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CORDE OBLIQUE

Prog Folk • Italy


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Corde Oblique biography
Borne out of his earlier work LUPERCALIA, Riccardo Prencipe formed CORDE OBLIQUE in the mid-2000s as primarily his a solo effort. However, he employs numerous supporting artists in his studio creations, primarily orchestral instrumentation and strong female lead vocalists. Musicians from groups such as ANATHEMA, SYNAULIA, ION and DAEMONIA NYMPHE have appeared on CORDE OBLIQUE albums.

The project's music blends ambient, classical, rock, folk and operatic sounds into a unique experience that is rooted in Mediterranean folk.

>> Bio by Bob Moore (aka ClemofNazareth) <<

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Per Le Strade Ripetute by Corde ObliquePer Le Strade Ripetute by Corde Oblique
The Stones of Naples
Audio CD$167.71
Respiri by Corde ObliqueRespiri by Corde Oblique
Masterpiece
Audio CD$81.61
Stones of Naples by Corde ObliqueStones of Naples by Corde Oblique
Prikosnovenie
Audio CD$93.90
Volonta D Arte By Corde Oblique (2007-09-20)Volonta D Arte By Corde Oblique (2007-09-20)
Prikosnovenie
Audio CD$51.70
$39.99 (used)
A Hail of Bitter Almonds By Corde Oblique (2011-04-28)A Hail of Bitter Almonds By Corde Oblique (2011-04-28)
Prikosnovenie
Audio CD$75.69
Stones of NaplesStones of Naples
Import
2009
Audio CD$28.68
$49.00 (used)
RespiriRespiri
Import
Imports 2005
Audio CD$24.08
$29.23 (used)

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CORDE OBLIQUE discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

CORDE OBLIQUE top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.00 | 6 ratings
Respiri
2005
4.04 | 9 ratings
Volontą D'Arte
2007
4.46 | 10 ratings
The Stones of Naples
2009
4.88 | 11 ratings
A Hail of Bitter Almonds
2011
3.23 | 7 ratings
Per Le Strade Ripetute
2013
3.17 | 4 ratings
I Maestri Del Colore
2016

CORDE OBLIQUE Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

CORDE OBLIQUE Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

CORDE OBLIQUE Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

CORDE OBLIQUE Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Richiami a mezzo marre
2009
0.00 | 0 ratings
Itri
2015

CORDE OBLIQUE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 I Maestri Del Colore by CORDE OBLIQUE album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.17 | 4 ratings

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I Maestri Del Colore
Corde Oblique Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

3 stars So much modern popular music these days is prepared and packaged for the download "industry", with the unfortunate result that art too often imitates life, becoming convenient and disposable. This is a far cry from the early 1970s when the gatefold sleeve ruled supreme, and more time was spent fondling it than would be considered appropriate today. But every so often a CD, yes, a CD, is released that recaptures that visionary spirit. CORDE OBLIQUE's Riccardo Prencipe utilized crowd funding to consummate "I Maestri Del Colore", the band's 6th release, and the result is as much a tribute to his fans as to bygone eras. To experience this recording merely as a download is to infer beauty from the skin out.

The meticulousness in the booklet extends to the citing of venerable sources of inspiration, dedications to loved ones and friends, and the acknowledgement of musical collaborators ranging from the more commercial side of neo folk (ARGINE) to Bulgarian kindred spirits (IRFAN) to venerable elder statespersons AKTUALA (actually on progarchives), to Neapolitan bands dedicated to the resurrection of ancient music (MICROLOGUS) among others. The alliances that CORDE OBLIQUE has forged, with both audience and contemporaries, appear to have quite dramatically affected the mood and approach musically.

While still operating in the realm of "progressive ethereal folk", and still recognizable as CORDE OBLIQUE particularly in the vocal sections, this eminence extends the more contemplative and less "pop oriented" trajectory of "Per Le Strade Ripetute". Vocals are much sparser, and Prencipe unchains the electric guitar, generally for acoustic styled plucking, but for a couple of heavy rhythms. Conventional drums are also deployed here and there. Yes neither of these traditional rock instruments do more than color the ancient sounding rhythms and melodies. More noteworthy is the inclusion of trumpet on a number of pieces, which can be hard to discern unless one is looking for it, utilizing long held notes rarely to the fore, and promotes the overall languid, mournful ambiance. Strings have never been second fiddle with CORDE OBLIQUE, and they continue to inject profundity and occasional vivacity. This is music to lose oneself in, and perhaps find one's older self connected more with the ancient sages.

The difficult arises when one evaluates this for a modern prog rock audience. Yes, prog fans do enjoy some of the self conscious but unsentimental instrumentals like "Papavero e memoria" and "Blubosforo", or the robotically chanted liturgy of "A fondo oro". The more folk oriented listener will appreciate Prencipe's inclusion of dramatic and gorgeous songs like "Il cretto nero", which were more plentiful on earlier albums. Few would deny the overall beauty of the sonic palette which does justice to the visuals on which it is based. Overall, though, I think that the rock quotient, minimal in earlier recordings, is almost non existent at this juncture, and the folk aspect is not as immediate as it had been, which is a bit of a failing, since folk music thrives on some degree of immediacy. As a result, I sometimes do lose myself herein, but perhaps not for the right reasons. That all does change in the last minute of the album, which I'm still puzzling over, a mashup of heavy rhythm guitar and drums hitherto unimagined in this group's lexicon of tranquility.

"I Maestri Di Colore" is a difficult album to rate, and I would almost prefer to just leave you with a review and call it a day, but that's not possible or even advisable. For its creator, It is a work of profound self respect and respect for all whom he has touched and been touched by. For its listeners, that respect is apparent and earned. I just wish it were a bit more engaging more often. 3.5 stars, reluctantly rounded down because, like all uncompromising art, it is forever engaged in a search for that elusive perfect match.

 A Hail of Bitter Almonds by CORDE OBLIQUE album cover Studio Album, 2011
4.88 | 11 ratings

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A Hail of Bitter Almonds
Corde Oblique Prog Folk

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Jazz-Rock / Fusion / Canterbury Team

5 stars A Hail of Bitter Almonds brings RICCARDO PRENCIPE's neo-medieval music project more fully into the prog world. The Post Rock sound and format similar to ANATHEMA is present here. Also, this album has by far the greatest diversity in terms of tempos and musical stylings yet used on a Corde Oblique album. It seems that Riccardo has taken Corde Oblique from the realm of neo-classical, into neo medieval classical, then neo medieval folk, and now prog folk rock with a very consistent medieval folk tinge throughout. Once again drawing from the vocal talents of a stable of superb singers--this time four female and two male--helps A Hail of Bitter Almonds yield some truly memorable songs--though, IMHO, not quite as consistent as its gorgeous predecessor, The Stones of Naples. Still, the highs and diversity of styles and dynamics of this album makes A Hail of Bitter Almonds another gem--and more proggy.

1. "A Hail of Bitter Almonds" (2:08) opens the album powerfully--on the powerful vocal pipes of Floriana Cangiano and great violin accompaniment from Alfredo Notarloberti. (10/10)

2. "Together Alone" (4:15) presents us with a nice male vocal singing in English with standard accompaniment from Riccardo, strings, piano and drums. The shift at 2:50 is nice--and effective. (9/10)

3. "Arpe di vento" (4:58) opens with a very familiar melody--as if from the previous album ("Bario gotico"?) but then deviates into something different. Fast-pace guitar strumming and hand drumming with soloing violin accompany singer Floriana Cangiano (a CRANBERRY lead singer, Dolores O'Riordan, sound-alike) as she tells us her story. Could use a little more variation once the foundation is laid. (9/10)

4. "Paestum" (5:06) piano and strummed guitar establish a fast-paced rhythm before settling back in sparse support of singer Annalisa Madonna double tracking her vocal in two channels (!!). The song goes back and forth between delicate and rolicking. A remarkable song--especially for the vocals! (10/10)

5. "La Madre Che Non C'č" (2:47) opens with Riccardo soloing, sounding as if he might be taking us on an instrumental journey, but then multiple female voices join in. In the second minute the song totally shifts into ballad-type form with, again, multiple tracks of female vocals harmonizing with each other. (Riccardo informs me that both voices are those of Caterina Pontrandolfo--the only vocalist credited to this song.) The song then suddenly shifts into the realm of classical instrumental, but then finishes with Caterina in the driver's seat again. (10/10)

6. "Slide" (2:53) is an instrumental with wooden pan flutes taking the lead--though in a very ethereal, almost sound-effect kind of way. Great melodies and effect. (10/10)

7. "Le pietre di Napoli" (5:00) again that familiar melody of Riccardo's, but then the heart-wrenching voice of Floriana Cangiano makes one quickly forget any disconcerting thoughts. What a gorgeous voice! Excellent choice for the dominant lead singer on the album. The song takes a left turn at the two minute mark, into guitar dominance, with piano, violin and wordless voice becoming more supportive. How interesting! And it works! It builds back onto a kind of dance frenzy before dying at the end. (10/10)

8. "Jigsaw Falling Into Place" (4:20) the cover of a RADIOHEAD song with mandolins and plucked violins opening with the rock band instruments before Claudia Sorvillo takes on the vocal lead. Industrial-sounding programming takes this one into territory Riccardo has not explored before (at least on tape). Definitely a sign of adventurousness. Claudia's vocal in the second half is not quite as powerful as one might want or expect. Perhaps it should've been brought more front and center. You can tell she is enjoying the singing--and the band is really rocking! Well done. (9/10)

9. "Crypta Neapolitana" (2:15) brings us back to the folk-based middle ages--until the 0:35 mark when other instruments join Riccardo and Caterina to give it a kind of Man of La Mancha feel. The male thespian voice only enhances this Spanish Broadway musical feeling. But nice! (9/10)

10. "Gioia di vivere" (3:47) guitar and Floriana Congiano return to sing an impassioned love song--with fine support from strings, distant violin, and ethereal background vocals. Gorgeous singing, gorgeous melody lines, and an awesome ending twist. This one's a keeper. (10/10)

11. "Red Little Wine" (4:14) is a full-band instrumental with lute and piano exchanging the lead. A little repetitive but nice. (8/10)

12. "The Man of Wood" (4:08). It doesn't get more folkie than this. Guitars, dreamy, layers of Serdio Panarella's MORRISSEY-like male vocal, violin, and, later, full acoustic rock band with male and female background choir (all performed by multiple tracks of Sergio and Claudia Sorvillo?). Great song. (10/10)

13. "Le Piccole Cose" (2:37). There's that melody again! Riccardo opens this gentle and gorgeous song with his guitar and violin. Caterina Pontrandolfo performs the lead vocals here with her usual calm and reassuring vocal tones. It is certainly a beautiful song! (I cannot help but ask at this point whether or not Riccardo is intentionally recapitulating this theme--as if in a concept album?) (10/10)

14. "Pietra Bianca" (3:48) opens as a Riccardo instrumental--sounding like a lullaby--before clarinet and Floriana Cangiano's wordless vocalizations join in, weaving in with the guitar, clarinet and organ. Gorgeous and powerful song! (10/10)

15. "Su un dipinto di Giovanni Bellini" (3:22). Riccardo and Floriana Cangiano close out the album with an almost-Celtic sounding song. It's nice enough but something is missing. (8/10)

A five star masterpiece on the scale of the greatest masterpieces of all-time. This album started out high on my playlist, disappeared for a while, but I found myself returning to this one--and this one more than any of Riccardo's other beautiful albums. A real grower! Check it out and then let it percolate. You'll become an addict like me, no doubt.

 The Stones of Naples by CORDE OBLIQUE album cover Studio Album, 2009
4.46 | 10 ratings

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The Stones of Naples
Corde Oblique Prog Folk

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Jazz-Rock / Fusion / Canterbury Team

5 stars This is the third of RICCARDO PRENCIPE's neo-medieval folk fashioned music presentations. This album sees a definite step forward in the compositions' leanings toward folk and medieval music and away from straightforward neoclassical music. For me, this pays off with The Stones of Naples feeling like the most accessible and most enjoyable Corde Oblique album yet. Plus, The Stones of Naples enjoys the benefit of vocal contributions of no less than six woman, each of outstanding voice, including: Caterina Pontrandolfo (familiar to us from the previous album, Volontrą d'arte) on songs 1, 6 and 10; Floriana Cangiano on songs 2 and 9; Claudia Sorvillo on songs 4 and 11, Monica Pinto, Geraldine Le Cocq and Alessandra Santovito on songs 7, 5, and 3, respectively. Because of this last fact, I will add that more than either of Riccardo's previous two Corde Oblique albums, this one is much more song/ballad oriented. You have to travel eight songs into the album before you get to an instrumental, and, again, unlike the previous albums, this one has much more of a medieval folk feel to it. This album contains songs of such consistently high standards that are all so enjoyable that I prefer to not single out any songs that I like more than any others (though, between you and me, I find myself swooning with absolute bliss during this string of five songs: "Flower Bud," "Flying," "Like an Ancient Black and White Movie," "La cittą dagli occhi neri," and "Nostalgica avanguardia"). Let's just say from the album's opening notes and song to its last you are in for a real treat.

1. "La quinta ricerca" (3:13) opens the album with Riccardo's lute serving notice that this is going to be music that feels like it comes from five hundred years ago. When sublime singer Caterina Pontrandolfo joins in with the accompaniment some other medieval instrumental accompanying her the ancient resolve is affirmed. An orchestral finale is unexpected but wonderful. (10/10)

2. "Venti di sale" (5:29) is opened with solo grand piano for the first minute--laying down some gorgeous introductory work--before vocalist Floriana Cangiano and a full force folk ensemble rush into the void with some quite dynamically diverse music--both acoustic guitars, violin, and hand percussion, and modern (fretless bass and drums). Lacking a memorable melodic hook to make this total ear candy. (9/10)

3. "Flower Bud" (5:46) a stunningly gorgeous song with just the music but then you add the incredibly sensitive vocal of Alessandra Santovito (in English!) and you get bliss, utter bliss. The start of that string of five songs of Olympian perfection. (10/10) 4. "Flying" (5:44) is a gorgeous remake of an ANATHEMA song (from 2003's A Natural Disaster), with the crystalline pipes of Claudia Sorvillo delivering the vocal--though she is later beautifully doubled (by another vocalist?). The rock drumming and piccolo-like arpeggio notes from the classical guitar in the final minute and a half are sublime! (10/10)

5. "Like An Ancient Black & White Movie" (2:10) opens with delicate piano, strings and Riccardo's classical guitar setting up a dreamy mood for yet another stunning vocal (the third one in a row in English!) this time by the ethereal KATE BUSH-like voice of Geraldine Le Cocq. (10/10)

6. "La Cittą Dagli Occhi Neri" (5:44). Caterina Pontrandolfo, voice of the opener, returns to sing this one in Italian, accompanied by Riccardo's lute and bass. Though it feels like she is singing in a relaxed, even lazy fashion, her slight rasp and gently trilling vibrato are sheer perfection here. Drums and rock instruments join in for the final 1:10 as Caterina sings some non-lexical vocables with the violin. (10/10)

7. "Nostalgica Avanguardia" (5:14) a gentle, almost religious-feeling song as sung by Monica Pinto in Italian. The music becomes almost Gypsy fast while Monica continues to sing with what feels like respect and reverence. (9/10)

8. "The Quality Of Silence" (1:48) is a nice little instrumental duet between Riccardo and pianist Luigi Rubino. (8/10)

9. "Barrio Gotico" (7:16) sees the return of Floriana Cangiano to the vocal mic as Riccardo and a simple Spanish folk ensemble supports. Riccardo on guitar, hand percussionist Michele Maione also on board. Well performed but a little long-winded and monotonous--though the final two minutes sounds like primo soundtrack music to a classic Italian Spaghetti Western. (8/10)

10. "Dal Castello Di Avella" (3:58) Caterina Pontrandolfo retirns to the vocal helm for the third and final time with a song brimming with feelings of love and nostalgia. This woman could sing anyone into peace, calm, and, dare I say it, love. The spiritual intentions behind her singing remind me of American spiritual singer, SHAINA NOLL. An eminently simple song--just Caterina and Riccardo--but one that comes across as utter perfection! (10/10)

11. "La Gente Che Resta" (3:24) opens with solo clarinet before a fully-scored folk troupe gather behind him in support of another Claudia Sorvillo vocal effort. The clarinet interplay behind and with the vocal is quite magical but the song lacks any memorable melodies. (8/10)

12. "Piscina Mirabilis" (2:56) is a nice little solo classical guitar piece from Riccardo to close out the album. Nice. (9/10)

This is without a doubt a five star masterpiece of progressive rock (folk) music.

 Volontą D'Arte by CORDE OBLIQUE album cover Studio Album, 2007
4.04 | 9 ratings

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Volontą D'Arte
Corde Oblique Prog Folk

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Jazz-Rock / Fusion / Canterbury Team

4 stars Volontą D'Arte is Riccardo PRENCIPE's second release of neo-medieval folk music under the title Corde Oblique. As on the debut Respici, Riccardo surrounds himself with collaborators who are up to his vision and standards. I love the consistently high quality of composition and performance on this album. I am, however, biased toward the less-classical- and more medieval folk-orientation of two of Riccardo's future albums, 2009's exquisite The Stones of Naples and 2011's wonderful Hail of Bitter Almonds.

Album standouts include: the very Spanish-, almost GIPSY KINGS-sounding 1. "Cantastorie" (4:15) with the crystalline voice of Caterina Pontrandolfo (9/10); the medieval sounding 2. "Amphitheatrum Puteolanum" (4:29) (despite Ms. Pontrandolfo's voice being treated with reverb) (9/10); 3. "Casa Hirta" (9/10); the special piano-guitar duet on 4. "Before Utrecht" (5:44) (9/10); 5. "Atheistic Woman" (4:53) with its quirky, almost LEONARD COHEN vocal (9/10); the ANTHONY PHILLIPS-like solo guitar 9. "Pannegio" (2:42) (9/10); 10. "Cuma" (5:28) with singer Claudia Florio and her gorgeous operatic voice (8/10); the pretty piano suite "La Pioggia sui Tasti" (3:03) (8/10), and; the beautiful, more classically arranged "Piazza Armerina" (5:16) with guitar and clarinet (9/10).

 Per Le Strade Ripetute by CORDE OBLIQUE album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.23 | 7 ratings

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Per Le Strade Ripetute
Corde Oblique Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

3 stars Riccardo Prencipe is to be commended for diligently performing and recording for the last 8 years as the leader of ethereal folk group CORDE OBLIQUE. Every other year he offers a meticulously and lovingly prepared disk of finely aged yet ageless beauty. "Per La Strade Ripetute" is no exception, yet it is not necessarily what I would have expected after 2011's "Hail of Bitter Almonds".

Indeed the group had been slowly, steadily and classily incorporating pop elements ever since their 2nd release, yet here we find a retrenchment of sorts into the more downbeat gothic sentiments and tempos of their debut. One of the aspects I really enjoy is the greater variety of violin phrasings, which is notable from the very first note of the first track, and carried to its fitting climax on the stunning instrumental "Uroboro". Conversely, Prencipe has decreed that the males retreat entirely from the lead microphone, which is disappointing given hypnotic performances on tracks like "Together Alone" and "My Harbour", among others, on prior collections, counterbalancing the feminine beauty. Some other highlights are "My Pure Amethyst", where I continue to discern a ponderously strummed CRANBERRIES influence, and the grand guitar instrumental "Requiem for a Dream".

While the resplendent sound is intact, "Per La Strade Ripetute" generally lacks the excitement of prior works by CORDE OBLIQUE. The project synergy, in which one's listening pleasure is enhanced from tune to tune and peaks from the cumulative effects, is not reaching me. While it's lovely background music this time around, I crave a bit more from even my mellow prog. 3.5 stars rounded down.

 Respiri by CORDE OBLIQUE album cover Studio Album, 2005
4.00 | 6 ratings

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Respiri
Corde Oblique Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

4 stars On the eve of CORDE OBLIQUE's 5th release, conforming to an implicit biannual schedule, it seems fitting to tie up loose ends, the most glaring among these being an overdue look at their debut album from 2005.

Other than a few interspersed spoken segments, this album does not express any traits dispensed with in subsequent releases. The classical guitar of Riccard Prencipe, the violin of Alfredo Notarloberti, and the cadre of self possessed female vocalists collaborate in a vaguely familiar yet singular Celtic inflected Mediterranean folk rock which passes for both modern and ancient. A subtle sense of foreboding is also imparted, and relatively few pop oriented inflections are extant at this time.

As in most of the catalog, the listener is drawn in immediately with "Intro (Captatio Benevolentiae)", a brief spoke portion rapidly supplanted with a blistering violin solo backed by chasmic percussion. The first part of "My Promise" maintains that energy with wordless vocal chants while the second is perhaps a more typically sweet violin and guitar oriented tune. "Eventi" is the only track sung by male lead, and is one of my favourites with its multitracked half spoken vocals, which bust out later a la FRANCO BATTIATIO. "Waves" features English vocals both sung and spoken and also varies the tempos as consistent throughout the disk. "Ascesi" and "Fantasia Sui Tasti Bianchi" offer welcome variety, the former with its use of clarinet and the latter as largely a solo piano piece by Francesco Villani, and a consummate one at that. "Orme" is notable for sounding like CLANNAD and ARES, but is more effective than either because it represents a facet rather than an an immutable identity. "Dentro's" operatic vocals would be adapted on "Cuma" on the subsequent offering, but they are no less effective here.

The last 3 tracks suffer somewhat from a sense of spent energy, and the 10+ minute length of the closer is misleading as it includes several moments of apparent silence followed by a reprise of "orme". Still, if "Volonta D'Arte" was a mature sophomore effort, "Respiri" demonstrates that Mr Prencipe was more than ready to go solo by 2005 and represents a deep first breath from CORDE OBLIQUE.

 Volontą D'Arte by CORDE OBLIQUE album cover Studio Album, 2007
4.04 | 9 ratings

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Volontą D'Arte
Corde Oblique Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

4 stars The unique voice in rock that is CORDE OBLIQUE is already well primed by the time of this mature second effort. Riccardo Prencipe, skilled composer and guitarist, surrounds himself with fully engaged hired singers and musicians for this entrancing blend of classical, medieval/mediterranean folk, and rock. It's worth having a look at the numerous you tube clips of this "group" to gain insight into the synergy which upon which he insists and depends.

Of the thirteen tracks herein only 2 or 3 fail to be both interesting and entertaining. For the rest, the surprisingly hook-laden and vibrant opener "Cantastoria" counts as one of the most resounding. "Amphitheatrum Puteolanum" is equally arresting and is somewhat suggestive of the German pagan group "Faun", but much more daring with its blend of plaintive chant, guitar, and a hurdy gurdy or bagpipe like instrument. "Casa Hirta" is a gentle ballad that picks up the pace and is one of the many tunes with gorgeous violin by Alfredo Notarloberti from ASHRAM, a group from whom various members contribute to "Volonta D'Arte". "Kuntswollen" is similarly of the highest melodic caliber . Then there is the urgency of "Cuma", part opera and part folk from its unassuming yet portentous guitar opening to its near histrionic end. Claudia Florio as soprano should appeal to fans of Annie Haslam's wide range at her peak. The weakest vocal track is probably the less varied "Olhos cincentos" which is just as beautiful sounding and could be easily accepted if it were not overly long.

The two tracks sung in English, by different male vocalist are the narrative styled "Atheist Woman" that is lulling and subduing until another gear is added towards the end; and the wholly transcendent "My Harbour" which seems to bridge nostalgic pop and a bit of REM- esque songwriting with the group's trademark delicacy.

Of the instrumentals "Before Utrecht"'s guitar figures and the skillfully compiled mini piano suite "La Pioggia Sui Tasti" are especially worthy of attention. But ANATHEMA's "Kaiowas" and the oddly MABSANT sounding closer "Piazza Armerina" with its stilted clarinet phrasings, both lack the excitement of most of the rest of the album.

The album title translates to "The Will of Art" and "Volunta D'Arte" fulfills the promise of this intriguing moniker. 4.5 stars rounded down.

 A Hail of Bitter Almonds by CORDE OBLIQUE album cover Studio Album, 2011
4.88 | 11 ratings

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A Hail of Bitter Almonds
Corde Oblique Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

5 stars Riccardo Prencipe and his hand-picked and plucked entourage succeed even better this time around in producing the truly modern equivalent of middle ages troubadour music Italian style. The improvement is principally in the wholeness of this entity, as songs and courtly dances merge into one like predestined partners.

Prencipe's dedication to classical and acoustic guitar ensures the decidedly unplugged aspect of "Almonds", but the deliberately ancient sounding melodies soar atop stellar production that miraculously preserves their fragility. The title cut and opener initially appears as little more than throwaway until the 3rd or 4th listen when the urgency of Floriana Cangiano's voice and and the piano rolls of Luigi Rubino portend the coming delights. "Together Alone" is one of only 2 tracks sung in the masculine, by Sergio Panarella, although he has plenty of help. Here is the song which won't leave my head for hours if not days, an utter delight of transcendent romance with an unfailing chorus and Spanish styled guitar fills. From here the remaining beauties come as no surprise, although many listens are required for full osmosis. "Paestum" is in two parts, the first somewhat poppy, the second a tongue dropping wordless delight. "La madre che non c'e" follows a similar pattern, but with an instrumental first half and more sublime vocals and violin on the home stretch. "Slide" is one of only a couple of instrumentals and is also among the tunes that can't help recalling ERIS PLUVIA.

You might ask if there is any edge here at all. Well, not much in the conventional sense, but the reworking of RADIOHEAD's "Jigsaw Falling into Place" is quite a revelation, and probably the closest to raucous. "Crypta Neapolitana" is quite spooky as implies its title, and where CORDE OBLIQUE earns some of its dark wave credentials. "Goia di vivere" is more subdued than might be expected given its translation as "joy of living". Conversely, even the saddest themes here are somehow uplifting. One of my favourites is "The Man of Wood", the other tune sung by Panarello, coincidentally both being among the few on the disk sung in English. Here is approach is phonetically based, but the emphatic afterthoughts in his style work wonders in creating a solemn masterpiece. Halfway through is a shift to a somewhat more indie rock anthem, naturally understated. "Piccolo rose" is a sweet ballad that accomplishes much in barely two and half minutes in terms of solidifying the atmospheres aimed for and achieved.

If the last couple of tracks slow down the momentum a tad, I do have to point out that the vocal style in "Pietra Bianca" owes a debt of gratitude to the CRANBERRIES Dolores O'Riordan. At the same time, while less blatant, the group clearly benefits from past excercises by both versions of RENAISSANCE, CLANNAD, and KATE BUSH, while references to OLOFERNE are not out of place.

My initial intent was to award another easy 4 stars, but there is nothing here that, taken in the context of its surroundings, detracts in the least from a perfect work, even if the first half dozen listens might suggest otherwise. From that point on, these bitter almonds leave a sweet aftertaste to the palate starved for grace.

 The Stones of Naples by CORDE OBLIQUE album cover Studio Album, 2009
4.46 | 10 ratings

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The Stones of Naples
Corde Oblique Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

4 stars Plenty of progressive folk has emerged from Italy over the years, whether under the rubric of RPI or not.. Recently a new wave seems to be breaking, with groups drawing more on their own roots in the Renaissance period and tempering it with allusions to the much more recent psych period. For me the tip of the iceberg was OLOFERNE, whom I have examined earlier. CORDE OBLIQUE, at least here on their third release, remain in a consistently romantic folky mood. If you have heard MIA, this is like a downbeat more melodic version. A better reference might be the obscure MAGMA from Argentina, but in a medieval mood. But I'm sure a few Italian groups unbeknownst to me might have been required listening. Well, gotta start somewhere.

And wow what a start. Riccardo Prencipe has assembled a compatible group of skilled musicians and ethereal female vocalists for this "project", and, considering he is the only glue holding it all together, he really knows how to make it stick. This is luscious ancient sounding music with plenty of plucked acoustic instruments and violin. No electric guitar and it is not missed. The vocals are mostly in Italian (presumably), but the occasional English ones and wordless workouts are no less impressive. Several tracks are longer, and these are among the highlights, which to me marks a litmus test of sorts as to the prog credentials of a band, especially since they betray nary a hint of ambitions in that realm.

"Flower Bud" and "Barrio Gotico" top the list for their effortless development, shifts of mood, sultry vocal sections and instrumental virtuosity, but "Nostalgia avanguardia", if not living up to expectations that RIO fans might set, and "La citta" are also triumphs of nostalgic provocation even among those who weren't alive 500 years ago, or at least don't remember it. This is stirring stuff. A few more sedate mainstream tracks (like "Flying"), and a general lack of hard hitting material are among the factors staving off perfection this time around.

All points of comparison would be mere oblique references and unfitting substitutes for the real thing, so I recommend you find this posthaste, godspeed, and affrettatevi!!

Thanks to ClemofNazareth for the artist addition.

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