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Franco Battiato - Sulle corde di Aries CD (album) cover

SULLE CORDE DI ARIES

Franco Battiato

Rock Progressivo Italiano


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soundsweird
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I have several albums by Battiato, but I consider this one the best of the lot, mainly due to the inclusion of the track "Aria di Rivoluzione". So much of Battiato's early material is marred by poor sound quality, cheesy synth sounds (they were cliches even then!), and aimless noodling done under the guise of experimentation. His later work has gone off in many directions, from tedious avant-garde to rock to crowd-pleasing classical work. For a short time, he seemed to know what he was doing (the followup, "Clic", is somewhat similar to this album). Check it out if you can find it.

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Send comments to soundsweird (BETA) | Report this review (#42312)
Posted Tuesday, August 09, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Abandoning his early disguises of electronic wizard ("Fetus") and progressive artiste (in "Pollution"), Franco Battiato creates his first masterpiece using the mask of a serious avant garde composer. Assisted by musicians from Don Cherry's School of New Music and opera singer Juri Camisasca, he lays before us a landscape of bell- like sequenced sounds and lush wind instruments that reminds equally sicilian folk music and Steve Reich's minimalist drones. Producer Pino Massara is here as brilliant as usual, drowning all sounds under layers and layers of reberveration, creating a peculliar "wall of sound" feeling. It also gives vocals a certain "warm but ethereal" quality close to Tim Buckley's "Song to the Siren". A Siren swimming in the Mediterranean Sea rather than in the waters of Frisco Bay, however. Battiato had yet to reach his highest point with his ice- cold record "Clic!", buth this is a "must have" if you want to really enjoy his music.

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Send comments to Winterfamily (BETA) | Report this review (#52328)
Posted Wednesday, October 19, 2005 | Review Permalink
andrea
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Franco Battiato started his career in the mid sixties as a beat singer. In the early seventies he turned to progressive and released some interesting albums like "Fetus" and "Pollution" then, with "Sulle corde di Aries" (On Aries' strings), he began to turn from progressive to pure avant-garde. None the less this album is absolutely worth listen to since here the experimental passages are well balanced with more melodic parts. The line up features Franco Battiato (lead vocals, synthesizer VCS3, guitar, piano, calimba), Gianni Mocchetti (guitar, mandola, backing vocals) and Gianfranco D'Adda (percussion) plus many guests that contributed to enrich the sound.

The long opener "Sequenze e frequenze" (Sequences and frequencies) blends dark experimental sounds with oriental influences; hypnotic and unusual "filtered" soar after more than two minutes and seem like be floating on a "flying musical carpet" while evoking memories from the childhood... "In summer our teacher taught in her garden / I used to sit on a little wall looking towards the sea / Every now and again a ship passed by...". Then vocals give way to suggestive percussion patterns and to other experimental sounds. Quite interesting, even if for someone this track could seem too long (sixteen minutes!) and in the end a little bit boring?

On the instrumental "Aries" you have more experimental sounds, percussions that seem to imitate a horse-ride and a jazzy sax outro. The atmosphere is ethereal and spacey. Well, Aries is the first sign of the zodiac and in some way it well represents this bold and futuristic track.

Next comes "Aria di rivoluzione" (Air of Revolution) that in my opinion is the best track on this album. Hidden and painful memories seem slowly coming afloat... "In that time in Europe there was another war / There were no songs but alarm hooters...". Here Franco Battiato's lead vocals in "Arabic style" perfectly interact with the voice of Jutta Nienhaus (the singer of the German/Italian band Analogy) who recites some verses in German taken from "Genossen, wer von uns wäre nicht gegen den Krieg", a poem by the German "Liedermacher" Wolf Biermann (in German) on an evocative musical background. Policemen trained against the people get drowned in the crowd storming through the streets like a raging river... My generation wants new ideals / I've already felt the revolution in the air / I've already heard who will be shot down"?

The final track "Da Oriente ad Occidente" (From the East to the West) is like a musical journey from East to West, from Oriental influences to jazzy sounds? "Away from this darkness the future ripens / The sky is without clouds / Father please, let me set off"?

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Send comments to andrea (BETA) | Report this review (#71034)
Posted Friday, March 03, 2006 | Review Permalink
Andrea Cortese
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Battiato's third album is one of the most "difficult" records ever released in Italy. As always the artist pulls his music near the limits that separate a pure intellectual speculation from modern music. At the risk to be boring, risk he did not manage to avoid with Sulle Corde di Aries, in my humble opinion. This is due, mainly, to the long opener titled "Sequenze e Frequenze" (no transaltion needed) which is on about 16,22 minutes of continuous repetition of a same prog-electronic theme plus sparse vocals and choruses. Suggestive, I admit it, but not exactly my cup of tea. He seems to be an intruder in all the classic italian prog crew of the seventies.

Finally the looong opener comes to an end and side B of the album features three shorter tunes (between 5 and 6 minutes), not less experimental and avant-gardist, though. "Aries" is similar to the previous track, with the addition of an interesting "screaming" tenor saxophone and eastern percussions. Battiato always liked eastern music (eastern, id est middle-east). He often used (and use today) to combine various and different musical influences in his works along with those strange poems that are so difficult to understand and translate (a sort of Joyce's "flow of consciousness" plus an elaborate research for magniloquent words and expressions.

"Aria di Rivoluzione" is somehow peculiar because of the alternating between italian vocals and spoken german words.

The closer "Da Oriente ad Occidente" (From East to West) is the one I like off this record. The most varied track of the album. The dreamy vocals (Battiato seems really to be praising highly to the sky...), the oboe addition, mandola, guitar and flutes create something I have never heard before... perhaps one of the first example of world music. And how strong it is!

In conclusion. This is not exactly what I love of the huge italian prog scene. Not pop at all! Too much experimental and intellectual for my personal tastes, but who cares? It's so a subjective perspective... 2,5 stars for me.

EDIT january 25 2008.

Well, I have recently had another deep listening session with this album and maybe my general impression has not changed. In fact I still prefer the previous album Pollution with songs as Areknamčs or Beta. By the way, lyrics seem more polite and refined here, more intellectual, if you want. On the other hand, the long opener Sequenze e Frequenze continues to not impress me very much. The sweet surprise is the closer Da Oriente ad Occidente with that wonderful mix between cosmic and folk sounds. Excellent, I say. All in all, 2 stars look probably too low if compared with my first analysis which ended at 2.5 stars. Now I think that the album is more coherent than any of the previous records from Battiato. Still not my favourite one, though. To be honest, it's rather difficult for me to completely digest the long opener. Maybe it's too soon and I have to acquire that specific taste. I don't know if time will come for it. Generally, I use to avoid prog electronic a la Phedra and avantguard prog. But, let's say, future is always uncertain...and all is possible.

I round it up to 3 stars.

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Send comments to Andrea Cortese (BETA) | Report this review (#93396)
Posted Wednesday, October 04, 2006 | Review Permalink
micky
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Continuing on with my series of Battiato reviews... let's go to his third album. Sulle Corde di Aries was the last of the trilogy of what were called his 'traditional' prog albums. Though none of the 3 were alike.. beginning a progression that extended from Fetus all the way to his last album of the 70's 'L'era del Cinghiale Bianco' . These 3 albums are those that the general prog fan may identify most with. His later albums of course start to head off to the never neverland of serious avant prog.

This album marks the start of the journey that will take him to the very edge of 'listenable' music ...1978's 'L'Egitto Prima Delle Sabbie'. The tradional rock instrumentation of the previous album 'Pollution' is gone. Here he achives a perfect mix of avant, electronica, and world music (arabic and oriental)

The album begins with the track that I absolutely grabbed me hard and just wouldn't let go 'Sequenze e Frequenze' It opens with a eerie synth and clarinet and oboe beginning, which ghostly sounding voices coming dimly through the mix. Battiato enters with some vocals then the fun begins. A repeating synth tone comes in over top his vocals with swirling VCS 3 synths swirling around him Then come comes the familiar .. thump thump thump thump beat instantly recognizable in dance music with some acoustic guitar and his VCS 3. The music.. which some may honestly find boring is to extremely hypnotic and soothing. An extended VCS 3 section continues for some time. The mood and tempo shifts and we are treated to an 'industrial' sounding synth background and Battiiato launches into a extended Calimba section that is even more hypnotic than the previous section. It soon fades out and some 'chugging' synth tones fade back in with some ethereal VCS 3 over it. It continues for several minutes before the Calimba fades back in and takes us the end of the song. It may not be your cup of tea. For me though.. I found it incredibly intoxicating and hypnotic. I love listening to this song. Like a lot of his music.. not the stuff you listen to when getting revved up for a hot date.. but when you are curled up with a good book on a rainy day.

Side 2 begins with 'Aries' and celestial synth intro.. that fades out into some chanting and then has a nice saxophone the finish. Next up is 'Aria di Rivoluzione' which has alternating vocals in italian and german with some cello accents and with an arabic sounding rhythm played on percussion. A wonderful song. The closing song of the album is 'Da Oriente ad Occidente' Wonderful vocals with Battiato and opera singer Juri Camisasca. The song shifts a wonderful oboe section with some mandolin, acoustic guitar and flutes slowly entering the melody in time. Finally the song ends in a with a fade out with some mandolin playing. Great stuff and very unlike what was coming out of the Italian pop scene in 1973. Another case in point why Battiato was an artist with his sights set just over the horizon.

My favorite album from Battiato. While some may find Sequenze e Frequenze a bit long.. or even boring. I found it to be very sensual and hypnotic. The 2nd side while less challenging is well crafted prog. An all around great album.

For me 5 stars.. an essential album and one of my favorites from the Italian prog movement. In large part for just how different it was from what everyone else was doing. For the site... 4 stars. Not exactly essential but an excellent addition to any prog fans .. or music fans album collection.

edit. Have decided to give it that special 5th star. I don't award many and surely not just for those album I love. In the months since I've written this review I've exposed this album to a number of people with different tastes and standards of prog and they have been quite taken with it. See the reviews.

5 stars. An incredible masterpiece of Progressive.. ... rock.

Miichael (aka micky)

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Send comments to micky (BETA) | Report this review (#123583)
Posted Sunday, May 27, 2007 | Review Permalink
Ricochet
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Out of sync and out of robustness within a general movement and shine, Battiato's music, at least by his most splendid creations, have the rhythm of a fascinating expression, a pretty decent art and...a progressive fling, questionable only by its burst of excitement and over-grown sensation. It's reckon that the most surprising things in his way and joy of music also mean something more suitable, conventionally, than you can imagine. Otherwise, the trick is simple: as much blend as possible, but also a clearness (owning almost to the artist's pure heart and golden creator's peels) in all shapes and sizes, moments and fractures.

Sulle corde di Aries is mostly in line with Battiato's sweet on surprising classic progressive taste, though, just like hit bit more unfocused inventiveness belongs to more abstract colors of the genre, this sort of an album could also expand or entice a music's completely different harmony: just to be safe, it seems this one relates to more artistic albums and more restless brinks of imagination, like Clic or Foetus are also composed. In style, opinions are also broken in many ways, but don't harm the music itself: classic and affectionate rock, minimal conceptual lyricism, rich or acoustic instrumentality, eclectic beginnings of some free music, riddles and chants of peculiar tones and attracted sense, a debuting swing into avant-garde and esoteric orientation, experimentalism by the pound and artistry by some you can't feel more close and more absorbing. To not forget, the songwriting is an impediment to easy music, there are folk atmospheres personalizing the lack of fluidity and mesmerism, and there is an entire feeling of very simple electronics, synths and analogies, part of a full vision, but of a blackout of strength and intelligent uniqueness.

The album, short in its pedantic compositions, has four roots of creativeness and long appasionata animations. Aria di rivoluzione isn't spectacular, but has such a suave mirth of harmony vocals, mixing a more weird and dramatic German narration. The piece is of pure simplicity, but forgets nothing in its dolce grave contrast. Da Oriente Ad Occidente is also suggestive, the piece is again short, but the blossomed music goes on folk guitar patient improvisation, ethnic sensible language and figurative, though tad cemented, transcendence. Sequenze e frequenze" is my favorite, a long, juicy but also artistic-dissolving dark piece, eccentric on experimentalism, synth sequence and minimal atmospheric conception; the middle-part has a shrill, through a sort of glass-sound play tune, on astral or harsh-vibrating pulses. The piece, so steamy yet contemplative, seems of a very pleasing and intense satisfaction. Mellow on the art (though is it really inartistic?), ravishing on the sound, one almost independent and circulant. The last piece, Aries, is finally neither vociferating (notice the "voice" inflexion), nor ambient and not even close to elegantly experimental, it has a passionate symphonic sound and it is more like a tranquil deep blend of instrumental influence on shady onirical slow rock moves. Dripping percussion, caramelized guitar, synth-ethic keyboards and a chorus line of typical sostenuto. But, wow, a quirk sax-jam right at the very end of the piece.

The album, primarily insatiable, difficult, progressively unaccommodating and pluri-artistic, is yet enjoyable and full of a brightness that settles its gifted eccentricity in milder acceptations. For this being my first RPI album...ever!, I was impressed and melted away with the best moments. After deeper listens, the style pales from being referential, but that doesn't happen to the beauty inside.

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Send comments to Ricochet (BETA) | Report this review (#130879)
Posted Tuesday, July 31, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars I got surprised when I acquired this album, since I didn't knew much about Franco Batiatto. But as I listened to this album, I started immediately to enjoy the music, I mean its Psychedelic meets Krautrock meets Jazz meets arabic influenced music with Italian genius in composing equals avant-garde music with an spacey kind of feel, and boy does it sound great!

First track really starts nicely and although its a bit repeated (revolving slowly in the same routine adding with time other sounds) it segues great to the other tracks, three short tracks with that arabic and jazzy feel with some nice percussion and sax and clarinet works and good violoncello, I like the percussion as well, and Franco's voice is really powerfull and rich of emotion, I just hoped this album would be more full of his voice passages, since I really enjoyed them.

Another great Italian progressive work, just I think probably not the best this Italian composer has made, just for that and for the surprising of what I heard I'll give it four stars, since I think its a great album, but not quite a masterpiece of progressive rock, but really try this album if you're interested in italian progressive music with that world music feel at the same time, and a great interplay of diverse instruments. Go for it!

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Send comments to LeInsomniac (BETA) | Report this review (#132067)
Posted Monday, August 06, 2007 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
4 stars Maybe this third album would qualify as my fave Battiato album, clearly by now the group has really learned what minimalism is all about. taking much lessons from Terry Riley's albums ranging from In C to Rainbow In A Curved Air. Gone are the usual rock instrumentations and Aries does truly delve into an indescribable molten lava of sound melting folk, classical, avant-garde, modern,

Only four track on this monster of album (all too short if you ask me), but everyone of these are pure a gems that glitters on its own. Starting on the sidelong (but just 16-mins) Sequenze, long dronal synth sounds mixed with a duo of unusual wind instruments for rock (clarinet and oboe) and reminiscent of the Third Ear Band, are slowly guiding us towards a heavenly or celestial almost liturgical singing. The rest of the track hovers between TEB, Tangerine Dream, Terry Riley, Moondog andc some Umma-Saucerful era Floyd. The track ends slowly by fading out the industrial chopper sounds and gets an extension of African instruments.

The flipside starts out even colder with the synths freezing Schulze or Froese's fingers on the keys, but the track soon evolves through a series of prog passages, including more celestial sc at vocals, to end in a superb sax outro (it sounds like Wyatt's incredible scat vocals on Rock Bottom). A delicious treat. Rivoluzione is probably the weaker track on this album, with Battiato's vocals going one over the top, but a superb cello catches the pieces and glue them back together. Again the tracks seems to veer towards early post-Syd Floyd. The closing Oriente has an even folkier and more medieval feel than Third Ear Band and sending this writer flying around his planet.

Definitely in my top 10 from Italy (but soooo unlike from what the usual production is of that land), this album is by far Battiato's best and his only masterpiece. Although I speal highly of this album, I find it hard to recommend it to someone wishing to discover Italy's progressive scene, but it is bloody outstanding.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#152998)
Posted Wednesday, November 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
philippe
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Content Development & Krautrock Team
4 stars Franco Battiato has a really huge, prolific career. I would like to say that the worst meets the best. I've got a rather similar opinion with a band as Popol Vuh (despite that their awful years came later, at the very end of their career). The two first Franco Battiato's called Fetus and Pollution were honest but not transcendant eclectic prog efforts, mixing with personal pleasure sophisticated pop music to weird psych- electro experimentations. Sulle corde di Aries is without any doubts better, a special effort, a difficult, cryptic listening (but that's a good point here because musical ingredients & arrangements are combined with intelligence). The opening piece delivers a narcotic ambience, an atmospheric deluge throw avant garde noises and mysterious synth chords / oscillations. Aries develops a relatively similar mood and expression, focusing the interest on an effective melody, making a dialogue between trippy, surreal chords, acoustic elements, a ritual percussive rhythm and vague chorus. Some dancing brass parts come into the mix to develop a more achieved musical "trip". "Aria di Revoluzione" is a transportive, delectable, almost spiritual listen with female narratives (in German, nice!), stylish vocals in Italian, featuring a vast repertoire of instruments, always conjugating acoustic elements to abstract electronics. The atmosphere is delicately melancholic and epic. Imagine a missing link between Third Ear Band's ritual trance and Yatha Sidhra's intimate floating jazzy spacey soul for this track (but less complex than these two bands in terms of musical perspectives). The best thing I've heard from Battiato with his collaboration with Telaio Magnetico two years later. Strangely beautiful and positively emotional. Recommended. My review is dedicated to Micky who introduced me to this album.

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Send comments to philippe (BETA) | Report this review (#159380)
Posted Sunday, January 20, 2008 | Review Permalink
LinusW
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Italian Prog Specialist
5 stars Sulle Corde di Aries is one of those works where you can feel some sort of important decision has been made prior to its realisation. Whether conscious or unconscious, this the third album (not counting the English version of Fetus) is decidedly a more focused, comfortable and interesting album compared to its predecessors. Where you could sense a certain amount of uncertainty concerning direction, stylistic stamina and level of artistry emanating from Fetus and Pollution, Sulle Corde di Aries is more or less a done deal from start to finish.

Dropping sometimes too obvious ear-catchers such as sharply contrasting, truly electronic-sounding synthesisers, the occasional singer-songwriter guitar-and-vocal performance and the cubic, unsynchronised composition actually opts for something of a fresh start. This is Battiato expressing himself in a more organic, flowing and stable way where synthesisers and nimble percussion dominate. It's rich, but still subtle and minimalist in the meaning of underlying structural and dynamic changes. They're few and far between, with songs living their own life around a steady, simple rhythm where instruments can join, leave, change their melodies and interact in a successful and very effective way, making the overall sound an ambient micro-cosmos full of different sorts life and thus forcing the listener to heighten his awareness and enjoyment of the music. However, if you don't reach (or have trouble reaching) that state of concentration and positive feedback, it's just as likely the music will be perceived as.plain boring. Just a warning.

All these characteristics can be found in Sequenze e Frequenze, the epic of the album, and as such also half of it. Stunningly beautiful, with a haunting introduction of oboe, clarinet and a dark spectrum of synth sounds, gradually shifting towards the towering and majestic towers of synth that I find so characteristic of Battiatio. A recital vocal section on top of that, continuing over an oscillating melody that'll introduce the deliciously simple main beat of this amazing piece of music. And off it goes, with a steady foundation in the more low-key synth sounds and effects, with loads of delicate, spindly keyboard and percussion melodies dancing over it (like falling rain!) as the track progresses. Careful guitar textures anchors it with its earthy and familiar, yet intricate sounds the first minutes, only to drift into the background as the song grows more and more hypnotic. A short period of slightly off-beat, chunky drumming/percussion marks the shift into the intense and very much vibrant calimba section, where the synths manages to distance themselves at the same time as they increase in intensity. And then it continues down the same path, with many subtle changes along the way. A composition I immediately fell in love with, with its strong imagery, therapeutic qualities and exquisitely suggestive, subtle richness. One of those songs that lifts you up, being neither bright nor dark in character, but somehow above all of that. That goes for the entire album, to be honest.

Left are three shorter songs, all three around 5-6 minutes. Aries has a wonderful, slightly understated and distant introduction, with echoing guitar tones glimmering in the general emptiness (building in strength to be replaced by chord work). Again just a simple underlying beat to keep everything together and floating, choral vocals deep down in the mix. There's a great and whirling sax solo to be heard hear as well. Lighter than what came before, but nicely tripped-out nevertheless. Areknames from Pollution is never really far away when you hear Battiato's vocals and some of the melodies on Aria di Revulozione, but with a lot more sense for detail and the addition of tribal drumming, woodwind and saxophone. Strangely frozen in atmosphere and progression, it forms a nice interlude before Da Oriente ad Occindente. The interwoven, dancing vocals of the last track are delightful to hear, and yet again you're treated by the naked beauty of acoustic string instruments, effective, earthy rhythm and the autumnal, saturated sounds of woodwind. For being six and a half minutes long, it manages to creep under your skin just as much as Sequenze e Frequenze. A fitting end to a great album.

While I feel I have managed to get the most out of Sulle Corde di Aries' potential, I just can't call it an absolute masterpiece. For me to do that, it would require that the album gave me the same chills and emotional rush every time I hear it. And it just doesn't. Battiatio's music walks on a thin line between highly emotional and downright cold, a price he pays for making condensed and intellectual music. But the always present enigma also makes me want to come back time after time and, perhaps, with time, I'll be able to add that fifth star. [Edit: Done!]

5 stars.

//LinusW

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Send comments to LinusW (BETA) | Report this review (#200628)
Posted Sunday, January 25, 2009 | Review Permalink
Raff
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Possibly the most eclectic, innovative artist on the Italian pop/rock scene, Sicilian-born Franco Battiato, like many of his contemporaries, started his long career in the early Seventies, when the boot-shaped peninsula in the Mediterranean Sea was swept by a wave of musical creativity inspired by the British progressive rock movement, but not entirely rooted in it. The ancient island of Sicily possesses a rich cultural tradition, where north and south, east and west comfortably meet and influence each other, and Battiato's music is the living embodiment of this archetypal 'melting pot'. Even his poppier Eighties songs are brimming with references to the heady exoticism of the Middle East and India, or the melancholy, decadent milieu of Central Europe before WWI. Similarly, he is not averse to interspersing his songs with verses sung in foreign languages, adding a note of mystery to an already intriguing combination. His erudite, thought-provoking lyrics draw upon a vast body of knowledge, not solely limited to the western world - philosophy, mythology, religion, literature, art, all is fair game for Battiato, the man who brought multiculturalism to Italy way before the current wave of immigration.

Released in 1973, at the height of the popularity of prog rock in Italy and elsewhere, Sulle corde di Aries is in every way a quantum leap from Battiato's first two albums, the interesting but somewhat immature Fetus and Pollution. Even if for today's standards it is a very short recording (a bit over 30 minutes in length), its four tracks pack an aural and emotional wallop that much longer offerings can only dream of achieving. The 16-minute-plus electronic tour-de-force that is Sequenze e frequenze opens with haunting strains of synths and wind instruments, which only hint at what is to come - then Battiato's filtered voice kicks in, a voice miles away from the big, dramatic vocals so characteristic of RPI bands (ŕ la Francesco Di Giacomo). Somewhat thin and reedy, with a heavy Sicilian accent, it is however perfectly, exquisitely modulated, and strongly redolent of the Middle East - almost reminiscent of a muezzin's call. The few lines that make up the song are incredibly evocative in a visual sense... When he sings 'ogni tanto passava una nave' (every now and then a ship passed), in my mind's eye I can see a ship slowly moving over the horizon in a hazy summer's day. Such is the power of Battiato's music... Then, the track turns into an orgy of eerie, trippy sounds wrung out of a VC3 S, overlaid by the hypnotic, lilting beat of a kalimba - almost nothing else. Very simple, even minimalistic, but at the same time extremely powerful, in a way that so much electronic music can rarely achieve.

Aries, which introduces what used to be the B side of the album, is a mostly instrumental track with a stronger avant-garde vibe, featuring somewhat harsh saxophone and 'galloping' percussion beats. An excellent piece of music indeed, but in my opinion not as successful as the remaining two tracks. In both, Battiato's distinctive singing style is pushed to the fore, enhancing their already considerable musical interest. Aria di rivoluzione paints a picture of Europe in the years between the two world wars - the Italian lyrics reference the Abyssinian war, while the German ones (courtesy of Wolf Biermann, spoken by Analogy's Jutta Nienhaus in a deep, almost sensual tone) mention Hitler and Stalin. The juxtaposition of two such different languages, of the singing and the spoken word (a strategy that Battiato would further pursue in his career), adds depth and interest to what is the most melodic offering on the album. Finally, Da Oriente a Occidente is the closest the record gets to world music (as the title fittingly states), with Battiato's chanting vocals skillfully backed by two sopranos, and a beautiful, mandolin-laden, folky coda.

I saw Battiato performing live in the early Eighties, when he was on his way to becoming much more than the cult artist he had been for years. I entered the theatre as a sceptic, and came out as a convert... Though I cannot count myself as a full-fledged fan, I have the utmost respect for this unique musician, who at least for a time brought something genuinely new to the staid Italian pop scene, showing that there was a whole musical world to be explored beyond the established tradition of the opera and the 'canzone'. I will review some of his 'pop' albums at a later date, because I feel they deserve to be discovered and enjoyed by the users of this site, especially those who have some knowledge of the Italian language.

Sulle corde di Aries is undoubtedly one of the absolute masterpieces of Italian prog, and one of the still-undiscovered gems of progressive rock (any subgenre). Even if the album may not be easy to find for people outside Europe (though in Italy it can be found for VERY cheap), I hope this review, and the others before mine, will encourage more people to delve into the music of this amazing artist.

Finally... My five-star review is dedicated to ProgArchives' biggest fan of this album, who also happens to be my beloved husband.

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Send comments to Raff (BETA) | Report this review (#204371)
Posted Thursday, February 26, 2009 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars This is unlike any RPI album i've heard before. It's mystical and other-worldly sounding. The style here of Electronica, Psychedelic and World music should appeal to Krautrock fans.This really is a trip for the mind, heck even the album cover gives the impression that this is an Italian Psychedelic recording. And yes i'll always think of "Micky" when I look at that cover as i'm sure most on this site do. By the way check out Micky and Raff's reviews 'cause they both have a long history with this artist and know his music well.

Every word i've used to describe this album in my intro gets it's fullfillment in the side long masterpice "Sequenze E Frequenze". An absolute journey for the mind much like the great Electronic, Krautrock and Psychedelic bands have done before and since this album was released. It starts out dissonant and eerie all wrapped in a haunting mood. The soprano female vocals and synths are both crying out before Franco himself comes in singing beautifully in an ethnic atmosphere.This really has to be heard to be appreciated. A beat before 4 minutes as we start to move. Other sounds come and go during the next 12 minutes as the mood and tempo continues to shift. For me this is anything but boring. An amazing track.

"Aries" is an instrumental that opens with these haunting waves of sound as electronics join in.The tempo picks up but it's still spacey. The mood and sound changes 1 1/2 minutes. It's brighter. Vocal melodies 2 1/2 minutes in and sax a minute later. The intensity rises until it ends. The focus is more on the vocals during the first half of "Aria Di Rivoluzione". Franco's vocal sections are contrasted with female spoken words in German with violincello. The last half is ethnic sounding and instrumental. "Da Oriente Ad Occidente" sounds very cool vocally as Franco's vocals overlap. The music is almost eerie. He stops singing before 2 minutes as aboe and mandola take over. An Oriental vibe comes in a minute later. The sound seems to build after 4 1/2 minutes right to the end and includes some chanting from Franco.

The side long opening track is by far my favourite, but this whole record delivers something special to my mind.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#241802)
Posted Sunday, September 27, 2009 | Review Permalink
kenethlevine
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog-Folk Team
3 stars Battiato evolved throughout the 70s and beyond, such that even those who do not count themselves fans have great respect for his creative spirit. While it may be difficult for all but the most eclectic of music students to appreciate some of his late 70s releases, "Sulle Corde di Aries" is a transitional work that sees him stepping beyond the admittedly lax confines of "Pollution" while remaining somewhat accessible. It also is the first to overtly reflect his growing interest in middle eastern influences, and world music in general, at a time when these genres were more than buzzwords.

Based on its date of release (1973), this album appears to have influenced prog artists more than vice versa, particularly krautrock as well as electronic like TANGERINE DREAM and BRIAN ENO, and later comers like RICCARDO ZAPPA. The side long epic that kicks things off is the least penetrable, as it mesmerizes non stop for nearly it's entire 16 minutes. The predominant instrument here and elsewhere s the African kalimba, which is impossible to miss even as it is shrouded in the remaining mix that includes classical implements. The synthesizers are less confounded by gimmickry than on "Pollution", and Battiato adopts more of a devotional chanted style not without similarities to ALAN STIVELL on his landmark "Reflets". My personal favourites are the two closers, which are more concise variations on the themes introduced earlier and in which the cellos and the resplendent Arabic melodies are more pronounced. "Da Oriente a Occidente" is especially rewarding.

As it is easier to trace a lineage from rather than to Mr Battiato on this remarkable work, it deserves a higher rating than his prior albums, but I'm still torn about rounding up, because the entertainment quotient remains middling in the first half, so a bullish 3 stars is all I can offer.

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Send comments to kenethlevine (BETA) | Report this review (#253325)
Posted Saturday, November 28, 2009 | Review Permalink
Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Lovely avant-garde sound for getting lost

Battiato's "Sulle Corde di Aries" joins other albums like Sorrenti's "Aria" and Battisti's "Anima Latina" in that they are from the heart of the classic Italian prog period, but sound quite different from most of the "typical" RPI titles you will hear. Sulle Corde is an experimental blend of outside music influences riddled with savory touches of the RPI. You could find bits of Krautrock and avant-garde prog, spacey electronic, and jazzy interpretation. This is a beautiful and delightfully short album (gotta love a 33 minute album) which can feel detached and haunting, perhaps a bit cerebral and dry, but for the most part provides a unique contrast to the symphonic heavyweights of traditional Italian progressive rock. The first of only four tracks is the 16-minute "Sequenze e Frequenze." What an amazing piece of music, taking something that sounds a lot like Popol Vuh's droning soundscapes and injecting some Eastern music feel, perhaps some meditative sounds like Third Ear Band. Droning, river-flowing synth, ritual use of the voice, inventive acoustic guitar patterns. One of those tracks where you just let go of your self and drift. Mesmerizing and relaxing. However, this is certainly not for everyone. By today's standards of progressive rock, music like this could be considered boring or far too minimalist. Generally speaking (and of course exceptions abound) today's music is exciting but often uses large doses of crushing volume, melody, and/or easy-to-recall hook to make the experience completely accessible. Albums like Sulle Corde do not, relying on a listener who is patient and interested in getting lost, not found, in quiet moments.

Side two breaks the rest of the album into three tracks. These songs are a bit more immediate than side one but no less spellbinding for the musical seekers. "Aries" again has the comforting repetition for a spell before the calm is broken open by a mischievous saxophone solo. Contrast is all over the place, with the sax literally battling the acoustic guitar for your attention. "Aria di Rivoluzione" alternates two great vocals over cello, one being an uplifting Italian vocal, the contrasting one is a spoken-word German verse with a spooky feel akin to some of Doris Norton's spoken Jacula deliveries. The piece is relaxing and unsettling at the same time, always a sign of effective music in my view! The last track "Da Oriente ad Occidente" is very beautiful having a bit of operatic grandeur to the main vocal along with oboe and sprightly acoustic guitar, hand percussion creating the rhythm in the background. Here the last reference comes to mind, an important one, and that is the sort of free-world jazz improvisation of the band Oregon. At times throughout this album I am very much reminded of the acoustic/woodwind jazz sound of Oregon. And that is how I would sum up this unique recording. Fans of atypical RPI and fans of bands like Popol Vuh, Third Ear Band, and Oregon: you should be quickly adding this gem to your short list. If these groups do not appeal to you then I don't think you need to get this one.

All in all, the album has a very "holy" feel to it, a spiritual feel. It's like an ancient archeological find, a piece of art that is soothing and unsettling. It's about texture, ambiance, and mood....it is not about rock and roll songs. A masterpiece in my humble opinion.

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Send comments to Finnforest (BETA) | Report this review (#285105)
Posted Saturday, June 05, 2010 | Review Permalink
octopus-4
COLLABORATOR
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
4 stars Just before starting a period of musical collages and minimalistic music, Battiato releases this album that's probably the best of his psych-progressive period. The sung part of the long "Sequences and Frequences" contains already hints of his pop period to come, but all the rest of the sixteen minutes is really amazing. A repetitive electro- acoustic base with some middle-eastern influences sounds as Krautrock. There are also small parts, like the intro, where I hear a bit of Zeuhl influence (It's the same year of Kontharkosz). The most of the instrumental part is based on just one single major chord with keyboards, kalimba and percussions playing all the possible harmonics and variations with an effect very similar to Terry Riley's "In C". After 11 minutes, when percussion and kalimba stop, the middle-eastern flavor of the keyboard reminds to the early Floyd, in particular the few songs on which the band has let Richard Wright express himself like in the coda of Cirrus Minor..

So forget RPI. The only typical Italian thing in this track are the lyrics. The title is more about the musical contents (sequences and frequences), but the lyrics are just some flashes about a young child (I think self-biographical) during summers and winters. Contemplative, sery in line with the music.

"Aries" starts even more minimalistic. Four notes of a keyboard, suddenly replaced by guitar and percussions. This song is close to the Pink Floyd of the Zabriskie Point period, also because of the psychedelic mood of the song. Probably, more than Floydian, it's a mixture of western psychedelia and middle-eastern music. I think to the Dervish dancers. In the second half of the song a sax cries jazzy notes. Everything on just two major chords. I think "C-Bb" So let's say, a first half western and a second half German.

"Aria di Rivoluzione" (Hints of Revolution) is probably self-biographic as well. It's about the second world war. He tells of "Abissinia", now Ethiopia and Somalia that were Italian colonies and the war in Europe, with a German woman speaking like a Radio-news speaker, then he sings few words about his generation and hints of revolution (probably "Revolution in the air" would be a better translation). Musically is quite similar to the previous track: very good psychedelia.

"Da Oriente ad Occidente" (From East to West) says of a son whos asks his father the permission to leave. A mention to a "Volcano which will show the way in the darK" is another self-biographical reference. Battiato is from Catania, a town just below the Etna volcano. After those few words the rest is instrumental. Try to imagine Syd Barrett playing together with a band of Hashishins of the central Asia. There's a strong oriental flavor, specially in the instruments and sounds used, but the base is very Floydian. I remember him mentioning the early Pink Floyd as influencers during a concert many years ago.

As I have written above, more than RPI, this is an album for fans of early Floyd or Krautrock. After this one, he went more avantgarde and minimalistic, but this is another story.

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Send comments to octopus-4 (BETA) | Report this review (#605861)
Posted Monday, January 09, 2012 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Franco Battiato here offers a strange blend of progressively inclined folk rock and early electronic experimentation; I'm inclined to suggest a collaboration between Nick Drake (or a version of Drake steeped in the Italian folk tradition) and early Tangerine Dream. Those whose exposure to Italian progressive rock has focused on the big name bands like Le Orme, Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, and PFM will find this decidedly surprising, because although this is a distinctively Italian album (through the folk influences in particular) and it's undeniably progressive, Battiato seems to be performing from an entirely different planet from his RPI contemporaries, making him a true original.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#1046145)
Posted Friday, September 27, 2013 | Review Permalink
apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Neo Prog Team
3 stars For a thid solo album Battiato introduced a wider and significant line-up.Among his usual collaborators drummer Gianfranco D'Adda and guitarist Gianni Mocchetti we can find Analogy's female frontman Jutta Nienhaus, saxophonist Daniele Cavallanti from the Experimental/Folk act Aktuala and several less known musicians like Gianni Bedori on tenor sax, Jane Robertson on cello and Gaetano Galli on oboe.Entitled ''Sulle corde di Aries'', the album was released in 1973 on Pino Massara's Bla Bla label.

This was another step towards experimental music forms blended with Prpg tastes by Battiato, where the music is heavily driven by his atonal synthesizer exercises.The long ''Sequenze e frequenze'' is almost entirely built around his analog synths and obcure electronic loops with a few high-tone vocals and sax lines in its first part, somewhere between Avant-Prog and Folk, while after the middle it's all about Electronic/Avant-Garde music with hypnotic, repetitive and spacey keyboards, supported by somekind of sampled vibraphones.The first and last track of the opening side will be followed by ''Aries'' on the flipside of the LP, a Psych/Space Rock piece with discreet, crying guitars, haunting male chants and Bedori's excellent, blasting sax work towards the end.''Aria di rivoluzione'' is propably the closest cut to Italian Prog, featuring Nienhaus'es German narration among Battiato's Italian vocals in a very lyrical enviroment, supported by percussions, clarinet and another couple of minutes with nice Jazz/Folk sax lines.''Da oriente ad Occidente'' has a very nostalgic atmosphere with great Italian vocals and a very folky atmosphere, based on Galli's oboe and the acoustic changes between Batiatto's calimba and Mochetti's mandolin with some dark, improvised atmospheres during the closing minutes.

The later albums of Battiato shifted towards even more experimental and minimalistic music forms depending on the releasing period, mostly grounded in Avant-Garde, Modern Classical, New Wave and Electronic fields, thus being of marginal rock interest.Still he is fairly considered among the greatest contemporary Italian composers with a huge discography of diverse musical background.

''Sulle corde di Aries'' is definitely a monumental album of Experimental Rock and a daring listening for all fans, who consider themselves as progressive listeners.Eeerie, mysterious progressive music with folky ovetones and lovely vocal work.Recommended.

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Send comments to apps79 (BETA) | Report this review (#1052313)
Posted Thursday, October 03, 2013 | Review Permalink

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