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Franco Battiato - Fetus CD (album) cover

FETUS

Franco Battiato

Rock Progressivo Italiano


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andrea
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars After some singles in a melodic, commercial style, in 1972 Franco Battiato took a more challenging musical direction for his first full length album on Bla Bla Records blending Italian melody with experimental electronic sounds. The result is "Fetus", a concept album written in collaboration with Sergio Albergoni and producer Pino Massara and recorded with the help of a team of skilled musicians featuring, among others, Gianfranco D'Adda, Gianni Mocchetti and Sergio Almangano. According to the liner notes, this album is "completely dedicated" to Aldous Huxley and his works, in particular to Brave New World, a novel which anticipates developments in reproductive technology, sleep-learning, psychological manipulation, and operant conditioning that combine to profoundly change society. It's subtitled "Ritorno al mondo nuovo" (Return To The New World) and features a provocative, controversial art work by Gianni Sassi.

The opener "Fetus" is a short track in three parts that begins just by vocals and sound effects evoking the heart-beat. The lyrics depict the feelings of a baby who slowly takes shape in his mother's womb... "I wasn't born yet / And I could already feel the heart-beat / Even before my birth / I could feel that I was born without love...". On the instrumental middle section synthesizers come in describing the mystery of life flowing in the veins of fate, then an acoustic guitar arpeggio introduces an almost mystical atmosphere.

The following "Una cellula" (A cell) features a dreamy mood while the lyrics conjure up images from a future where time gets blurred... "My cells will change and my body will have a new life... We will travel around the sun, faster than light / As time-machines against the will of Time...".

"Cariocinesi" (Mitosis) is a strange, swinging track that every now and again reminds me of the Quintette du Hot Club de France of Stephan Grappelli and Django Reinhardt. The music and lyrics describe in a surreal way the magic of the process by which a cell, which has previously replicated each of its chromosomes, separates the chromosomes in its cell nucleus into two identical sets of chromosomes, each set in its own new nucleus, a process that is maybe blind or just "enlightened by a memory without past...". But beware! Chance can alter the process leading to unpredictable effects.

"Energia" (Energy) begins with the voice of some little children in the background and the reprise of the theme of the middle section of the title track. Then Franco Battiato's vocals come in and draw some reflections about the role of chance in the reproductive process... "I have had many women in my life / And in every room I left some of my energy... If a child would be aware that he was born by chance among thousands of occasions / He would understand all the dreams that life can give / And he would live with joy all those illusions...".

"Fenomenologia" (Phenomenology) begins with a strummed acoustic guitar and a dreamy mood... "My mental action is uncertain / The voice is marble and concrete / I live in spite of myself / It's hard to get the control / There's fog around my eyes / The outlines are getting blurred / I've already forgotten my dimension / Unknown forces are tearing me from myself...". Then a second part follows introduced by strange percussion patterns while the vocals repeat the DNA formula. The track ends with a reprise of the third part of the title track

"Meccanica" (Mechanics) is darker and begins with synthesizers in the forefront that bring a sense of tension. Then an acoustic section follows and the music and lyrics depict a laboratory where the genes of love are manipulated to shape a new form of life featuring mechanical eyes and brain, a plastic heart and a synthetic taste. On the final section you can hear the voices of the astronauts of the Apollo 11 and Bach's "Air on a G string".

Next comes the ethereal "Anafase" (Anaphase). Anaphase is the stage of mitosis or meiosis when chromosomes are split and the sister chromatids move to opposite poles of the cell, but in this case the lyrics and music conjure up an interstellar journey. Some spaceships take off towards the immensity - Will man colonize new planets?

The conclusive "Mutazione" (Mutation) seems to suggest the answer for the previous question... "Millennia of sleep have cradled me and now I'm back / Something has changed / I can't see any signal of life / Nonetheless I can feel it / The are some vibrations / I can't say what my eyes are going to see / Perhaps some bodies of stone / I feel them coming...".

Well, on the whole an interesting album with a concept half-way between science-fiction and spiritualism!

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Send comments to andrea (BETA) | Report this review (#69179)
Posted Sunday, February 12, 2006 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
2 stars 2.5 stars really!!

Certainly one of the more controversial artiste of the peninsula (or should I say the peninsula ;o), Battiato owes a good deal of his early career to controversial issues such as abortion (this one) or pollution (his next). Whether the man was really having aesthetics and political issues or whether he was just looking for fame and glory through controversial public exposition, the first part of his career would be leaning for the first choice, while his post 70's career would meake you think the second supposition would be more accurate, for the man has literally touched almost every single music genre or style. But coming back to Fetus (and its super- tasteless "artwork", let alone the gigantic vagina entrance on the inner gatefold sleeve), this album has every right to be claimed as a unique record for the music on it, but the previous releases (all singles I believe) hinted at a light pop artistes.

So whether this album is indeed voluntarily experimental (and very clumsy) or the resulting (equally clumsy) work of a "poseur", while unclear as it may be, this Fetus album has every right to perk up proghead's interest. The group (we're talking of a septet, including Franco) is rather clumsy for most of their atonal or dissonance sound more accidental, rather than carefully planned, therefore hinting a lack of depth in the department, but clearly compared to future albums, it is clear that they were still learning their craft. In either case, the album seems to float on a solid layer of naiveté that ruins it for this listener. From the three part-opening track to the middle tracks that perspires un-programmed musical adventures (at least, let's hope they are un-programmed), the album probably makes sense to those that are close friends of the band. Not helping is the production of such an album, but the following one holds many more imperfections than Fetus.

Agreeing much more with my young Ricochet colleague than the calm Andrea, I tend to think that this music is too strident and astringent to really be natural and even honest. I remember hearing once the English version of this album and as you'd guess, the original Italian version simply rules.. But only compared to that one album. Not exactly recommendable, the Battiato album is only for those confirmed fans, that you'll easily guess I'm not a part of.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#152997)
Posted Wednesday, November 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
philippe
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Content Development & Krautrock Team
2 stars Fetus is a really weird, eccentric electro-melodic prog album from the controversial / curious Franco Battiato. However this release is rather inequal, delivering honest songs and lot of academic pop types. The atmosphere is ecclectic, strangely psych and theatrical. The opening theme is a soft melodic pop poetry with stylish vocals, acoustic elements, electronic gadgets, weird synth waves. Fanatesia mixes one more time almost hypno-like electronic treatments, classical arrangements to a boring, sloppy little ballad. The album contains his good moments in the instrumental (break) section of Fanatesia with its enigmatic-electro harmonies...Mutazione is a really light song featuring gentle, naive, poppy melodies and discreet abstract loops. No surprise and not really passionate. Musically speaking there's no much distance with Albergo Intergallatico Spaziale but it's less captivating due to the omnipresence of mainstream (radiophonic) pop structure.

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Send comments to philippe (BETA) | Report this review (#159310)
Posted Saturday, January 19, 2008 | Review Permalink
micky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars *after a bit of a long break.. time to return to finishing my first set of Battiato reviews.. there are some other groups and movements. Mainly Prog Metal I'd like to start reviewing... but I hate leaving loose ends*

Franco Battiato was active in music for years before the 1972 release of this his debut album. He struggled for years as a singers artist in Milan recording under the name of Francesco before getting together with some musicians he had played with and forming the group Osage Tribe. After a couple of singles he left to start his solo career before the release of the groups seminal Arrowhead album. Those singles being available on the CD release of the album as bonus tracks. Battiato was signed to Bla Bla records and the birth of an artist who would shape Italian music for the next 30+ years was born.

Fetus was released early in 1972. While it didn't have the commercial impact of his second album Pollution which went top 10 in the charts later in the year it was critically acclaimed and recognized as a defining point in the prog movement of the 70's. In fact an English version of the album was recorded to try to break Battiato in the english speaking world. Unfortunately the album was never released until the nineties. However Battiato did try to break into England and played two fairly high profile shows at London's Roundhouse, supporting first Magma and later Ash Ra Tempel. And it was at this time that Frank Zappa, on hearing Pollution, famously called Battiato's work 'genius'. Fetus is such an interesting album because from the start is spotlights two defining aspects of his music that endured through the 70's even as his sound and his style mutated. One is his passion for exploring minimalism. The other being his incredible sense of melody. Both would be expanded upon ..refined and improved upon as the years went. While his explorations with minimalism would culminate in his late 70's albums, his superior sense of melody would take him past the days of prog.. serve him well into the realms of pop.. then back to prog.

Now for the album itself... as his albums of the 70's this is not what you would call a traditional prog album. Only his next album, Pollution will you find Battiato accompanied by a true backing band. Battiato is the only credited musician here.. signifying that this album is his... an expression of his musical ideas and talents and I can really dig that. The 'star' of this album is Battiato and his VCS3 synthesizer. For texture sakes there are other instruments of course but his synth is the prevalent sound on the album. The album is a short one.. about 30 minutes which is letter perfect. The album is a nice mix of psych elements, folk, and symphonic. Effective twists and turns in mood and dynamics like any good prog album should have. Songs with melodies of such beauty that they just latch onto you and catch yourself hours later humming them out loud. The compositions and instrumentation as noted about are in the minimalist vein. Rather than being bludgeoned with scores of galloping instruments or excessive and pointless complexity. We have an album that is truly progressive and forward thinking without falling victim to being 'prog for prog's sake'.

The album starts with the title track to the album that begins with.. of course... a beating heart then goes into a bombastic VCS3 workout before ended ending in a reflective acoustic and vocalized section that will be reprised later in the album. Una Cellula is another synth driven song, accompanied by pounding tom-toms, with lovely singing by Battiato on it. Love the harmonized vocals on that. Very inviting and warm. The next one, Cariocinesi, is a wonderful change of pace with a violin taking the melodic lead on this one. Very catchy folk inspired track. The next two are my favorites on the album. Energia has a catchy as hell synth melody after a reprise of the theme of the theme and melody form the album's opening track. The track ends with a organ outro that reminded me of something right out of Pink Floyd's Cirrus Minor. Fenomenologia begins with an mellow acoustic guitar and vocal section that raised the hair on my arms the first time I heard it.. just hit me hard. Beautiful stuff. The tempo picks up with an an organ and pounding tom-tom section with Battiato singing in a harsh strained manner but ending with the section that closed the opening track on the album. Good stuff. Meccanica is the longest on the album.. a real collage of music.. synths.. piano.. guitars. and violins battle it out. I have seen this album called by some the ..pardon the pun... fetus that would grow into his masterpiece Sulle Corde di Aries. ON this track you can really see it. Anafase is next up and is a bit of psych synth workout. Interesting to say the least.

As far as rating the album... for the site going for 3 stars. A good addition to your prog collection but not the one I would start your Battiato collection with. This is a good album.. but truth is.. there are others far better.. and far more interesting. Nothing against this album... it's just a reflection of how good the others are. For me 3 stars. Don't listen to it much.. but still is a real treat to put in every once in awhile.

Michael (aka Micky)

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Send comments to micky (BETA) | Report this review (#161478)
Posted Sunday, February 10, 2008 | Review Permalink
LinusW
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Italian Prog Specialist
2 stars A bit more naive, playful and innocent than Battiato's breakthrough and sophomore album Pollution, that's for sure, but still filled with a lot of the enigmatic qualities that signifies that record.

Touches of the man's background in the lighter and poppier 'singer/songwriter' school of artists are quite frequent, being lighter in construction, often just a simple textural backing together with vocals elaborating on top - it reduces the distancing of his compositions and gives a more personal, up-close perspective to the otherwise reclusive music I'd have expected. Fetus generally feels a lot more outgoing and traditional in that sense. The nostalgia (in part due to the samples used here) I tend to sense with Battiato is presented more actively and tangible and motives of emotion is a lot more easily pinpointed and detected throughout, making it closer to 'normal' song writing and structure in many cases. Take for example Cariocinesi, which is a rather straightforward composition with standard drumming and bass, with a part joyous, part ironic violin melody swirling over it. It's just not what you'd expect.

It's a naked record, in production and sound, and simply put, a bit lacking in depth on many levels. Nothing but drums and synth is a recurring concept. However controversial the artwork or topic might be, there's no real integrity on many of the songs, being too pleasing and shallow in musical presentation and emotional content, creating a torn and confusing impression of it all. The experimentations - there sure is some - fails to captivate in their haphazard, unruly distribution. Certainly impulsive and genuine in intention, they too often feel like blunt and blatant attempts at "proper" avant-garde stuff, strewn out in a lazy and for lack of a better word, cowardly, fashion. Don't take it wrong, the intentions are most certainly genuine, but in restraining himself from fully taking the plunge, the otherwise so effective chock effect of meeting confusion with more confusion is lost, with Battiato trying to write songs while ignoring structure at the same time and the end-result thus turns out to be that he gets the job half-done in two different ways. The omnipresent VC3 is delivering symphonic melodies, psychedelic waves and experimental effects quite freely, but unfortunately in a rather random way, making it clash with the rest of the music now and then, which further proves that it's mostly the compositional skill that needs to be honed before the full potential of the ideas presented here can be given the life of their own the musicians aim and hope for.

Not bad, but it can and will be much better. Throughout the albums thirty minutes, I find myself thinking that if you picked out the best parts of it all and put them together in a tasty and effective way, you could end up with some ten or twelve minutes of the best material on Pollution, and that is simply not enough. In spite of being so short, it still manages to suffer from a lot of deadweight.

Fans would most certainly be interested in what Fetus have to offer, if only to study Battatio's evolution, but the more casual listener does right in heading straight for his more interesting and refined later works.

2 stars.

//LinusW

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Send comments to LinusW (BETA) | Report this review (#191181)
Posted Monday, December 01, 2008 | Review Permalink
Matthew T
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Over a heartbeat the first album by Franco Battiato is introduced on Fetus and a musical journey begins. Previous to this album he had only be doing singles L'amore e Partito was the first released back in 1965. He finally released an album in 1971 on the underground label Bla Bla records and Fetus being the first.

This is truly expermental music for the time and innovative and starts off with the first track Fetus with that heartbeat,Battiato's vocals,springs and synth that turns to almost a siren he has your attention.Una Cellula the following track seems to blend into the first as the whole album does.

This album is slightly more accoustic than the two to follow ( Pollution and Sulle Corde de Aries)and for me is as good. With childrens voices and that synth as on Energia the 4th track a bass and Battiato's vocals and of course things pick up but this for me is one seamless album and do the tracks really matter as you listen to it.

At the time the cover caused consternation but what would you expect from an innovater in modern music

About thirty minutes of sheer genuis as you should remember this was his debut and here it almost 2010 and he is still going and changing.

Masterpiece for me as I hear Richard Nixon talking to Neil Armstrong and even though I really have only known off this artist for a relatively short time that takes me back to my childhood.

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Send comments to Matthew T (BETA) | Report this review (#255549)
Posted Thursday, December 10, 2009 | Review Permalink
octopus-4
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
3 stars I listened to this for the first time during a live performance. It was the early 80s in a small Italian town (south of Tuscany) and even if he was already well known for his most pop works, he played big portions of Fetus and Pollution.

It was a surprise. I knew him as an eclectic person, but I wasn't expecting to hear prog music actually. He introduced Fetus speaking about his early musical experiences and influences. Unexpectedly, he said he was influenced by early Pink Floyd.

I'm listening to the album now, after many years, and after reading some reviews. I don't see any minimalistic approach on this album. probably it was just too advanced for his time.

We can find tracks of the (good) pop he will make later in the 80s. On another side, the acoustic parts are in the typical RPI style. Give a listen to the closing track: "Mutazione" (Mutation), it reminds to Le Orme.

Even if a Fetus is on the album's cover, it's not about abortion. It's probably when the reference to Pink Floyd (The Embryo) is from. Just the idea, as there's no track of Pink Floyd like music in the whole disc.

I think it's a good example of RPI, not so experimental as somebody else wrote, with hints of Battiato's genius in the lyrics. The most experimental tracks like "Anafase" (one of the phases of cellular division), are short. After a melodic intro, and before an acoustic guitar coda, just 2 minutes of electronic experiments can't scare a progger. It's just a bit unusual for the RPI music of the early 70s, but there's plenty of this sounds in Space Rock.

My mind says 3 stars, even if my heart suggests 4.

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Send comments to octopus-4 (BETA) | Report this review (#286975)
Posted Friday, June 18, 2010 | Review Permalink
seventhsojourn
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
RPI
3 stars Franco Battiato's 40-year career spans Eurovision, opera, painting and filmmaking, although back in the day he toured with the likes of Eno and Ash Ra Tempel. His debut album doesn't follow the well-trodden RPI path (not that I believe such a thing exists, literally or figuratively), but is instead a pioneering mix of pop and experimental electronic music. Taking its musical cue from Messrs Stockhausen and Glass, ''Fetus'' is a minimalist concept album about the life of a foetus. The album mainly consists of Battiato and his VCS3, and at little over 30-minutes it's briefer than a pair of 007's budgie smugglers.

From the opening foray of the title-track it's clear that Battiato eschews traditional song structures and is economical with his use of textures. The sound of a heartbeat and some tentative vocals lead into a repeating synthesizer phrase that increases in intensity, which finally reaches an anti-climax of acoustic guitar and hummed vocals. These will be recurring themes throughout the album as the synthesizer phrase and wordless vocals interpenetrate several of the other songs. ''Una Cellula'' is simpler in structure and was in fact released as a single, coupled with ''Energia'', and shows that Battiato could knock-out catchy melodies as easily as he could knock-up his groupies.

So, tracks one and two are tickety boo, but then out of the left field comes the incongruous ''Cariocinesi'', featuring lively jazz violin in the style of Stephane Grappelli. On the subject of Stephane Grappelli, he apparently recorded a solo on the title-track of ''Wish You Were Here'' although it's so far down in the mix as to be inaudible. Back to Battiato, and babbling bouncing babies and gurgling electronics on ''Energia'' herald the first reiteration of the synthesizer theme from ''Fetus''. A brief but unnerving silence ensues before a synthesizer drone and vocals (with Battiato sounding remarkably like Le Orme's Aldo Tagliapietra) culminate in pounding toms and a glorious melody that reminds me of Fleet Foxes! ''Fenomenologia'' is the low-lying fruit of the album, being mostly a boozy, bluesy acoustic number with a reprise of the ''Fetus'' hummed vocals.

The forward-looking musical montage of ''Meccanica'' starts off sounding like a deranged ''In The Hall Of the Mountain King'' before acoustic guitar, violin, drum-machine and finally organ take over. This is interspersed with the ''Fetus'' synthesizer theme and heavenly choir, before the song finishes with a sequence that consists of the broadcast of the Buzz and Neil moon landing underpinned by a J. S. Bach air. Go figure. ''Anafase'' is seemingly equally random; ranging from its acoustic beginnings to its Morse code sound effects, from music that waxes and wanes for no apparent reason to a loud piano explosion, and to weird sound effects that make me feel like a microbial-me is on a ''Fantastic Voyage'' with Raquel Welch! Then there's a final reprise of the bluesy guitar and hummed vocals passage from earlier. My description of this couplet probably makes it sound like a musical pig's ear but these two songs together form the centrepiece of the album and are hard act to follow.

However, it's not over till the last man is brought to the surface and ''Mutazione'', featuring some rare electric guitar, provides an evocative and strangely uplifting conclusion to the album. In spite of its primitive electronics and ropey production, ''Fetus'' is an enduring work and is essential listening at least for the RPI diehards out there. Now back to Raquel...

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Send comments to seventhsojourn (BETA) | Report this review (#303811)
Posted Wednesday, October 13, 2010 | Review Permalink
Guldbamsen
FORUM & SITE ADMIN GROUP
Site and Forum Admin
4 stars The journey begins, - and what a journey! Franco Battiato has made a LOT of records in his time, but this is actually the best place to start IMO. "Fetus" would show signs of what was to come, from one of the most original and influential musicians out of the Italian prog scene during the 70´s. It pains me to see this album with a rating under 3. Not that I pay much attention to the ratings, but I certainly have found my fair share of incredible albums due to high rankings and general praise surrounding the given release( well I´ve been falsely swayed too - just for the record...).

"Fetus" is Franco Battiato´s first album and it shows. There is a playfulness and a childlike energy accompanying this release, and much like the sole album of Semiramis - it rather ads an unwieldy amount of quirky charm, instead of letting it fall flat on its face. The music is a combination of soft acoustic guitar, the beautiful voice of Battiato, and the ever present VCS3, that he would go on to use on his next 3 releases. I really love the way he plays that thing. Shifting from larval like textures - sluggishly creeping and crawling, - to high pitched squeeks sometimes approaching avant-garde territory. I also believe that "Fetus" employs an electronic rhythm device, such as you would hear on "Journey" by Arthur Brown´s Kingdom Come a whole year later. Aside from that, this is his most acoustic work, and at times it sounds like a very Italian folk album. Melody wise we are not far from the late sixties. Then again, some of the melodies here sound like lullabies you would sing to a child - only for the song to turn around with some creepy effects of that of early horror movies and scare the the living daylights out of the poor kid. The whole larval sound of this album is very much a Battiato trademark, which he would develop further during the next couple of years. It sounds strange, but this is the closest I can get to describing that special spice he flavoured his early servings with. On "Fetus", this enhances the whole embryonic feel of the record, whether you choose to look at the cover art or the clever introspective lyrics dedicated to Aldous Huxley (for once in my life, I have read the translation of lyrics in my RPI!!!). Even if you are indeed a non-speaker of Italian who has lost the gift of sight, - you will probably pick up this highly original characteristic of his.

By using "Fetus" as background music for the end of summer, the album transforms into an epilogue of the season, intertwining both blood red leaves and icy breezes with Battiato´s trembling voice. Making this album change course completely, bringing with it a mystical utopian reversible birth. -I love music that surpasses its own creators intentions. Though not a masterpiece, I can easily forgive this album for its, at times, rather bulky and clumsy way of fitting the musical jig saw pieces together. Beautiful and bulky - always standing in the shadows of its descendants.

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Send comments to Guldbamsen (BETA) | Report this review (#305567)
Posted Tuesday, October 19, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Poor old Franco. What did he do to deserve such a low score with such an inventive album? At 31 minutes you'd be right in not considering this an album at all. Didn't old 12" singles breach this duration in the 80's?

Anyway, at the age of 27 Battiato decided to go all electronic anti-pop with this little monstrosity of an album. The sleeve doesn't get things off to the best of starts, making me want to vomit before I've even heard a note. I mean, come on - who's gonna buy that!

Undoubtedly he had a great voice which is used relatively sparsely through the strange amalgamation of repeatedly shifting tunes and genres. Apollo 11 Moon landing recordings are used quite brilliantly on 'Meccanica' with orchestral background. The great thing is that no two tunes sound the same on this kooky and unearthly, mostly experimental album. Orchestral sounds re-appear with 'Silenzio del Rumore' along with the melliferous Italian singing of Franco himself.

Thankfully I've not heard too much of his later output, as I'm led to believe he became something of a superstar in Italy.

And we all know what that means don't we...

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Send comments to Dobermensch (BETA) | Report this review (#403618)
Posted Saturday, February 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A charming and diverse debut

Franco Battiato falls in that group of great Italian solo musical artists like Battisti, Sorrenti, and Rocchi, who toyed with the RPI movement before moving into other genres and styles of music. Battiato may be the most celebrated of the bunch by producing the most material which RPI fans find appealing; he had quite a string of fine albums. This string began rather early in the Italian progressive timeline, with the material for "Fetus" conceived in 1971 for a very early '72 release.

Despite the less-than-appealing cover art, "Fetus" is one charming piece of work. It is true that it is less realized than his coming albums, perhaps more scattershot, and yet I find it is probably the one I enjoy playing the most. It's a collage work mixing symphonic, psych, traditional Italian pop, avant-garde, minimalism, and electronic sound. Comparisons are sometimes made to Krautrock groups, musical chameleons like Roxy Music, or bands like Neu, Can, Kraftwerk, early Floyd, even Pierrot Lunaire's "Gudrun." Personally I am reminded of Antonio Bartoccetti's Jacula which was also an experimental sound troupe as opposed to a traditional rock band, they had the same approach of cut and pasting somewhat sparse singular ingredients to create a sound painting, as opposed to following the mores of rock n roll. Obviously Battiato does not have the same occult/death imagery of Jacula, understand I'm talking about the creative process and not the actual musical themes. The brevity of the tracks is arguable. Some may disappointed they end too soon, while I've seen others praise Battiato for not getting hung up on endless length for the sake of it, as some of his contemporaries were doing by this point.

"a diverse mixture of progressive rock; lovely and haunting melodies complete with "churchy" sounding pipe organ; soft, acoustic textures (guitar and violin); spacey, VCS3 synthesizer heavy experimentation; some folk music; psychedelic freak outs; and found sounds." -Jeffrey J. Park

As for what "Fetus" delivers to the listeners, the songs are short and sweet, built upon the combination of Battiato's VCS3, voice, and the acoustic guitar. The eerie warbles of the VCS3 are handled masterfully, and even if occasionally cheesy by today's standards they are often evocative and haunting in their strangeness. The embellishments in the form of violin, swelling organ washes, light/minimal percussion, Bach samples, and sound effects keep each track very rich and interesting. Beyond his own rather average singing voice he employs the voices of children, or in another track he uses audio from the Apollo 11 space mission to captivating effect. The songs are like snapshots, all different from each other, and not always transitioning smoothly as other reviewers note. But it doesn't harm the overall effect for me. The irresistible combination of "ideas overload" with obvious affection for nostalgic melodies creates a wonderfully inviting and memorable album. There is also a certain vibe of innocence and naivety contrasting the album's many colorful nooks and crannies, which may pull off the difficult task of pleasing both fans of "difficult" prog and melodic pop/rock. From sounds as diverse as vocal babbling to delicate strings, from wild synths to Orme style strummed acoustic change-ups, the bottom line is that this album is fresh. Fresh in 1972 and still quite appealing four decades on.

Check out Guldbamsen's fine description of the album's sound. I agree with him that this is the perfect place to start your Battiato journey, from the beginning, so you can hear the amazing developments to follow.

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Send comments to Finnforest (BETA) | Report this review (#404703)
Posted Monday, February 21, 2011 | Review Permalink
zravkapt
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4 stars This is the first album from Italian singer/songwriter Franco Battiato. He would later on be known for his pop songs(his background) but he started out his career releasing weird albums that just got weirder. He was one of the first Italians to experiment with synthesizers and some of the music on this album is very ahead of it's time. Fetus is dedicated to writer Aldous Huxley and the cover (cute isn't it?) was originally censored. This does sound like someone's first attempt at making an album, although that's part of it's charm. Franco I believe does all the keyboards and vocals, while others do the rest.

The music here is not your typical RPI fare and in some cases probably has more in common with Prog Electronic or Krautrock than most Italian prog. The album begins with the sound of an actual heartbeat, as opposed to the bass drum mimicing a heartbeat that ELP and Floyd would do not long after this was released. A great melody on synth is played for the majority of the title track; it gets reprised later in the song "Energia." "Una Cellula" is probably the best song and you can listen to it on PA. Great synth sounds and melodies, especially after the first minute. This song is almost entirley synths, percussion and vocals. Nice soloing on synth at the end.

"Cariocinesi" features some old time sounding music; early jazz style guitar and some early country style violin playing. Along with some electronic percussion. Not really any synths at all in this song. "Energia" opens with children talking before that cool melody on synth from the title track is reprised. About a minute and a half the music fades out and is replaced by a new section. More good synth soloing. Some organ at the end. "Fenomenologia" begins with acoustic guitar playing something I've heard before in a much later song. Later on some pounding drums and banjo while Franco does some of his best vocals on the album. Towards the end is some nice acoustic guitar and what sounds like speed altered 'mmm, mmm, mmm' type vocals.

"Meccanica" opens with a repeated figure on a keyboard. It is followed by a melody and later on some drum rolls and vocals you would find on Il Balleto di Bronzo's Ys album. The music fades out and changes to acoustic guitar, electronic percussion and violin. Some bass joins in. Then organ. Franco's vocals are modified and you hear backwards sounds. A little burst of fuzz guitar in there. Awesome yet creepy ethereal voices give way to NASA astronauts talking about the moon. What sounds like an old record of Bach music is played over top. A highlight of the whole album.

"Anafase" begins with vibraphone and vocals before acoustic guitar and background harmony vocals. Nice piano melody. As usual by now, the music fades in and out, being replaced or joined by synth sounds. Then a piano crash similar to Floyd's "Sysyphus." It gets really quiet and spacey in the middle. Near the end some organ is played and the music stops. Then more acoustic guitar playing the beginning of "Fenomonologia." "Mutazione" has great guitar chords. More pounding drums later. Probably the most 'normal' sounding song on the album.

This is some great RPI but I'm not sure what fans of PFM or Le Orme would think of it. Definately on the more experimental end of Italian progressive rock. His next couple of albums are similar but more refined. The music can be spacey, melodic, folky, symphonic or just plain weird. One of the best prog releases from early 1970s Italy. 4 stars.

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Send comments to zravkapt (BETA) | Report this review (#488628)
Posted Friday, July 22, 2011 | Review Permalink

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