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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Readers are going to start I'm making this up or that I am being paid to write this. Or that I'm just biased. Extremely biased. But what can I do, how can I react, other than with utter astonishment and joy when I hear the sublime music that comes from albums such as 1000 Autunni?

Here you have keyboards player Paolo Ske Botta, of the mighty Yugen, releasing an album of his music and what is in here is bliss for anyone who likes melodic and beautiful adventurous music; real adventurous melodic music, not the regurgitation of previous achievement found in other albums that inundates the progressive rock "scene" nowadays (though I do like and enjoy many of those as well, to be honest and fair).

And what disturbs me is that an album of this caliber gets little recognition and mention, it is hardly celebrated, reviewed and recommended. An album like this should appeal to all those 70s progressive rock golden era fans (as well as those embracing the more "out there" and "experimental" side of progressive rock). Those golden-era fans should like this, not because it sounds like this album is from that place and time, but because it does the same thing the bands of that age did (or tried to): explore various ways of creating music, experiment, mix influences and styles, do some trial and error. In other words, to progress beyond what is done in the general scene and make something unique, creative and (relatively) original (as much as possible).

Granted, this album is influenced by those classic bands, but the key word is influenced, not molded in their form. It brings in a storm of freshness, much like Yugen's Labirinto D'acqua did. It melts the ingredients of its influences and forms a fresh and unique sound and approach that will appeal to both those who like the classic "symphonic prog" and those who like their playful and melodic avant-prog (such as Yugen, French TV and Miriodor). Listen to Mummia and Denti and hear how Paolo reconciles the two, or rather, fuses them together.

1000 Autunni has lush tunes, melodic and seductive, at times angular and in your face (Scrupoli, Fraguglie, Denti), at others soft and comforting (Delta, Scogli 1, Sotto Sotto). The three Scogli tunes will be a test for the more "orthodox" listeners as they explore the "outer rim" and provide a more abstract and calm pace.

A piece like Denti will remind to some of Anglagard in places with its use of flute and mellotron and in others places it will remind others of Yugen. This piece is a great example of a fusion of the "symphonic prog" and "avant-prog" sides, scrambling both in a melting pot and molding them according to Ske's vision.

In Carta E Burro we are graced with beautiful female vocalizations by Roberta Pagani. The piece starts in a laid back mode and in the middle part an increase in tempo as the keyboards and saxophone engage in a superb interplay, only to relax again towards the end of the song. This solo part of the keyboards (which I think is a Farfisa organ), brings me to another point: there is use of a lot of wonderful types of keyboards here, contributing to a somewhat of a vintage-y sound (as well as the occasional reference to the "Canterbury school" sound). However, these different types of keyboards and the vintage atmosphere do not drown out and overtake the album's sound and style, they just make part of it, as is evident once listening to the album.

You are faced with a variety of instrumentation as well as an array of musicians. Paolo's friends from Yugen, Francesco Zago (guitars), Valerio Cipollone (saxophone and clarinet) and Maurizio Fasoli (piano) as well as Camembert members Pierre Wawrzyniak (bass) and Fabrice Toussaint (vibraphone, marimba, trombone, congas) all guest on various tracks here alongside an extended lineup of other musicians.

The musicianship is, as one would expect, top notch and the production crystal clear. I can hear the smallest of nuances and details and thankfull, there's a lot to pay attention to. Multiple listening rounds are needed to get a full grasp of this broad work and in my case, those were very rewarding listening experiences. I particularly appreciate the shift from the subtle and more serene parts to the rhythmic, angular and powerful sections with the always present attention to details and the layering of the instruments one on top the other, without masking them.

Listen with great attention or don't listen at all.

Report this review (#600724)
Posted Saturday, December 31, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Italian keyboard specialist Paolo Ske Botta'also of FRENCH TV and YUGEN'has composed and performed some wonderful avant-prog songs with the help of several of Europe's AltrOck Productions premier avant-garde musicians--including YUGEN and KURAI members Francesco Zago (the mastermind!), Mattia Sign', Valerio Cipollone, Favio Ciro Ceriani, and Maurizio Fasoli (also of NICHELODEON), Nicolas Nikolopoulos (CICCADA), and Strasbourg's CAMEMBERT members Pierre Wawrzyniak and Fabrice Toussaint, ) This music is so difficult to describe, change for change, layer by layer, instrument by instrument because THERE ARE SO MANY! Changes, layers, themes, melodies, and instruments. Not quite as wildly discordant as YUGEN or UNIVERS ZERO, there are many more melodious and harmonious parts to SKE's music--complete with many of the unpredictable twists and turns of avant compostions.

1. 'Fraguglie' (9/10) KING CRIMSON meets BILL BRUFORD's Earthworks meets ERIS PLUVIA meets CICCADA meets MILES DAVIS meets RUSH meets BRAND X meets KITARO'This song has it all!!

2. 'Denti' (8/10) has slower, heavier, almost cinematic feel to it. The presentation of specific and repeated melody lines makes this song feel nearly symphonic. A song with teeth!

3. 'Carta e burro' (9/10) ('paper and butter'?) is a fairly simple, almost nursery rhyme-like song which interweaves the wordless vocals of Roberta Pagani as an added instrument. The song has a lot in common, sound-wise, with Bill Bruford's early EARTHWORKS albums (sans batterie!)

4. 'Scrupoli' (7/10)

5. 'Delta' (10/10) begins with an absolutely gorgeous foundation of arpeggios and melody lines by the woodwinds. The second section--almost an interlude--includes children playground noises in the background over which guitar arpeggios play'very Toby Driver-ish'for a while.

6. 'Scogli 1' (7/10) tuned percussion, electric piano (and, later, other synths), bassoon and electric guitar dance around one another in an avant-KING CRIMSON exercise in polyphonic arpeggio weaving. Reminds me of a classical etude.

7. 'Sotto sotto' (10/10) feels like a slowed down continuation of 'Scogli 1'--making it quite beautiful--including some beautiful Robert Fripp-like guitar sounds and riffs'in a kind of AFTER CRYING masterpiece.

8. 'Mummia' (7/10) brings the listener back into the realm of cinematic soundscapes. It is replete with tension and up- and down- tempo sections. Not my favorite but perfect for a mummy movie'and the song closest to 'mainstream' symphonic (or neo-) prog.

9. 'Scogli 2' (8/10) the second 'rock' or 'stumbling block'--though, IMO, rather more like an 'tude or variation'from the X-Files soundtracks.

10. 'La nefazia di multaulti' (6/10) is another song that tries to use the vocal talents of Roberta Pagani--but this time it doesn't work. Roberta is often off-key and her melody lines are too often following another instrument (usually synth) note for note, making her presence redundant. Plus, the song seems to lack vision and focus. IMO, this is the weakest song on the album despite some breathtakingly beautiful passages (3:45-4:45). The vocals are kind of like a failed version of Burt Bacharach's soundtrack to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

11. 'Scogli 3' (7/10) opening piano arpeggios usher the listener into the best of the three Scogli variations. Organ emerges to take over the center section before woodwinds take us out'and into the album's finale,

12. 'Rassegnati' (8/10) an at-times almost eclectic/heavy prog (think KING CRIMSON on its raw side) end to the album--and what an album it is!

I've been listening to it now for more than two months. This is one for the ages! Melody and technique; harmony with dissonance. 4.8 Stars!

Report this review (#600726)
Posted Saturday, December 31, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Ske ? 1000 Autunni is one of the are albums that seem to bridge the gap between 'difficult' avant prog and more accessible retro prog. Where a lot of avant prog seems to sounds dark and gloomy does Ske sound fresh and colourfull. The instrumentation is extremely lush without sounding overproduced for a single second. If anyone wants to try out some avant prog this would be a prefect album to start with.

This is my favourite album of 2011 but it wasn't an instant love-affair. 1000 autunni is an album that slowly gives away its secrets. Even after many spins you will still discover new sounds and moods. I think this album will be considered a classic by a wider prog audience in about 10 years from now.

Report this review (#601649)
Posted Monday, January 2, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Ske is the nickname of Paolo Botta, the keyboardplayer of Yugen. I am not a fan of Yugen nor am I a big avant prog fan. With a lot of RIO I sometimes get the feeling that I am listening to a masterclass in modern composition rather then passionate rock. Fortunately there is now this wonderfull website called progstreaming where this album was featured for a couple of months. I am afraid that it wasn't able to check this album out on progstreaming I wouldn't be able to get past my prejudices I have against Yugen and other Rio bands.

For me 1000 autunni is a completely different proposition then Yugen. Although the music is very layered and complex the compositions flow very well. Wonderfull tunes and moods keep popping up all the time. The use of many 'antic' keyboards also gives this album a bit of a retro feel without sounding like any other band at the same time. Sometimes the organ and synths remind me a bit of Keith Emerson in his top years with ELP.

I am glad this album is classified as 'eclictic prog' , rather then avant/rio. Everyone should give this album at least a try, even if you don't Rio/Avant prog (like me). This might even be my favourite album of the year. Maybe I should even give Yugen another chance?

Report this review (#606561)
Posted Tuesday, January 10, 2012 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars I didn't know that Ske was a nick-name of Paolo Botta until recently and the significance of that of course is that he decided to call this project after it. Paolo is the keyboardist for YUGEN and he has guested with PICCHIO DAL POZZO, FRENCH TV and others i'm sure. He's a very talented man obviously and I actually like this solo project of his more than I like the music from YUGEN. This is beautiful stuff with an assortment of guests playing a variety of wind instruments, harp, violin, theremin and so much more.

"Fraguglie" is almost ANGLAGARD-like in it's most aggressive moments although it does settle before 2 minutes as well as late to end it. Great track ! "Denti" is mellow with flute before kicking in before 1 1/2 minutes. It sounds like mellotron here. The tempo and mood continues to shift on this one. Another excellent tune. "Carta E Burro" has female vocals along with laid back horns and more. It picks up before 3 minutes then settles back with female vocal melodies late. "Scrupoli" has these outbursts of sound that come and go early on and what sounds like mellotron 2 minutes in.

"Delta" is laid back to start and kicks in before 2 1/2 minutes as contrasts continue. "Scogli 1" is a short piece with intricate sounds and synths too. "Sotto Sotto" is a relaxed song but it is interesting. "Mummia" is a dynamic piece with guitar, organ a beat and much more.Violin and synths before 2 1/2 minutes as it picks up some. "Scogli 2" is another short track with piano and synths standing out this time. "La Nefazia Di Multatuli" gets fuller before 1 1/2 minutes as the bass and drums join in. Vocal melodies follow. Nice. It settles after 4 minutes then rebuilds with vocal melodies. A calm ends it. "Scogli 3" is a short laid back piece. "Rassegnati" eventually has this prominant beat then powerful organ 2 1/2 minutes in followed by guitar. It settles after 3 1/2 minutes. We get a beautiful ending on this one.

A solid 4 stars for this accessible yet very interesting record.

Report this review (#607576)
Posted Wednesday, January 11, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Ske is, as we all know by now, the solo project of Paolo Botta, the keyboardplayer of Yugen. Which made me think this was an avant-garde album. Wrong.

The roots of this album is in avant-garde. But this album branches out into other directions too and is not a purebred avant-garde album by any means. 1000 Autunni takes a lot of elements from symph prog, eclectic, avant-garde, RIO, zeuhl, jazz, folk and Canterbury. All these elements are put into a blender and given some minutes to fuse together. Don't do this in your own kitchen, btw.

The result is 1000 Autunni. An album that is both majestic and full of life. More life than I would expect from an eclectic prog album.

This is by all means a great album. From the symph prog like opener Fraguglie to the final two Hatfield & The North like closing tracks. This is an unmissable album for anyone into Canterbury prog as well as jazz and eclectic prog. Enough said.

4 stars

Report this review (#609686)
Posted Saturday, January 14, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Everything we do, not only increases entropy in the Universe, but also does something with the total balance of beauty and ugliness. Or, in other words, it adds to or subtracts from the Total Harmony of the Universe. I believe, that good music adds.

It doesn't even matter, if somebody listens to this music. The musician releases it, just like a beautiful bird from its cage. If somebody has seen the bird flying, consider it as a piece of luck. If not, it doesn't matter, the music has fulfilled its global task: helping us to approach the state of the Total Harmony, making the world cleaner, brighter.

Those were my thoughts while listening to the SKE's first album "1000 autunni", released in the spring of 2011 by Fading Records/ I was sure. This music adds to the Total Harmony of the Universe. It is a most beautiful bird, and I was lucky to see it flying. I was also sure of another thing. If I would ever make a movie, I will ask Paolo Ske Botta, the SKE's mastermind, to write the music. His music is not only symphonic or even spherical, but also it tells a story. Or if you wish, it shows you beautiful landscapes, seen, as if from the seat of the train. I guess, this is an imprint Paolo has got after his work on French TV and of course, with another RIO superband ? Yugen. But also, SKE's music has this special, a little iron edge in it. I guess, the term fusion fits most here.

Talking about performance, only superlatives pop in my mind. But my heart is gone to the woodwind, and especially the flute. I will definitely show this exotic bird to my friends. I think, even people who don't dig prog or fusion, will be able to appreciate the beauty if this one.

Report this review (#611765)
Posted Tuesday, January 17, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars 1000 Autunni is an album which answers a question I don't think anybody had thought to ask: what would happen if Anglagard made an album paying tribute to the Canterbury scene? Ske, the solo project of Yugen's Paolo Ske Botta, offers an intriguing answer. With a production aesthetic and textures (particularly in the keyboards) reminiscent of Anglagard and jazz-tinged compositions influenced by latter-period Canterbury bands such as the Muffins or National Health as well as a broader range of fusion artists, as well as the occasional retro-prog moment, this is an intriguing album which takes the sounds of the bands that inspired it into a new era and offers a truly progressive and experimental sound.
Report this review (#848914)
Posted Friday, November 2, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Ske is the brainchild of keyboardist and composer from Varese Paolo 'Ske' Botta who features also in the line up of bands such as Yugen and Not A Good Sign. In 2010 he gathered around him some excellent musicians such as Fabio Ciro Ceriani (percussion), Valerio Cipollone (clarinet), Enrica Di Bastiano (harp), Maurizio Fasoli (piano), Elia Leon Mariani (violin), Nicolas Nikolopoulos (flute), Giuspeppe Jos Olvini (theremin, percussion), Roberta Pagani (vocals), Valerio Neth Reina (vocals), Mattia Sign' (drums), Markus Stauss (sax), Fabrice Toussaint (trombone), Pierre Wawrzyniak (bass) and Francesco Zago (guitars) for the recording sessions of a d'but album, '1000 Autunni' (Thousand Autumns), that was released in 2011 on the independent label Altr0ck/Fading Records). The result is an amazing instrumental work, extremely rich in sounds and ideas, where you can find a perfectly balanced mix of classical influences, vintage keyboards, symphonic rock, avant-garde and many more. Anyway, the beautiful art work might describe the music better than my words.

The opener 'Fraguglie' sets the atmosphere painting an evocative autumnal landscape. You can almost hear the gentle steps of a giant moving through an enchanted wood and directed to the court of the Crimson King. You can even hear some nice tunes soaring from the wood, then the mood becomes hypnotic and you risk to get lost. The following 'Denti' (Teeth) is darker and filled with a heavy tension.

Well, perhaps the giant is not directed to the hall of a British castle but in a mysterious nursing home in the Carpathian mountains. The music goes on with the exotic, sensual 'Carta e Burro' (Paper and butter) and the nervous, tense 'Scrupoli' (Scruples). To be honest, I've recently read a novel by French writer Maurice Renard titled L'homme truqu' (The phoney man) and when listening to this album the rhythm and the images evoked by the book come back to my mind, I can't help it! The novel starts as a crime story: a physician is murdered, then the investigations reveal some secret experiments on human beings and the attempt to discover a sixth sense through the implantation of electroscopes into a blind man's eyes. What would it happen if they applied an electrical-ear on your optical nerves? 'You would see the sounds, you wouldn't listen to them any more, you would have a visual perception of the world of sounds...'.

'Delta' begins with a relaxed, dreamy mood that seems to conjure up some memories from a happy childhood, then the course of thoughts risks to get lost in the ripples. 'Scogli 1' (Rocks 1) comes as a short, disquieting break while the ethereal 'Sotto sotto' (Underneath) delves into the unconscious... 'Those who have lost their loved ones know the sacred game of reviving them concentrating all the forces of memory and imagination to create shadows that look like them...'. Just another short quotation from L'homme truq' to introduce the following 'Mummia' (Mummy) and its bold games of shadows and lights.

'Scogli 2' (Rocks 2) is a short, dark interlude that leads to the charming 'La Nefazia di Multatuli' (I fear the title can't be translated and I don't know if it contains any reference to the Dutch writer Multatuli or to a siren queen called Nefazia). Another short interlude, 'Scogli 3' (Rocks 3) leads to the conclusive 'Rassegnati' (Resigned), a beautiful, complex track with sudden changes in mood and rhythm.

On the whole, this is a great instrumental album where not a single note sounds out of place. It could be the perfect score for a thriller, the music is challenging but never boring and it's really worth listening to.

Report this review (#1046595)
Posted Saturday, September 28, 2013 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
5 stars 1000 AUTUNNI is the brilliant work of Italian keyboardist Paolo "SKE" Botta who is in the band Yugen and also appeared on French TV's "This Is What We Do. This album is simply outstanding! If you are even remotely interested in sophisticated and complex eclectic prog then you can not go wrong with this. Everything about this just evokes musical ecstasy like few others can. What we have here is an amalgamation of many influences seamlessly fused together to create some strange yet beautiful sonic bliss.

The influences range from Hatfield and the North's take on Canterbury including the operatic siren Roberta Pagani doing her best Amanda Parsons by nailing it and exceeding it. Every track takes you on a different journey so at times you'll hear some National Health, symphonic Anglagard, sometimes Gentle Giant, Henry Cow, Yugen, French TV as well as RIO style chamber music that feels more like avant-classical with some jazz thrown in for good measure. The instruments and guest musicians involved is quite large even though this is a solo project. There are violins, flutes, saxophones, harps, clarinets and a ton more and at times you will even hear strange things like a ping pong ball bouncing off a table providing an additional layer of percussion.

There is not really too much that words can convey about this since it is so unique and amazingly successful at its melding of disparate influences and making them a cohesive whole. This is one of those albums where you can tell that the flames of passion and the love of music melded every placement of every note and arrangement until the heavenly gates opened and beamed that extra touched-by-God oompf to it giving it that other-wordly spark of magic that we all crave and rarely receive. This has to be one of the best debut albums i've heard in a long time and am sorry that it has taken me this long to finally hear it. I very much look forward to hearing more from SKE as well as his main band Yugen and anything else he has his hands in for that matter. Masterpiece! Masterpiece! M-mmmmmasterpiece!

Report this review (#1149521)
Posted Monday, March 17, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars Paolo Ske Botta: Italian keyboard wizard and composer extraordinaire. If this is the first time you are hearing of him, that's unfortunate, but it's not too late to catch up. For those who are familiar with the sonically delicious Italian RIO/avant prog group Yugen, this man may or may not need an introduction. I absolutely love Yugen, however, I never really considered the genius of this man until I heard his solo album 1000 Autunni. When an artist releases a solo project outside of his/her main band, I am rarely impressed. This mind blowing album is an exception; 1000 Autunni is certainly destined to remain a cherished part of my collection.

Think of this album as the alter ego of Yugen. If Yugen is dark, Ske's solo album is mostly bright and always quirky. It brilliantly manages to pull off keeping all the complex tonal and melodic work of Yugen without sounding grim in the least bit. The inclusion of harp, Hammond, marimba, trons, vibraphone, xylophone, sax, and gong abandon the dark textures we're familiar with for quirky games of syncopation and avant garde fusion and rock which are every bit as rhythmically pulverizing as Yugen without making you feel like you're watching a horror film.

What's even better, Ske's use of poly or atonality never manages to leave you in the dark melodically. From the opening track, "Fraguglie," you can easily pick out the piece's principal motifs and follow the journey Paolo submits them to. Here is a composer capable of putting together fun atonal themes that won't leave the listener drowning in an attempt to follow melodies as their variations get bounced around from instrument to instrument. Is it time to invoke some strange idiom about achieving great things with flying colors? Yes.

If you're looking for something that's a bit non-standard with grooves that'll leave you smiling and instrumentation that'll have you wiping your drool off of your shirt at the end of every song, this album's for you. Did I mention some of the coolest use of mellotron, especially tron choir, that I've ever heard? Oh, yeah, and I couldn't help but grin when I saw that Ske makes mention of the exact mellotron tape racks that he used on each and every song. I know, it's silly, right? Wrong. It's not silly, it's awesome.

Report this review (#1287885)
Posted Sunday, October 5, 2014 | Review Permalink

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