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Lavori in Corso

When the Italians began producing albums of what we now call progressive rock, they did so with a unique flare and style, one which has now been identified in hindsight as "Italian." Part of it had to do with the Italian musical culture - incredibly rich - which led to classical training for many young Italian musicians, and an overall respect for classical forms and techniques. Italians, after absorbing rock'n'roll (or "beat music," as it was known there) assimilated it with their overall musical background to create the indigenous "pop Italiano," or what non-Italians call "Italian progressive rock." While the output of individual musicians and bands varied considerably in specific style (and quality), all of them had certain common elements, among them a rich melodic base. The earliest such group may have been the New Trolls, a "supergroup" formed by the Italian music press speculation ('What would happen if we put these musicians together?'). They played rock, pop, jazz, and quasi-classical in a varied blend, peaking with SEARCHING FOR A LAND, and UT. (An offshoot band using the New Trolls name also produced ATOMIC SYSTEM; it was originally known as New Trolls Atomic System. At the same time other members of the band formed Ibis, producing three albums. Ultimately the two bands reformed as New Trolls and went back to a pop-orientation near the end of the seventies.) After the New Trolls, the deluge: Le Orme, Formula Tre (Three), P.F.M., Osanna, Goblin, and many others. (The groups just named produced at least several albums each; another hundred or so groups produced only single albums.)

The change in the political climate and in the music industry worldwide in the late seventies stifled "pop Italiano." Those groups which survived did so by following Genesis' lead and going mainstream, losing much of their distinctiveness and appeal. (A few years earlier some flirted with fusion music - jazzy rock - and such groups included P.F.M. and Osanna, which turned into Nova. But this did not last.) It was not until the advent of the CD and the reissues of Italian albums from the seventies that the progressive scene in Italy re-emerged from underground, but the first of the new Italian groups, like Tale Cue and Leviathon, had little of the Italian distinctiveness that had characterized earlier bands. They were, instead, "neo-prog," bland and derivitive, would-be Marillions and Pendragons. They even sang in unaccented English!

But ten years or more have passed, and progressive rock has flowered again, worldwide. And in this time not only have some of the old groups, like P.F.M., the New Trolls, Formula Tre, and Le Orme put out new albums (only Le Orme's sounds much like the original group), but new groups with style and ambition are starting to emerge. The first that really impressed me was Barrock (a pun on baroque), who have had two albums (both, unfortunately, issued by now-dead labels, one in Japan and the other in Holland). Another is Finistere, with two albums on the Italian Mellow label.

But here is a new group, with a new album: D.F.A.'s Lavori in Corso[Scolopendra SCL 001]. This is one hour of really excellent music. It owes debts to a variety of earlier groups, but has assimilated what it took from them into its own style. The largest debt is to early (OCTOPUS) Gentle Giant. Their angular, contrapuntal style is used to good effect to create music at once high-energy and complex - with strategically placed breaks into a more relaxed, flowing sound reminiscent at times of CLOSE TO THE EDGE-period Yes. With a standard quartet lineup (guitar, keys, bass, drums) they produce a rich variety of sounds - in part because the keyboard player has, in addition to synthesizers, a Hammond B3 and a Mellotron (and also doubles on flute). Mellotrons are coming back into vogue, precisely for their vintage sounds.

The album lists six tracks, but CD players indicate seven. By checking the actual timing of each track against the timings given on the album, I established that track 3, "Pantera," has been split into two parts, each given its own track assignment on the CD. (Its combined time is over 12 minutes.)

D.F.A. (I have no idea what these initials stand for) is already getting rave reviews, and I look forward to their next release.

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