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Franco Battiato - Pollution CD (album) cover


Franco Battiato


Rock Progressivo Italiano

3.66 | 91 ratings

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3 stars 'Pollution' is the sister album of the preceding year's 'Fetus' and like its predecessor it was inspired by the novel 'Brave New World'. One of the tracks here is 'Beta', a clear reference to the system of castes in Huxley's dystopian society. A Beta was happy because he didn't have to work as hard as an Alpha and because he was more intelligent than the other castes: 'I am happy to be a beta, my day is not hard... gamma and delta obey me'. During the closing section of 'Beta' we hear a sample of Smetana's 'Vltava' and interestingly enough the Czech composer's melody was adapted from an Italian 16th Century madrigal 'La Mantovana'. Some of the lyrics on 'Beta' seem to reflect the idea that every man is two men; that while we sleep we are awake elsewhere: 'Inside of me live the same micro-organisms that cannot belong to my body... I belong to which body?'

In Huxley's novel characters are often identified according to their class where the emphasis is on the production of automatons, and this is reflected in Battiato's lyrics: 'Have you ever wondered what function you have?' This is a recurring theme and the question is repeated throughout the album. Individuals are stripped of their humanity and become the incarnation of their social functions. Loss of individual identity and degradation of manhood tie in with the overarching concept of pollution and the degradation of the environment. And the pessimistic message of 'Il Silenzio Del Rumore' seems to draw comparisons with the dystopian society and large corporations. Amid the silence of the noise of pressure valves, heat cylinders and production tanks Battiato declares that 'you do not have the power to change your future for fear of discovering freedom that you do not want to have.'

Battiato also draws inspiration from Italian pseudoscientist Pier Luigi Ighina who hoped to divert mankind from disaster. Ighina was the founder of the Centro Internazionale Studi Magnetici at Imola and the title-track's lyrics deal with equations, electrical fields, magnetic gas and hydrogen atoms. A message on the album cover heralds 'Pollution' as 'sound gestures in seven acts dedicated to the Centro Internazionale Studi Magnetici' and the cover also displays a notice issued by the centre on 25th September 1972 that related to an earlier experiment. Ighina believed he had been contacted by extraterrestrials that had given him an important mission to regenerate humanity into a state of health. Perhaps this has something to do with the rather puzzling 'Plancton' where the protagonist has lived in the ocean for two centuries and learned to breathe in the water: 'My hands became scaly, below the sea my structure changed. And my body is more like a fish, my hair turns to seaweed.'

The lyrics of 'Areknames' are written in a seemingly strange language but most of the words are simply back to front Italian. The general theme is something about planet Earth's clouds changing the frontier of man. The leader of the extraterrestrials, Scegustori (an anagram of Gesł Cristo), warned that if mankind did not adjust to nature instead of destroying it then man would succumb to some final action. Ighina believed that electromagnetism was the crux of nature and existence therefore he built a large magnetic stroboscope. He conducted an experiment at Imola on 12th September 1972 where he hoped to open a gateway to the extraterrestrials' UFO and thereby prove his theory of magnetic rhythm that would save humanity. Needless to say the experiment was at best inconclusive and at worst a failure.

The music on 'Pollution' is largely experimental and electronic, weird and full of incoherent moments but also approaching space-rock and Krautrock at times. It's also deep with meaning and the music just seems to click with the concept. 'Pollution' is about as far away as you can get from the Italian symphonic progressive music I love, but is nevertheless highly enjoyable and is arguably one of the most significant albums of the RPI sub-genre.

seventhsojourn | 3/5 |


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