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Kalisantrope - Brinicle CD (album) cover



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4 stars With their set-up of bass, keyboards and drums, Italian instrumental one lady/two fellas trio Kalisantrope released a distinctive twenty-six minute EP `Anatomy of the World' back in 2014 only a year after their formation, and a humble little debut of great promise it turned out to be! Three years on, with a few more years of maturing experience and live performances under their belt, they return in 2017 with their first full-length disc `Brinicle', a work that progresses the band nicely and offers even further hints of the carefully revealing sophisticated potential they've already displayed. In addition to many passages retaining the classical-tinged symphonic RPI of their debut, `Brinicle' proves to often be a little jazzier, adding flourishes of everything from electronica, ambient, percussion-driven raga and chamber-prog flavours, as well as tantalizing little teases of other unexpected new sounds to come!

`Dawn on Hiroshima Skies' opens with an eerie Eastern intrigue powered by keyboardist Davide Freguglia's Hammond organ, whirring synths and sparkling electric piano contemplations, as Noemi Bolis' sweetly murmuring bass slithers between them and Alex Carsetti's clacking percussion rattles with purpose, the piece ultimately picking up gently in tempo to offer just a hint of danger and culminating in a grander symphonic finale. The heavily improvised `Placebo Effect' bristles with a darker jazzier flavour due to its extended scratchy Fender Rhodes soloing, Noemi's relentless buoyant bass and Alex's pattered cymbals, and the Mellotron and Hammond-flecked `Canis Majoris' starts to head into the Le Orme-styled symphonic direction of parts of the debut EP, growing lightly nightmarish and tense before picking up a strident harder step in the final moments.

Deserving of special attention, both `Notturno' and `Morgendämmerung' are unlike anything the band have done to date! The former is a hypnotic drift of droning ambient electronics and subdued spectral synths, while the latter is an exotic rumination of hand percussion and pensive flute, almost reminding of Popul Vuh's `In Den Gärten Pharaos' or something off a Third Ear Band LP. These fascinating and rich diversions offer only glimpses of styles and directions that the band may develop more fully and even more successfully on further albums, and it showcases their emerging diversity and growing confidence to great effect.

Admittedly the album has kept pretty low-key and careful up to this point, but it's finally with the final trio of pieces that start with `Cordyceps' where the band really comes to life! This relentless track holds swirling synths aplenty in the manner of modern RPI groups like F.E.M Prog Group and La Coscienza di Zeno with little trickles of a prog-electronic sound sneaking in, and the thick pumping bass backed by rambunctious drumming gives the album a big surge of power and bombast at just the right moment. `Seeking Harmony' returns to the cascading crystalline piano and pumping spurts of feisty keyboard pomp that gently reminds again, as the debut EP did, of everything from that more frantic classical approach of vintage RPI band Triade's minor classic from 1973 `1998: La Storia Di Sabazio', as well as early Le Orme, and especially fellow modern young Italian band Unreal City.

Album closer `Genistae' is the longest and most complex offering here, delivering plenty of drama and careful build across a range of moods, with the same shadowy jazz atmosphere that permeates many great vintage Italian prog discs creeping in, and Davide's reflective piano melancholy and pulsing electronics come to resemble eerie ambient drones with a cinematic soundtrack-like elegance. But throughout the second half, Noemi's snaking bass grows in wild snarling breathlessness, Alex's crashing cymbals and rumbling drumming really weigh down on the listener and Davide's whiplash keyboards spiral out of control with delirious zest, before finally culminating in a reflective Mellotron, tip-toeing electric piano and sobering bass outro - what an amazing close to a fine album all up!

If there's one issue to be had with the album, it's perhaps that it somewhat coasts along over the first five tracks in a mostly subdued, unhurried manner, when a few bursts of greater (noisier!) energy and urgency would have really kicked up the attention levels. It takes until the sixth track for the album to start raising the pulse and going on the attack, and indeed it's the last three tracks that really explode with the full promise inside this talented group, and it might have been better if these three tracks had been placed between the five earlier ones to break things up a little. There's also just a few moments where the playing is more exciting than the actual instrumental tunes or melodies being presented, but these are really quite minute issues and shouldn't be unexpected with younger bands, and they definitely don't deserve to be lambasted about these elements.

But make no mistake, Kalisantrope's star is on the rise in modern Italian prog circles, with the group recently touring over the last year with the likes of the above mentioned Unreal City and the Neo-styled Silver Key, and their second release `Brinicle' is a more sumptuous, varied and ambitious effort that really pays off on frequent replays, one that moves them even closer to delivering that total knockout effort they've got building inside them.

Three and a half stars, rounded up to four again, well done Kalisantrope!

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Posted Sunday, July 30, 2017 | Review Permalink

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