IN OGNI LUOGO (irIdea/Musea THX 1138)
MIRRORGAMES (Mellow MMP 345)
The second Hostsonaten album slipped past me last year; the new Finisterre is just out. Both are essentially products of the same group of people, as I mentioned in my review elsewhere here of their earlier albums.
I checked out the band's website and found the following explanation of the relationship between Finisterre and the offshoot Hostsonaten, which is Fabio Zuffanti's solo project (the reference is to the first album): "Zuffanti's passion for the symphonic progressive and for some acoustic music is overpoweringly expressed in this first solo project, a work where the artist take the distances from the last Finisterre's compositions, which are oriented to the research and the experimentation of new forms of musical languages." English is not their first language.
"The three Finisterre's musical souls Zuffanti (progressive rock), Marelli (ethnic and rock) and Valle (avant-garde and experimentation) will meet and mix themselves in the future works of the band and, at the same time, will find an autonomous way in the various solos projects (in the next months are expected the new works of Marelli and Valle, while the ex Finisterre's flautist Francesca Biagini is programming an album containing Italian Renaissance's melodies)." This description of the interests and contributions of Finisterre's three main collaborators (who assign all music credits to the band as a whole) goes a long way to explain the unique nature of their recorded music.
And Hostsonaten has become an ongoing name for Zuffanti's solo projects, of which MIRRORGAMES is the second, released in July, 1998. The website, while going on at some length about the first album, offers only the personnel of the second: "The musicians involved in this new Fabio Zuffanti's project are: Fabio Zuffanti (guitars, bass, keyboards and vocals), Stefano Marelli (guitars), Osvaldo Giordano (keyboards), Boris Valle (piano and minimoog), Marco Moro (flute), Edmondo Romano (saxophone, flute), Andrea Orlando (drums), Claudio Castellini, Stefano Marelli, Victoria Heward, Loredana Villanacci, Marilisa Villanacci and Marzia Sidri (voices)." That lineup includes all of the current Finisterre, including Orlando, their current drummer.
This time all of the music and some of the lyrics (as on the first album, all in English) are by Zuffanti. The music has more life and vitality than on the first album, but still betrays more of a conventional "prog" approach than one finds in Finisterre itself. At over 70 minutes in length it has plenty of room to move around, and offers among other treats "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner Pt. II," a sequel to a track on the first album - again with lyrics from Coleridge. I do like this album better than Zuffanti's first.
But the kicker is Finisterre's new album, their third, and eagerly awaited, studio album. It is their first self-release, issued in March in
I played it for a friend without telling him whose album it was. I didn't ask him to guess the band. I asked him to guess the style or genre of the music. He knows me for a big fan of progressive rock, but knows I'm into a lot of other music as well. He couldn't guess the nationality or genre of the music.
I suspect Finisterre are moving beyond the narrow ghetto of "progressive rock" and are looking for some kind of broader-based breakout into major success. But they haven't sacrificed their musical ambitions at all - only broadened them.
The fifty-minute album opens with what could be a cliché: a looped guitar. But it quickly builds into a more orchestral guitar for a relatively conventional and rather pretty piece. Like every piece on the album, it segues directly into the next, which in this instance is "Snaporaz," and here is where the strangeness begins. A harsh, primitive guitar, squealing with feedback, sounding a grunge-riff that might have been recorded in San Francisco in 1969, builds into a massively orchestral statement of the same riff - and then breaks into a bridge in which a pretty melody that might have come from the soundtrack of an Italian movie is overlaid with TV-set dialogue which begins in Italian but has later interludes in English as well. The two contrasting and alternating musical sections build in intensity. The TV dialogue becomes a sampled repetition. The effect is as if one combined the music of Blur or Oasis with that of Faith No More and threw in some Italian movies on top. It is remarkably effective and surprisingly and powerfully evocative.
Later in the album, the fifth track, "
But possibly my favorite track of all is the album's closer, "Wittgenstein Mon Amour 1.12," running just under three minutes. A lazy summer stroll with a bass clarinet, it is a jaunty, jazz-like charmer that delights me and ends the album on a sunny, mellow note.
It appears that Finisterre is still moving forward, while Hostsonaten is filling in behind it, but I recommend both albums and look forward to the next.
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