The Rummage

Tag: Italy

. issue XXII : iv .

. artist : black box .
. album : dreamland .
. year : 1990
.
. label : rca .
. grade : b .

Dreamland

Dreamland is just a bunch of House — house music, that is — at the height of its popularity: sampling and legal troubles. Black Box, an Italian house music collective with a penchant for electronic beats and plagiarism, produced its first album, Dreamland, in the 1990’s, amidst legal battles of copyright infringement. But in spite of all that, the album turned out all right. This nine-track dance-fest was very much of the times; with its punchy beats and its Bez-like attitude, its main goal was to corrupt movement with a bit of soul, and the voice of Martha Wash (the initially uncredited vocalist of the group) did just the trick. The album is no groundbreaker, neither a fluid listen nor a story-teller, but the individual track-by-track quality makes it work. Each tune seems to pulsate with non-stop rhythm: Dreamland’s symbolic mood is “the party goes on.” It’s very much an album for mindless movement — party-time music without social responsibility. With dance-or-die tracks like “Ride On Time” and “Strike It Up,” it would be a risk to sit still. The overall verdict is one of vindication precisely because it’s such a dancers’ album.

by 
Grace Aiyedogbon

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. issue XX : v .

. artist : manthra dei .
. album : s/t .
. year : 2013 .
. label : acid cosmonaut .
. grade : a .

manthradei_cvr

Italy’s Manthra Dei lay down a classic in more ways than one with their self-titled stoner prog chronicle. Manthra Dei is equal parts lunar rock, runestone and an often unhinged, keyboard soaked love-letter to the 70’s. They themselves say that inside you’ll find “Hawkwind, Causa Sui, Can, Kyuss, Earthless, Black Sabbath, Colour Haze, King Crimson, Motorpsycho, Popol Vuh, Sleep, Goblin, Hypnos69, Jethro Tull, Ozric Tentacles mashed-up, with no criteria, but with horns up against the sky.” Absolutely.

The whole package is infused with a furious proggy 70’s devotion that oozes out of every instrument, especially Paolo T.’s keyboards. There’s Deep Heep wizards lobbing fireballs, liquid soundtrack vibes and plenty of prog freak outs from the heavier end to the more baroque. The rest of Manthra Dei relentlessly keep up; filler free, active and effective drum work are whipped tight with muscular bass that’s agile, careening and hairy. The guitars have an expansive sound that matches the deeper, spacier probes yet stay intimate and near at hand. Lead single “Stone Face” is about the perfect introduction to what’s to come. Easing into a nebulous space rock glide, “Stone Face” eventually erupts into a prog dervish, replete with bell-bottom worthy crunch. “Xolotl” follows a similar template, with a swampy layer of haze over the intro. And like “Stone Face,” “Xolotl” ultimately breaks free, this time into a whole other animal. Vocals come in on “Legendary Lamb” as well as a bowl full of desert sand and swagger, whipping up a groovy bluster not that far removed from Brant Bjork and comrades. Paulo T. gets the spotlight on “Urjammer,” a solo organ outing that’s part soundtrack and doom laden prog hymnal. “Urjammer” oozes and encroaches with a mad scientist’s determination. Determination is what “Blue Phantom” is all about; 17+ minutes of running multiple paces, stoking embers and infernos while still finding time to whip up whiffs of some exotic traveller setting the sextant for that heart of the sun. Manthra Dei wrap it up by revisiting “Stone Face” with an acoustic reprise that is given enough room to fully become its own entity. Rather than tack on some throw-away ditty at the end of the firestorm that gets relegated to an afterthought, the reworking seems like a genuine attempt at easing you out without putting you to sleep. Or worse yet, negating said firestorm.

Excluding the breath of air Manthra Dei gives at the end, band and album virtually consume all other traces. Manthra Dei is incandescent, incendiary and at the right moments, unhinged. A highly recommended progeny of progsters, astronauts and highway stars.

by Mr. Atavist

. issue X : v .

. artist : giöbia .
. album : introducing night sounds .
. year : 2013 .
. label : sulatron .
. grade : a .

giobia-night

Italian psych rockers Giöbia return with Introducing Night Sounds, out on Sulatron records. A ’60’s influenced tour de force of Technicolor psychedelia, Introducing Night Sounds virtually drips with heavy organ and keyboard, sitar that adds some exotic spice and loads of spaced out guitar with tripped out frosting right where you want it. An immediate comparison for bearings would be to the future-revivalism of Vibravoid, but like that outfit, Giöbia have their own distinct groove going on. Take that one step further and underneath their hypno-swirl of psychedelia and instrumentation are the pulsing heartbeats of hook-laden songs that never get trampled beneath the groovy heaviness. Giöbia also don’t shy away from pushing the past into corners where others might think it won’t fit, like the stunning opener with its dark Lumerians-like throb or the hopped-up gallop of the superb Orange Camel. The confidence they have in where they draw their foundation’s strength doesn’t waver, so the side trips and digressions dovetail right in with the whole scene floating around your ears.

“Can’t Kill” maintains the loopy elevation started out of the gate with a slightly sinister organ intro that feels shot back to the future day from some swinging sci-fi shindig and highlighting how integral keyboards are to Giöbia’s arsenal. The first single, “A Hundred Comets,” gets a little shoegaze sheen that bubbles up elsewhere throughout Introducing, adding even more variety to the dynamics and more flavor to the psych stew. After riding the “Orange Camel” hard and working up an appetite, Giöbia go for a big bite of Electric Prunes, taking on “Are You Lovin’ Me More (But Enjoy It Less)” and loving it even harder so you can maximize the enjoyment. You got to wash it down with something, so pop the cap on the lava lamp and take a big gulp of “Electric Light,” a Syd/Floyd flavored orbit that circles and penetrates in equal measure. The placement of “Electric Light”—after handling the Prunes)—is as good a place as any to point how excellently the album is sequenced. Giöbia already bring more variety to the table than most like-minded outfits—from the pop to the interstellar—but the cuts are laid out to maximize how much is under the hood and what’s boiling over on the stove. There’s no hodgepodge tapestry of unrelated threads woven here. Without a weak cut to be found, the running order could have been anything and the light would still shine right through, but the care in sequencing is evident, and it makes Introducing stronger as a whole while each track compliments its bookends. Case in point: the other cover to be found, a rousing version Santana’s “No One To Depend On” placed next (but certainly not second). “Silently Shadows” brings the party to a slow, almost melancholy close, rounded out with some off-kilter sounds of the carousel wheel coming unhinged before Giöbia pulls the final curtain.

Introducing Night Sounds is not only a fantastic calling-card for those making Giöbia’s acquaintance, but a red carpet welcome to a party that has never stopped.

by Mr. Atavist

. issue III : ii .

. artist : in zaire .
. album : white sun black sun .
. year : 2013 .
. label : sound of cobra .
. grade : a.

WhiteSunBlackSun

Italian quartet In Zaire describe themselves as “Psychedelic Afro Beat from Italia,” but that’s only a small part of what this ball of fire is all about. Neo-global furnace blasts, Krautrock, space rock, psych rock…and more…compress and explode on their first full-length, 2013’s White Sun Black Sun via Sound of Cobra Records. Drenched in combustion, with an almost-punk ferocity, In Zaire literally explode out of the gate with “Sun.” When an outfit comes out with such intensity, it can make you nervous thinking that they shot their full payload up front, but the more that White Sun Black Sun burns, the deeper In Zaire go, seemingly never running out of fuel.

“Sun” instantaneously goes supernova, threatening to consume the pilots who have absolutely no intention of re-entry on this flight. Fears are laid to rest as “Moon” redefines that body as anything but lifeless. It threatens to alter all orbits with a churning galactic chug that heads right into the eye of the vortex, spinning a wicked corkscrew drive. New life? There’s more of it on “Mars,” with a swampy guitar dancing over a tinkling of gaseous bodies proving beyond a lunar shadow of doubt that there is water—and life—on Mars. At this point, In Zaire has gone deeper than most ‘nauts, but planetary explorations continue and thrive when the surface of “Mercury” cracks open with a simple drum beat that acts as gyroscopic control as the rest of In Zaire coil tightly around it, generating a rumbling aura that expands the energy output further than you would think.

“There’s a bone-rattling looseness that is evident throughout the record, a frayed edge that gives In Zaire an added punch of ferocity above their already white-hot delivery.”

“Mercury” is a pretty straightforward cut that uses the understated power of buzz to full effect. The outermarker is pushed even more as they approach “Jupiter,” an amorphous rumble that implies size through intergalactic ballooning over crippling mass. This is a gas giant, deceptively open while contained in a cauldron of bouncing and rhythmic reaction. Don’t let planetary sequence fool you into thinking you’re back in tighter with “Venus.” Like a microcosm of galaxies (not just ours), throbbing bass and drums circle the star-wagons around an open core with the guitar providing transport between the ricocheting particles. The circular nature of In Zaire is used to full effect, while brief roiling flares highlight the latent power they have in more restrained passages as well as the added booster energy that’s under the hood even when the eye of the storm opens wide open to swallow everything in its path. By the end, “Venus” becomes a mass of electrified lava of one-mind. As it fades out, it’s clear this is only a window to the never-ending change and activity of another body teeming with life. No matter what the astronomers say. Deepest out is your next outpost, “Saturn”…out to the edge where what little has been mapped out ends.

“This is where the tether is fraying and you willingly reach for the scissors to make the final cut. By the end, you’re not only in deeper space, but you’re strapped in for a whole new launch sequence.”

The biggest mystery (and key to the allure) of In Zaire is that for all the interstellar hyperbole, this is firmly rooted on Mother Earth. With the rhythm, tribal fury and power of tectonic grind, White Sun Black Sun serves as a reminder that our Mothership here is part of an open-ended system that is a conflagration in constant motion, consuming, exhuming and expanding at a rate that loses scale in the great vacuum. Just as importantly, White Sun Black Sun is a blazing calling card that there’s a new Master of the Universe in town.

by Mr. Atavist