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Astrolabio / Elettrosmog - I Paralumi Della Ragione CD (album) cover


Astrolabio / Elettrosmog


Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.79 | 28 ratings

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Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars Out of the ashes of Italian group Elettrosmog, Astrolabio rose and delivered a superb debut album `L'Isolamento dei Numeri Pari' back in 2014, and one of the unexpected highlights of Italian prog of that year it turned out to be. Next up here is album number two, 2017's `I Paralumi della Ragione' (The Shades of Reason), and it sees the band delivering another fine work that is as full of colour, variety and unexpected direction changes (and loopy humour!) as the debut, performed with great vest and infectious energy by a talented group of younger (well, not far from their Forties!) musicians. The band cheekily describe themselves as `Rock Degressivo Italiano' which means that, although they still retain some of the pure RPI characteristics, they strip their music back to tuneful basics and avoid too much of the grandiose classical elements, stuffy theatrical vocals, production polish and overwhelming instrumental showboating, instead carefully implementing those finer Italian Prog flavours in more restrained and subtle ways throughout their eclectic and unpredictable sounds!

Fleeting little opening introduction `Dormiveglia #1 (Black)' teases the listener that they might be in for a pretty and pastoral prog album full of the lovely symphonic acoustics of Premiata Forneria Marconi (P.F.M for the muggles!), but it's instantly blasted by `Nuovo Evo's slinking electronics over Michele Antonelli's twisting gruff guitars and Alessandro Pontone's rambunctious drumming that almost has more in common with Van der Graaf Generator. The track manages to fit in nasty dirty grooves and a lightly catchy chorus, and guitarist Michele's voice jumps between gutsy toughness, raspy lip-smacking purring and whooping glee.

Carefully deranged, lightly playful and peppered with little flares of danger, `Una Cosa' drifts in and out of dream-like electric piano tiptoes between boisterous vocal outbursts and Massimo Babbi's aggressive spacey keyboard wig-outs, and the flute floats between placid airiness and huffing wildness. It slinks right into `Pubblico Impiego', loaded with plenty of grooving Hammond organ, a throat-shredding raw vocal and subtly heavier guitars laced with a snarling, slightly `off' tone, and the extended instrumental flute-driven break in the middle is sublime whilst still retaining an eerie unease.

One of the standout moments of the disc, the pristine and genuine `Arte(Fatto)' instantly impresses with its peaceful acoustic guitars and a thoughtful, softly melancholic lead vocal. Massimo's delicate piano is teeming with life constantly throughout, and it even reminds of some of the early folky and fragile Pink Floyd pieces that had standout soloing from Rick Wright. Ultimately, the piece displays a great maturity and keen ear for subtlety and poise. In comparison, and perhaps a reaction to sounding so `grown-up' at this point, `Otto Oche Ottuse' is likely to divide some listeners, being something of a comical throwaway flute-driven piece that's quite cheerful and silly! But it will no doubt be embraced by drunken fans at Astrolabio's live shows with its sing-along chanting - never accuse the band of being predictable!

There's endless foot-tapping chugging grooves throughout `La Casa Di Davide', powered by scratchy heavier guitar riffing, pounding drums and Michele's malevolent crooning, but the track also coasts into dark psychedelic territory tickled with Hammond organ. Overall it's a showcase for Paolo Iemmi's melodically murmuring and relentless thick bass that retains just a touch of aggression to its grumbling tone, and it's sure to be a favourite track for listeners! Subtle mystery and delicate build permeate `Sui Muri', the band throwing in everything from quivering electronics, a touch of Tool to the granite-like heavy guitar riffing up and down, a dignified defiant vocal and sparkling piano, and the piece even leaps into bouncing up-tempo Yes-like jubilance! The album culminates in a reprise of the opening intro, `Dormiveglia #2 (Bird)', a final acoustic guitar and flute meditation to close out the disc.

Some parts are more successful than others, and perhaps older listeners may not appreciate the frequently heavier guitars, but the kind of fractured, somewhat baffling approach here is no doubt everything Astrolabio wants and gets a kick out of, destroying any preconceived ideas of what an Italian prog band should sound like. That attitude helps make `I Paralumi della Ragione' another strong effort from this underappreciated Italian band, one that straddles the line between a more youthful energy and burgeoning maturity, making it very exciting to see what they come up with next.

Four stars - well done again, Astrolabio!

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |


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