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Nichelodeon - NichelOdeon

NICHELODEON "BATH SALTS" + INSONAR "L'ENFANT ET LE MÉNURE"

Nichelodeon

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.68 | 12 ratings

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octopus-4
Special Collaborator
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
4 stars A lot of time is passed since when I received this boxset sent by Claudio Milano, but this is not a kind of music that you can put on you car audio system and listen to just in the background. As almost all the many Milano's side projects it requires attention and time.

Let's first speak about the package. Also this time there is no plastic other than the CDs, but the very "artist touch" is the little piece of rope which keeps the paper box closed. Inside, other than the four CD2 there are two booklets with the lyrics and some pictures. The pages, especially on the InSonar booklet remind me to the futurism of the first half of the 20th century.

Now the music: the first remarkable thing is of course the incredible vocal extension of Claudio Milano. Other than him there are very few singers with similar capabilities that I'm aware of: Boris Savoldelli of S.A.D.O. and the former Quintorigo singer John De Leo, but Claudio Milano is the one closer to the vocal experiments of the unlucky Demetrio Stratos. This means that his voice is one of the most important aspects of his music. But not only. The mixture of jazz, electronic and avantgarde music in general is relevant as well.

The two Nichelodeon albums are open by a harp prologue. Harp is quite omnipresent in this album and fits very well with Claudio's voice, especially on his highest notes. On "Un Posto Sicuro" (A Safe Place)the melody has a medieval flavor and it's a good contrast with the percussive background. The chorus has a very good melody, unusual in this genre. A part of the song seems sung in Japanese and it's followed by a coda and closed by an acapella last rhyme.

"Ricordo D'Infanzia" (Childhood's Memory) is incredible. The four harp chords sound medieval or even celtic but if I concentrate on the vocal melody it could come from the early 60s Italian pop, I think to Luigi Tenco. This is a lovely song with lyrics which deserve some attention. Sorry for non-italian speakers. Also on this song the coda changes drastically the song's mood.

Harp again on Surabaya Johhny, but this time instead of the melody we have a sort of teathrical monologue. Who speaks is likely a woman and this adds a touch of ambiguity to the song. The excellent chorus which dives in the same waters of Vangelis "One More Kiss, Dear" and the teathrical performance are again very vintage. I think to an Italian singer as Fred Buscaglione.

"Bolle" (Bubbles) is short. Musicaly I still hear a strong connection with the artsy pop of the first Italian singer-songwriters, these more influenced by the French chansonniers. "Rapporto Sulla Fine DI Una Storia" (report about the end of a story) is, for its melody, a sort of litany, lullaby or nursery rhyme, but it's accopanied by percussion and bells which make the "popular" feeling vanish. "(This Side of )The Looking Glass" has a strong RIO flavor, more than the other songs up to this point. It's closer to the Claudio's solo albums than to the Nichelodeon usual output. A little bit more challenging, but if you follow the melody I think it could be called jazz.. Something like Sinatra playing Carla Bley.

"Desiderio Nascosto"(Hidden Desire) is made of harp (played like a piano), cello and voice. It could have a classical feeling but Claudio's voice with the alternance of high and bass notes gives it the RIO touch. "7 Actions - Music for the Flesh" is a poetry. Claudio's voice is overdubbed several time, but don't think to Bobby McFerrin. He is later joined by tribal percussion. On this track we can hear all his vocal extension. Demetrio Stratos would have liked it.

This "first chapter", entitled "D'Amore e di Vuoto" (Of Love and Emptiness) ends with "Giulia". The subtitle means "born in seven months, dead at the first appointment". The melody is sweet. It's a sort of chamber rock, with mainly harp and flute creating an exciting background for Claudio's voice. The instrumental harp interlude is fantastic. This is the track that I've liked more in this first CD.

The Chapter Two, "Di Guerre e di Rinascite" (Of Wars and Rebirths) starts with "Terra" This word in Italian has many possible meanings: "Earth, Land, Ground, Dirt, Soil" to say few. Listening to the lyrics, I think that "Ground" is the best translation. The melody is obsessive and dark, with drums and double bass in evidence.

It's followed by "Alla Statua Dei Martiri Di Gorla" (To the Monument for Gorla's Martyrs). It has a sad melody and sounds like an epitaph. It was October 20th of 1944 when the Americans bombarded a school killing 184 children. The orders where misinterpreted and the aircrafs turned 22 degrees right instead of left destroying the school instead of a factory. Ok, this is not speaking of music, but even non-italian speakers can appreciate this song, poetry more than a song, knowing what it's about.

"Fuoco Amico (Mai N.A.T.O.)" Friend Fire, where NATO is the Atlantic Alliace, proceeds on this line with a joke about the two words of the title. The melody is very dark thanks also to the cello.

"Trittico 50 mg"(Triptych) has more hermetic lyrics. I have the impression that Claudio is joined by another singer here, instead of being overdubbed. This song is full of musical ideas. I really like what the harp does in this track.

"Johnny Dei Pirati"(Pirates' Johnny) Has a theathrical mood, like a part of an opera. More than just a rock opera I think to Bertolt Brecht. Another very good track with a very consistent melody.

Another war in another time: at the end of 15th Century all the inhabitants of Otranto (about 800 persons) were killed by the troups of the Turkish sultan Ahmet Pasha because the refused the conversion to Islam. Antonio Primaldo is a Catholic Saint. The legend says that after his head was cut, his body stood up in front of the sultan. The song is melodic and quite "light".

"L'urlo Ritrovato"(Rediscovered Scream) is initially sung in Latin. For what I can understand is like a prayer , or the parody of a prayer to Mary and Jesus. After the first part in Latin the Italian lyrics become "crazy". This is another operatic song on which Claudio is joined by a female vocalist. It's the longest song of the Nichelodeon's double CD and the central part of the track is one of the most challenging. The part of drums and brasses explores the free- jazz landscapes. I don't know on which track Calloni and Tofani guested, but this part sounds quite AREA.

"Un Posto Sicuro #2" is the reprise of "A Safe Place", but the medieval mood is disappeared. It has a chamber arrangement on a melody which sounds classic RPI. "Finale(Ninna Nanna)"(Final - Lullaby) is what the ttle says,but of course the lyrics are a tragic parody of a traditional one.

"Portami Un Fiore"(Bring Me A Flower) is a short dissonant closer. Again there's the contrast between a chaotic and dissonant base and the melody sung by Claudio. It's a strange closure. Even if not properly a concept there's a red line across all the tracks. "Finale" would have been perfect as last track, this seems quite an appendix.

However, this is an excellent double album that requires listeners in the right mood and available to pay the right amount of attention to it.

Now the second "double CD" of the boxset. The project is InSonar and even here there's a lot of guests from every part of the world: all the five continents are represented here. It's mainly a duo composed by Claudio Milano and Marco Tuppo, but just give look to the guests list on the album's page. The story of prog, and not only prog, is there.

InSonar is a different project. Maybe less challenging than Nichelodeon is naturally based on Claudio Milano's voice. The first track "The Simpsons Sing Gounod" is a kind of a joke, with Claudio's voice overdubbed in a crazy choir which we can imagine as the Simpsons.

A friend told me that the chorus of "L'Estasi Di Santo Nessuno"(The ecstasys of Saint Nobody) reminds to the PFM "Dolcissima Maria". This only to say that the connection with the classic RPI is evident as with Nichelodeon, but this project is not as dark as Bath Salts is.

"La Stanza A Sonagli" jokes again with the words. It can be translated as "rattleroom" as a "Serpente A Sonagli" is a rattlesnake . A difference respect to Nichelodeon is the use of electronics. After two minutes we are in a sort of drone enriched by Claudio's high pitches. It's not too dissimilar from the experimental side of Battiato in the late 70s.

"Thief Of Toys" is quite different so that I had the suspect that it could have been a cover of some song that I don't know. For some reason it has reminded me to Patti Smith's "Land".

"L'Inventasogni"(The Dreammaker) is the first track which can be called "difficult". Possibly the picture on the InSonar's album cover is inspired to this song. This is mainly a piece of free jazz with piano drums and sax in great shape.

"Menura Latham" is pure avantgarde with a bit of electronics based principally on drums and percussion. I can't describe it. Just listen. "Gallia #1" seems sung in French. The flavor is French as well. It's like a "Chansonnier's" song contaminated by avant arrangements. You can hear Claudio singing on high pitches and taking one very high and powerful note.

Now surprise: a Velvet Underground's cover. "Venus In Furs". Different enough from the original version but still recognisable. Here Claudio sings on bass pitches. More thanto Velvets to me it sounds more close to Joy Division.

"Dieci Bambini Cacao"(Ten Cocoa Children) is opened by keyboards and sounds very electronic. The song itself reminds me of Nichelodeon's "Malamore E La Luna" which is one of my favorite Nichelodeon's songs.

Finally, "Hamelinvoice" is another joke on words. Hamlin is the city of the "magic flute" of the Grimm's brothers. Claudio uses his voice instead of a flute. The story of Hamlin which is likely derived from something really happened in the year 1264 could sound like a horror story.

The first of the two InSonar CDs, "Enfant" is gone. To "Ashima" now.

"Liberami - Tabernacolo Erotico"(Free me - Erotic tabernacle) is a jazzy and electronic improvisation (maybe). Chaotic.

"Song To The Siren" is a Tim Buckley cover. It's I think the first time that guitar can be heard on this album. The song is fantastic and this cover, even though very different from the original, keeps the song's mood intact.

"Cancion Del Jinete" is a poetry by Federico Garcia Lorca. Knowing this fact, we can appreciate the "Andalician mood" of the track. I know that somebody else has put it in music, but this is the first version that I hear. The violin which emerges from the chaos is a great idea.

"La Torre Piu' Alta"(The highest Tower) has a middle-eastern floky flavor. The untuned notes sung by Claudio an remind to a Muezzi, then they change into a sort of Berber chant. After this intro the music is clearly arabic. An unusual ethno-folk effort with an unexpected jazz clarinet in the middle. It smoothly looses the ethnic element to be transformed into a noisy track, then back to North Africa. The lyrics may be both Arabic or Hebrew, I can't say.

After this chaos the famous romance composed in the 18th century by Jean Paul Martini appears strange, but it's just the first impression. It's so weirdly arranged that it can be recognized only because the chorus is so well-known.

Another cover: The Eno-Bowie "Warszawa" from "Low" (my first Bowie purchase many years ago). Calling it a cover may seem inappropriate as I can hardly recognize it, but it's one of the most relaxing tracks of the whole boxset.

"Gallia #2" starts instrumental and is sung in Italian, so not what one could expect from a #2. It's not what I mean as a follow-up or a second part. This is a challenging track. After about 4 hours of music, a track of this kind is not easy to listen.

"Medina" has a very slow crescendo from the initial silence. After about two minutes there's a major chord growing, then becoming minor. I can call it Progressive Electronic. It reminds me to Alio Die, even in the use of percussion.

After listening to the whole in one shot I need some rock and roll....jokes apart, this is a split release and the originals are effectively two double CDs, not a unique 4CD thing, so I can't say that the length is a defect. Both the albums are challenging and even if both are Claudio Milano's projects, they are very different. Dark and dramatic the first, Experimental and jazzy the second.

There's still something that doesn't make my cry for the masterpiece, but 4 stars are well deserved for both the albums. Enjoy. Just be sure to be in the right mood.

octopus-4 | 4/5 |

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