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Bededeum - Oltre il Sipario CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

4.28 | 15 ratings

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5 stars Once upon a distant time, when city states ruled the remnants of the dislocated Roman Empire , when powerful merchants in Venice, Genoa, Florence, Milan, Siena, Pisa and many others ruled what is now called amusingly Italy and provided the universe with talented architects, painters, scientists and inventors, the medieval arts also flourished mightily. This ancient tradition still lives on today, every time a mandolin is strummed and let us all remember once again that the Celtic bagpipe evolved from similar instruments that spanned the entire European continent , scouring into Africa (Maghreb) and the Middle East and as far away as Central Asia. Traditional folk stories were set to music and the bards and troubadours were all the rage throughout the various kingdoms of the Continent.

Bededeum seeks to rekindle the glowing candle of the past and remind us that music can be a time travel voyager of infinite discovery. Their impossible to find debut 'Brevistele' was a total masterpiece of medieval tinged genius, a selection of tunes fueled by flutes and harps that promulgated the simplicity of musical beauty. The follow-up goes deeper into more symphonic realms, adding strings such as viola and violin to the mixture of bagpipes, woodwinds and singers Micaela Guerra and Davide Lazzaroni complement each other brilliantly. The stories recall more recent events such as WW1, the Irish Troubles, a 1911 quarry disaster in the town from which this band originates (the marble center of Carrara) and some literary influences as well (Arthur Rimbaud and Umberto Eco). In true troubadour fashion, the music relies on solid stories, tales and historical events that give the work way more depth than singing about love and romance.

The first seconds of "Pietre Bianche" (the White Stones) sets that standard from the very onset of crisp acoustic guitar, flutes, Celtic Harp and Uillean pipes that prep the stage for a haunting female vocal, recounting the legend of Carrara marble. Swirling, hypnotic and intense, the music shudders, hushes and disturbs by its utter beauty. The listener is transported back in time and space with a melody that aches and inspires, an immediate immersion into a faraway realm. The male and female voices combine to spin some serious magic. The spirit of Ireland is expertly emoted on "Le Voci di Derry", a tune you would swear to be purely Celtic in all its trappings, a melody very similar to the classic Gordon Lightfoot "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" which was originally recorded by Christy Moore using lyrics written by IRA prisoner, martyr and icon Bobby Sands. Combining past and present is lovingly used to create something out of this world and the solemn words are sung in Italian and the effect of the dual vocals are stunning and imbue the melody with profound depth and passion.

"Geordie" presumably refers to the name used to define someone from Newcastle, though this is a traditional British folk song that has been played by many other artists worldwide, with a melody that many will perhaps recognized. Again the Italian lyrics give this tune a different spin, leaving the violin, flute and guitar to weave the simple arrangement. A funky slap bass guitar section will raise quite a few eyebrows.

A more epic piece is next, "Gerard Duval, tipografo" denotes the emotions of a WW1 soldier , a French 'poilu' who is about to write a final solemn goodbye to his love , before assaulting the barbed-wire, machinegun infested quagmire he must run through, obeying to some insane order from above. This swirling dance of fire even dares to include a strong sense of avuncular finality, facing assured death and immortality. An inspired instrumental "Pee Wee and the Quaker" is a combination of a take on an Irish traditional as well as some obvious American influences (all that is missing is the banjo) and showcases some furious string picking. The second part involves lots of flute and pipes, twirling like a spinning top at breakneck speed.

"Una Stagione all'inferno" suggests more somber sentiments, inspired by crazed but brilliant French poet Arthur Rimbaud, whose poem (Une Saison en Enfer) is considered to be masterpiece as well as a revolutionary illustration of symbolist writing.

The mining disaster of Bettogli in 1911 caused the death of 10 people from Carrara, so this story has a great amount of historical perspective to the Bededeum crew. Needless to say that with the advent of the industrial revolution, many thousand died in mine shafts throughout Europe, inspiring artists to write songs to commemorate the events (Barclay James Harvest, the Bee Gees, U2, among many others). Between 1850 and 1914, more than 90,000 were killed in British mines, so it's not surprising that traditions of remembrance live on.

"Quando qui Distesa" has a definite Argentinian texture, a nervy dance with a strumming guitar, swerving violin and a chugging pace to provide a platform for a passionate vocal that has a real tango feel. "An dro and Dies Irae" is the highlight piece here, a two-part instrumental that has strong Breton feel (Alan Stivell, Malicorne, Tri Yann), highly cyclical in its delivery, remindful of the sameness/diversity of the sea This terrific album ends with a suave lullaby, a Tuscan classic that was altered by the band and inspired by an Umberto Eco novel, about a priest consumed by flames as he is tied to the stake. The mood is forlorn and tragic, only heightened by a prolonged silence and a hidden piece that repeats the word 'Bededeum' as if relating to a Zeuhl/Gregorian ritual. Brilliant.

Kind of ironic that two of the finest medieval folk albums in progressive rock stem from Italy, as both Gian Castello and Bededeum have set the highest possible bar, each with two stupendous releases that span time and space. Extremely original and highly entertaining.

5 Torn curtains

tszirmay | 5/5 |


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