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Ianva - Italia: Ultimo Atto CD (album) cover




Rock Progressivo Italiano

4.79 | 14 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars Ianva were formed in 2003 on the initiative of vocalist Mercy (former member of bands as Il Segno del Comando, Malombra and Helden Rune) and guitarist Argento. They gathered around them musicians coming from different experiences (from classical to prog) and started to work on a concept album telling a story set in 1920 in Fiume, when the city was occupied by rebellious troops led by poet and adventurer Gabriele D'Annunzio. The excellent debut album "Disobbedisco!" was released in 2006, followed in 2007 by an EP, "Occidente", containing a very personal version of The Strawbs' "The Battle", here set during World War I and featuring brand new Italian lyrics. After some line-up changes, in 2009 was released by the independent label Il Levriero "Italia: Ultimo Atto", another excellent concept album where the band revisits some dark, controversial episodes of recent Italian history. In this second full length work the line-up features Mercy (vocals), Stefania T. D'Alterio (vocals), Fabio Gremo (nylon string guitar, backing vocals), Fabio Carfanga (acoustic and electric guitar, backing vocals), Francesco La Rosa (percussion), Giuseppe Spanò (piano, backing vocals), Azoth (bass), Roby Nappo Calcagno (trumpet) and Davide La Rosa (bandoneon, percussion, backing vocals). The overall sound is enriched by many guest musicians as, among others, former member Argento (backing vocals on "Bora") and Elisa Montaldo, keyboardist of a very interesting emerging band called Il Tempio delle Clessidre (Indian harmonium, calliope and mellotron). Musical influences range from prog to neo-folk, from Jacques Brel and Fabrizio De André to Ennio Morricone and Armando Trovajoli... Anyway it would be unfair to consider this album only from a musical point of view. Ianva's music is always closely linked to the lyrics and it's conceived just as a way to underline what the band tries to express throughout this complex album, providing colours and evoking emotions.

The opener "Prologo" (Prologue) features an evocative piano pattern and narrative vocals that sound like a gloomy prophecy... "The future is impending and apocalyptic, children are torn away from the resemblance with their fathers and thrown towards a future that, although maintaining the trouble and the misery of the present, will be different because of something immense and dark...". The words have been taken from the "Lutheran Letters" by Pier Paolo Pasolini (Italian poet, film director and committed intellectual linked to left wing movements) and constitute a warning about the dangers of the degeneration of the ancestral values. A question arises, what could happen as a consequence of the loss of "the honesty of fathers and of mothers" in the name of a "democratic anxiety" emphatically displayed?

The next track "Dov'eri tu quel giorno" (Where were you on that day?) is more elaborate featuring dark choirs, strings and duelling trumpet and trombone... It's a bitter criticism against the people who, after September 8th 1943, when the Italian army melted (well, about this subject I suggest watching a beautiful film by Luigi Comencini, starring Alberto Sordi, "Tutti a casa ? Everybody Go Home"), hurried to help the allies jumping on the bandwagon with the winners forgetting what they had been doing until the day before... Where were they on the day when Mussolini asked from his balcony in Piazza Venezia "Do you want bread or guns"? They were singing in the choir and now... "On a new score / You move your mouth / One cycle is over / It's time for the next...".

"Galleria delle Grazie" is about the bombardment of Genoa in Autumn 1942, a time when Italy was an "importer of Democracy". In an air-raid shelter hundreds of women and children were killed. The track opens with the sound of an old love song coming from a cracked record, then the sound of hooters and aircrafts dropping bombs comes in... The atmosphere is dark and dramatic. The lyrics contain a strong criticism against the Italian partisans who left the lights on to facilitate the destructive task of the allies and against the style of the "liberators" as well... "What style those liberators! / A rich people's style, what great gentlemen! / To hit half a barrack they flatten six city districts...". But a boy survives and emerges from the ruins with rebellious eyes...

"Negli occhi di un ribelle" (In the eyes of a rebel) opens with a marching beat and dreamy strings... "In the eyes of a rebel there are not only flames / That are lighted by rage, between indignation and condemnation / There are fast passages of smiling ghosts as well / Like sunrays piercing through the clouds... In every civil war / Ideologies clash and that special breed of dreamers, romantics and fools emerges / Fated to the grave or to the prison...".

The short symphonic "La stagione di Caino" (The season of Cain) is about the civil war between partisans and Fascists, Italians against Italians protagonists of a bloody vendetta. I suggest watching a film by Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, "La notte di San Lorenzo" (The Night Of The Shooting Stars), to get the right mood for this track... All in all it's conceived as a film score!

"Luisa Ferida" is about an actress, a star during the years of Fascism, condemned to death by the CLN (The National Liberation Committee) although she was innocent and pregnant because she was reputed a symbol of Fascism. Her last hours are described as through the lens of some cameras shooting a last film. But in the end here the cameras are nothing but the guns of the firing squad. "New score: an infamous role... No need for the truth... She is Luisa, Luisa Ferida... Look at her one more time while she's still alive / You are the cameraman who is going to frame her / It's your turn... Read the charges / That's your film!". Theatrical vocals by Stefania T. D'Alterio here are absolutely great.

"Bora" is a gloomy ballad evoking a ghastly dance. Bora is the name of a strong wind that blows from the North East upon Trieste and Istria... "I can hear the echoes of a celebration / They're carried by the wind / In awhile they will be here / They're dancing the Kolo / No style nor decency but a great vitality / Doctrine supports hatred / They think that the right way to begin / Is to erase the tracks that history left on this land...". In 1945 the Yugoslavian communist army led by Tito occupied Trieste and Istria beginning an ideological and ethnical clearance... Recently the three presidents of Italia, Slovenia and Croatia attended a "reconciliation concert" in Trieste, featuring choir and orchestra composed by musicians coming from the three countries directed by Maestro Riccardo Muti, but for many people it's still hard to deal with this subject.

"In compagnia dei lupi" (In wolves' company) features another great theatrical performance by Stefania T. D'Alterio who this time plays the role of a maid in the service of influential, rich people. In 1952 during a party in a villa near Rome an "escort-girl" died from an overdose of cocaine. Many politicians and influential people of the new Italian Republic took part in the party. The corpse was taken away and abandoned on the nearby shore, later the scandal was in some way covered up. The maid had to help to hide what happened... She wonders how long it will take to get rid of such a political class and to see them hanging on a rope, twenty years of Fascism in comparison will seem just a few months... "While we were coming back I was wondering / I'm in the wolves' company...". This track was inspired by a famous Italian scandal, the "Montesi Affair".

"Cemento armato" (Reinforced concrete) deals with the period of the years of lead. It's a very original, interesting track, no lyrics but slogans of opposed extremists intermingled with police hooters and noises evoking the riots of the seventies set mood and... rhythm! During the seventies in Italy terrorism raged. Among the terrorists of the left and right wing there were many girls. "Pasionaria" is a melancholic ballad dedicated to one of them. The music recalls Fabrizio De André and "Spaghetti Western" scores. A feeling of deep disdain towards the people that used to ride the rage of extremism in the seventies and now pontificate shines through. "Remembering you makes me bleed again...".

"Piazza dei Cinquecento" is another dark track. It's an elegy inspired by the murder of Pier Paolo Pasolini. It begins with a delicate acoustic guitar part, then strings come in while the soaring vocals of Stefania D'Alterio depict a rainy Italian Sunday in November... Well, it is strange such a kind of tribute to an intellectual of the left wing, albeit atypical, from a band with a very different political point of view...

The introspective "L'estate dei silenzi" (The summer of the silences) is set during the summer of 1980, the summer of the bomb attack in Bologna Railway Station and of the mysterious "accident" of an aircraft in the sky of Ustica... It describes the feelings of the protagonist when he received the news during his summer holiday on a beach in Tuscany.

The last track is the long, martial title track "Italia: Ultimo Atto" (Italy: The last Act). It's a venomous invective against the "normalization" of the eighties and nineties where the degradation of the values of Italian society is depicted as stronger than ever... "Void / You can't stop to fall / Every time there is a lesser evil / That you have to swallow / Until the next one / That will be even worse...". It's normal then to invoke a change and try to wake the sleeping consciences pushing them to reflect on the roots of the present... A great finale for a very bold album!

Last but not least, a word about the beautiful art work and packaging, featuring a 28 page booklet full of pictures and containing commentaries on the lyrics. It's an essential complement to the concept, almost a guide through some painful vortexes of the Italian collective memory...

andrea | 5/5 |


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