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Franco Battiato - Battiato [Aka: Zā] CD (album) cover


Franco Battiato


Rock Progressivo Italiano

2.05 | 17 ratings

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3 stars This is Italian composer Franco Battiato's sixth album, released in 1977. While his first four albums remain the core of his discography as far as progressive rock goes (and even then he was kind of riding around the edges), his next few albums until the end of the decade became increasingly abstract and minimalistic. Primarily known as a vocalist, he had stopped singing on his own albums by the fourth one, preferring instead to showcase tape experiments and repetitive electro-acoustic themes. In a bizarre shift of style, he suddenly became a mainstream pop star come the 1980s, but that's another story.

Battiato will probably be very disconcerting to the first time listener. The first track, the side-long "Za", was his most minimalist piece yet, pretty much a single piano chord repeated for nearly 20 minutes. Yes, that's right. Each chord rings for a variable amount of time, and his attack and release of the piano keys is varied in such a way as to produce some slight reverberation inside the piano, even after the chord has ended. Sure, it's tedious, but so is watching waves roll onto the beach. The trick to this is just to sit and focus on the flow of the chords; like snowflakes (or waves on the beach, to preserve my prior analogy), no two are quite alike.

Still, that's not a lot to hang your hat on. This would be a two-star album if not for the second side-long track, the very seductive "Cafe-Table-Musik". This piece presents a series of lovely repeated figures on the piano (melodies this time, not just chords), usually using the same compositional trick you've heard on King Crimson's "Frame by Frame": in this case two repeated figures laid on top of each other, one in 4/4 and one in 5/4, the effect of which is a phasing effect, and every so often (thanks to mathematics) the two figures "meet" again. It makes for a very pleasant, dreamy effect. There are about four of these in all, and they are interspersed with snippets of conversation, spoken word tapes, I guess meant to convey the feeling of being in a cafe. This track always makes me smile. It's the "Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast" of the RPI world, I suppose.

This is more of an experimental, minimalist album, probably not of much interest to most progressive rock fans, and newcomers would be well advised to check out Battiato's first few albums before tackling this one. I enjoy it a lot, though, and feel comfortable with a three star rating.

HolyMoly | 3/5 |


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