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Aktuala - La Terra CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.67 | 41 ratings

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4 stars Aktuala were an Italian band that operated between 1973 and 1976, initially led by husband and wife duo Walter and Laura Maioli, both collectors of ancient and ethnic instruments, but including additional musicians who together recorded three sublime `world music' albums in their short period active. 1974's `La Terra' saw Laura depart, but Walter had gathered together many of the same musicians from the debut again as well as new contributors, and, much like their self-titled debut, it's a fully instrumental mix of acoustic raga-rock/prog folk with strong elements of jazz, psychedelic and Krautrock-like sounds, just given a more fully developed focus throughout the four improvisations on offer.

Eight minute opener `Mina' is instantly spirited and lively, as hazy harmonica, frantic acoustic guitar strums, darting sax and exotic percussion weave joyfully together, only slowing down momentarily for the briefest of meditative thoughtful breaks in the middle before finally rising in rapturous glory. `Mud' initially reminds of the early Deuter albums, faraway psych flute wisps flitting about over a gentle rumbling of tabla and thrumming acoustic guitars laced with a dusty mystery, before morphing into a wild outburst of horns and sax jazziness and culminating in a searing bow crescendo that reminds of the dirty violin peppered throughout the early Amon Duul discs. Side B's `Sar' opens as a dreamy wash of swirling harp and twirling flute before carefully building into a breathless experimental Popul Vuh-esque energetic ethnic acoustic drone with ripples of spiralling ringing percussion. The title track `La Terra', the longest piece here at over ten minutes, concocts a lethargic sunny air of groaning sitar and a tinkling of chimes that gradually lurches to life with clipping tabla, floating sax drifts, unwinding harp and world-weary chants twisting into overwhelming mantra-like themes.

The recent GDR CD reissue from 2013 adds a bonus track in the form of `Dagli Etruschi a Picasso', taken from a 2003 solo album by flautist Walter Maioli. It would probably be better if these unrelated pieces weren't added on simply to pad out the shorter original running time of these sort of albums, but thankfully it's a lovely droning Etruscan flute piece that perfectly compliments the vintage material and doesn't sound out of place at all. The CD comes with a lavish Italian language booklet that includes rare photos, as well as highlighting poster art of the Villa Pamphili festival that ran between the 20-24th September 1974, where Aktuala got to perform alongside other many notable Italian acts such as Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, Murple, Il Volo, Biglietto per L'Inferno, Ibis, Jumbo, Semiramis, Perigeo, Samadhi, Sensations' Fix and others - some fine company right there!

`La Terra' is usually considered Aktuala's defining musical statement, and it's not hard to see why considering how it has a stronger sense of direction and purpose. Perhaps the debut has slightly stronger psychedelic passages, a few more delicious hints of danger and longer sparse moments without as many instruments playing in unison, but this follow-up still manages occasional welcome unhinged bursts and maintains the evocative spiritual and meditative traits of the first work. Fans of bands such as Embryo, the Third Ear Band and Oregon will be excited by much of what this group does, so too those that love the early albums of Agitation Free and Deuter. Listeners of world music, ethnic-flavoured psychedelic sounds and even the more meditative moments of Krautrock should absolutely explore this obscure little Italian collective, whose small but precious and eclectic discography are well overdue for some renewed exposure.

Four stars

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |


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