclectic Steve Hackett/Genesis-flavoured regal synths.

But what a closer `Arrivi all'Aurora' turns out to be...where in some moments on the earlier discs the band have giddily raced off into delirious extended keyboard soloing and busy instrumental interplay at many opportunities, here they strip things back for a sombre and elegant piano-driven ballad that eventually takes flight into joyful skies. Emanuele's weary voice moves between wounded romance and eerie treated moments, and the more slower-paced, restrained soloing from the whole band in the second half shows great poise and genuine emotion, making this finale come across as a very important piece in the continuing development of the group.

`Frammenti Notturi' is everything a third album should be - not a band merely coasting on past successes, but taking their recognisable sound and fusing it with dynamic new ideas as well as only beginning to hint at possible new directions and fresh sounds to be explored on albums to come. It's also admirable that the group, despite their much-loved status in the current Italian Prog community, have defiantly refused to not only streamline their music into overtly melodic and catchier shorter pieces to try and lure in more commercial audiences, but resisted the urge to sing in English, and if anything, this disc seems designed to appeal much more to long-term fans of the group than newcomers (who might be better off checking out the previous two albums to start off with).

This is classic Italian symphonic music given a proudly `pure prog' bombastic approach with a modern sensibility delivered by an impeccably skilled young band in Unreal City, who've not only released their third exceptional disc in a row, but have absolutely delivered one of the standout Italian prog works of 2017 that will be greatly loved by their fans.

Five stars.

Report this review (#1780806)
Posted Sunday, September 10, 2017 | Review Permalink
5 stars 93/100 At first I thought "Fammenti Notturni" translated to " Night Families". However Francesca Zanetta (Unreal City's guitarist) corrected my faux pas and provided an explanation for the title Fammenti Notturni,

"Night Fragments. This is not a concept album, so there not a common theme for the entire album but every song is a sort of fleeting glimpse whose object is the darkness, the nocturnal darkness which lives in men, relationships, societies and cities."

Dark shadows abound down the wet unlit backstreets of Unreal City. Unreal City must have made a deal with the devil to deliver this beauty. Hope it's a 10 album deal. Unreal City pushed previous boundaries, evolved, and basically did what all great prog bands do. They moved on. Unwilling to sit upon their laurels, Unreal City progressed, delved far, deep and wide, fermenting into a fine vintage wine.

"Fammenti Notturni finds Unreal City charting virgin territory while retaining the signature sound which originally attracted me to Unreal City's world. "One for all and all for one" rings pure and drives the Unreal City train. The musician set an Italian table of delights for lead vocalist Emanuele Tarasconi passionate romantic vocals. Eamanuele also contributes piano, synth, Mellotron, clavinet, theremin, acoustatic guitar. Dario Pessina bass and backing vocals are as crucial to the Unreal City sound as the Mike Mill's bass and harmonies to REM'.

I wish I could describe "Frammenti Notturni" as well as Progachive Collaborator "Aussie-Byrd-Brother's" prose poem review of "Frammenti Notturni" fleshes out each section with razor sharp incites revealing vivid cathedral aural frescos plastered across the album that is "Frmmenti Notturni". I'll stick to my stick figure cave drawn review. I recommend you peruse Aussie-Byrd-Brothers most illuminating resplendent descriptions, historical background, and insightful observations on Unreal City and "Fammenti Notturni."

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. In the best of times we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of a golden era of modern prog. Admit it! We're living thru a glorious prog revival! For sure the subgenre of RPI is experiencing a lovely renaissance. Led by three bands of youngsters... Unreal City, Ingranaggi Della Valle, and IL Tempio Delle Clessidre. Three ambitious Italian bands like Jason and the Argonauts before them, slay the hydra, fleece the golden fleece and tame the three headed hell hound of Hades, as Cyerbus nuzzles Persephone's pomegranate cheeks and lips. Inspired, Pluto's concubine composes epic poetry and the members of Unreal City snatch out of the ether. It's magic! "Fammenti Notturni" bubbles and boils melodic riffs, proggy woodpecker reincarnated into powerful percussion , snappy bass basted in velvety vestal vocal sause. So happy to taste the newest addition to mega talented RPI bands leading the electric charge into a breathtaking Italian renaissance Shangri-La .

Someday, many years from now, music critics will point to this vintage Italian revival and Unreal City as the "good old days." On a more personal note, my wife and I are obsessive RPI buffs. Guided by progachive reviews, we've purchased over 70 RPI albums in the last 8 years. I may not be an expert, however fancy myself as a RPI connoisseur, I can claim with confidence the Italian renaissance is upon us. Enjoy it while you can! Smoke 'em while you got 'em!

Since the postman delivered my copy of "Fammenti Notturni" I've spun the vinyl at least 15 times. It's a rare prog album I immediately liked and yet "Fammenti Notturni" grows on me too. Like all primo prog albums, each listen reveals secret treaties, deeper depth, hidden jewels, shivers down the spine, and "Ah-ha" epiphanies missed the first time around.

I rank "Fammenti Notturni" as Unreal Cities 2nd best album, barely behind their debut Masterpiece- "La Crudelta Di Arprile" However, all three Unreal City albums weave intricate dazzling tapestries threading the needle, splintering the sweet spot, mysterious luxurious keyboards, juicy yet eclectic drumming of Marco Garbin. Marco adds tone and groovy flourishes that surprise and make me smile. Francesca Zanetta's guitar licks adorn songs beauteously without overpowering the core composition and I got to say- Francesca is my new mellotron muse! Emanuele Tarasconi's vocals are romantically divine and to die for. The members of Unreal City are an aural stream of consciousness that seeps, runs, finally rapidly bursts into brooks and silvery streams feeding a riotous river of red wine and honey. Speaking of red wine music...

I'm tempted to splurge on a bottles of deep dry red vintage Italian vinos, when immersing myself into "Fammenti Notturni". Pardon my boldness but may I take the liberty to recommend 5 delicious Italian Vino Rossos corresponding to "Fammenti Notturni's" 5 compositions? In order: Barolo, Barbaresco, Amarone, Gattinara, and Brunello.

Women? My wife and other women friends find themselves swooning into Francesca's licks and Unreal City's melodic, hypnotic romanticism. Not something you see often in prog circles.

In my opinion "Fammenti Notturni" = Best RPI album of 2017 far! Don't be surprised if Unreal City continues to top themselves album after album after album. 5 out of 5 spicy, wooden, oaken vintage Italian Profundo Rosso Vinos. Essential addition to Italian Prog Collectors!

Report this review (#1802615)
Posted Thursday, October 12, 2017 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars Lost another review so here's the short version. This is UNREAl CITY's third studio album and I found the first two studio albums to be very solid 4 star albums slightly preferring the second one. While there has been some glowing reviews for this one it's still rated lower than the first two on this site(before I submitted this review) and I agree with that. I found this a little disappointing despite that over 13 minute opener that to me stands out as the best song on here. The mellotron is sampled like on the first two albums but I still like it, just wish there was more.

"La Grande Festa In Maschera" is my favourite as I just mentioned. Check out the nasty opening, more please! Unfortunately that intensity is missing on this record. Lots of tempo shifts on this one and I like that it's heavier later on.

"Le Luci Delle Case(Spente)" doesn't do much for me until 4 minutes in when it sounds much better as the violin steps aside and a calm follows. Reserved vocals join in as well. It kicks in again as contrasts continue. A change 7 minutes in as the synths come to the fore, not really into this but I do like when it turns fuller including the vocals late.

"Barricate" is more of the same really with the contrasts between the laid back and more fuller sections. I do like the organ led section 4 minutes in which is followed by a guitar solo.

"Il Nido Delle Succubi" has this bouncy start that will come and go. Check out the mellotron though just before 30 seconds. It's so brief but it's the best part of the album for me which says a lot. I don't like that passage that starts before 4 minutes. Is that harpsichord? A sample from a James Stewart movie I believe can be heard as James gets emotional and when that sample stops the music kicks in with power. Nice.

"Arrivi All'Aurora" ends it and it begins with fragile vocals and piano. Piano only after 2 minutes then it turns fuller with bass then more as it builds. Synths lead after 3 minutes then it settles back with mellotron and drums standing out. It starts to wind down late.

For me this is a clear step down from the first two albums but not everyone agrees apparently(haha). Just my two cents worth but I'll stick with their first two albums thankyou!

Report this review (#1824565)
Posted Saturday, November 18, 2017 | Review Permalink

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