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Fjieri - Words Are All We Have CD (album) cover

WORDS ARE ALL WE HAVE

Fjieri

 

Neo-Prog

3.87 | 100 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Fjieri's career debut Endless was a scorcher album, a sensational 2009 release that had a great deal going for it. Gorgeous cover art, pristine production and a modern prog feel that winks strongly at acts such as Tim Bowness, No-Man and Mick Karn (that devilish fretless bass attack). No surprise then that Bowness sang often and well, Karn was featured on one track and Porcupine Tree stalwarts Richard Barbieri and Gavin Harrison colored it all up. All in all, a refreshing new player on the prog scene.

The band is now essentially Nicola Lori on bass and guitars as well as Stefano Panunzi on keyboards, with a new major contributor in the legendary Jakko Jakszyk on vocals and guitars (he of the Tangent, King Crimson, Level 42, Battiato, etc?). Bowness sings on one track and Harrison guests again. The hour long (68 minutes) material is smokier and perhaps even jazzier with the input of Mike Applebaum's urban trumpet and Nicola Alesini's saxophone while Jakko adds his rather unique rock/jazz/Canterbury style in both his mercurial singing as well as his blitzy guitar rants. Lori's tortuous bass rules supreme nevertheless, slithering out from the speakers very detected and overt, carving deep rumbles into the dreamy compositions and redefining a sound that is hard to emulate. Quirky, ardent, distinctive and yet deeply chic and current, this music has so many applications as head music, feet shuffle and feel good mood creator.

The sweeping opening instrumental "Oriental Dream" is a perfect example of their method, that fat four string wobbler creeping into the brain , monstrous yet determined, building up quite a euphoric plateau of sound and structure that features cohesion and adventure. Obtuse rhythmic collisions, steadfast drumming, ardent e-piano motifs all collaborate in the endeavor. The insistent and rash guitar infuses a sense of momentary insanity, the trumpet doing the opposite. The sax does a great Mel Collins-like blur when prompted. Darn brilliant! Sidestep into a chill setting, "The City Lights" suggests subtler expanses, a pre-dawn essay on a sleepy urban spread, a smooth track that needed a few return visits to fully admire, with a slight Level 42 feel, blaring neon trumpet and rubbery bass tripping the light fantastic and only serving to set the table for a series of stellar songs that really define and perfect their craft.

The thrilling "Before I Met You" has a driven urgency that astounds immediately, Jakko's snarling voice leading his raging and at times blaring rhinoceros guitar, a strong deliberate beat and a sense that there is strong Steve Wilson feel here to please that progfan. This could easily have figured on the majestic "Hand. Cannot. Erase", it's that expressive. The slide guitar solo skimming over the bass grumble is primo stuff and a thorough thumbs up.

As if that was not yet conclusive enough, "Not Waving but Drowning" delves even deeper into surreal images and sounds. Suave and persuasive, the temperamental ballad is expertly sung by the mercurial Jakko, that metallic trumpet twang providing even more brassy substance, again winking at a modern prog style that will be the future standard bearer for our genre. Insidiously charming and highly addictive. The up-front bass defines the guiding light and carves the road ahead.

Things get markedly more intense as "It Would All Make Sense" again takes it straight into this Canterbury- styled British jazz-pop that Jakko excels at (with bands like Manzanera, No-Nan, The Tangent, Henry Fool), complete with wispy soloing on guitar and synths and a masterful vocal performance. Only slight respite comes from a Bowness/Barbieri title track remake from their 1994"Flame" album that really slays some dragons. Jakko doing a lovely job on a sublime piece of music that is even better than the original, further hyped up by that 'queefing' bass vroom that never ceases to amaze. The tremendous spirit of Mick Karn is perfectly audible here. I kneel before the shrine.

A second series of tunes develop their sound even further into distant sonic landscapes as "Sati" and "Hidden Lives" paint surrealist images of daily 21st century life. The first is a slow-paced snailfest, almost reminiscent of early David Sylvian, very morose and distinctive until that bristling trumpet curves into the trembling synths and that darn bass loop, the drums a la Steve Jansen. Highly adventurous and creative, the musical equivalent of night dreaming amid pleasant hallucinations. The second is a sorrowful reflection once again, something Steve Wilson is doing with that hushed voice standing out amid the sadness, the spooky apathy and the funereal beat, tortured sax notwithstanding. The angelic Tim Bowness adds his distinctive voice, which certifies the No- Man connection completely. The screeching overhead synth melody is utterly enchanting, oozing with symphonic pain and metronomic propulsion. Stefano Panunzi is a masterful color coordinator on his subtle keyboards throughout this splendid opus.

The silky splendor of "In the Morning" is perhaps the highlight track, exuding that cottony sense when one wakes up from a gloriously restful sleep. Sleepy and disjointed at first, the bass shepherds the mood into a more impactful performance, sweeping and stately, a curious guitar splice that is pure Jakko (he is an exceptionally underrated axeman), harnessing tone and quirkiness with unparalleled ease, in a style all onto its own. Tremendous and grandiose music.

"Zombie Love" is forceful and attractive, so as to shuffle the cards, a piece that is desperately darker and with a twinge of sinister. The sizzling bass operates again under the floorboards, helping to exude a sense of gloom and doom, somewhat reminiscent of Shawn Guerin's "Monsters in my Room" or the Cure's creepy "Lullaby". But the big surprise is the heavy middle section, armed with bang-bang guitar riffs that collide with a zippy synth solo. Rampant, livid, insane and delirious, the wake-up is brutal indeed.

The edgy and nervous bass jumps into the fray on "Damaged Goods", handing the arrangement a jaunty and jazzy feel, closer to that Level 42 feel, albeit in a proggier form. (It must be said that Level 42 had a well- documented commercial side but also a progressive side when Jakszyk and Allan Holdsworth were the guitarists!). The brief guitar solo here is jangly, oblique and totally delightful.

"Those Words" finishes off this masterpiece that truly deserves a greater audience, certainly deserving if only as an honorable elegy to a disappeared talent (Mick Karn sadly died in 2011, RIP) but proposing intelligent music for our ongoing progressive renaissance. Fjieri proposes a different take on prog and we are all the merrier for it. Wilson fans should definitely check this one out. Not a single track is out of place and thus , proceeds to the winner's podium for 2015 releases.

5 Concealed Fabrications

tszirmay | 5/5 |

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