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TRACK LIST: 1. GB Evidence 5:18 2. Arabesque 12:32 3. Dark Magus 9:00 4. L’Ombra di un Sogno 6:55 5. Piu Limpida-1 5:07 6. Battery Park 6:37 LINEUP: Giovanni Parmeggiani – keyboards Marco Marzo Maracas – guitars Cristian Franchi – drums Daniele Piccinini – bass With: Richard Sinclair – vocals (4) Antonio Cupertino – percussion (4)
Prolusion. Following “Kinesis” from 2008, “Kublai” is a sophomore release by Italy’s ACCORDO DEI CONTTRARI (ADC hereinafter). As you can see above, there are six tracks on the CD, ranging from 5 to 12-and-a-half minutes in duration.
Analysis. I wonder why, unlike “Kinesis”, which is part of the Altrock Records album roster, “Kublai” was issued by ADC itself. The former outing was one of the classics of 2008. Combining symphonic Art-Rock, Jazz-Fusion and Prog-Metal, ADC has then forged its own path as a highly original and talented ensemble. The new album moves in some new directions, but for the most part it covers established ground, keeping a lot of that quirkiness of some arrangements we got to know and love from “Kinesis”. Band leader Giovanni Parmeggiani traditionally deploys a solid set of vintage keyboards, which include Mini-Moog and ARP Odyssey synthesizers (though ARP is also known as a ‘string ensemble’), Hammond organ, two analog electric pianos and fortepiano. And the other three main band members are still here, all of the musicians playing as good as before. The difference is that, instead of the violinist and the saxophonist who played on “Kinesis” (almost throughout, adding a lot of extra – chamber – colorations to that album’s sound), two different guest musicians are involved this time, and both of them appear on a single track. This is L’Ombra di un Sogno, and is a song (a good piece, but less impressive than any of the others, featuring some straight vocal lines), while the previous ADC outing is all-instrumental. Otherwise, however, the music on “Kublai” is absolutely on a par with that on its predecessor, occasionally being superior to it. It’s obvious that the band has played extensively together, since there is a strong sense of unity and balance in their sound. What in particular displays the band’s strength is an extreme reflection of the diversity in Art-Rock and Jazz-Fusion, as evinced on disc opener, GB Evidence, as well as on the other instrumentals, Dark Magus, Battery Park, Piu Limpida e Chiara di Ogni Impressione Vissuto and Arabesque, all of which additionally contain movements that belong to mental heavy music. From the jazz rock-y landscapes to the distorted, structurally complex King Crimson-ian guitar riff, over which hovers a quasi-improvised, Manfred Mann-evoking Moog solo, to a lush, dark, full-of-vintage-beauty Sympho Prog of the Van Der Graaf Generator variety with a relentless duel between organ and guitar as one of its central musical features, all of these pieces are ones that will be re-discovered each listen for quite some time. The last of them, Arabesque, is a stand-out, though. It begins with an acoustic guitar, which is tuned specifically, sounding very much like a Turkish saz, and slowly develops into a phenomenal musical sculpture, built on the base of Eastern and Central Asian folk motifs, and performed by means of all three of the above styles. Finely crafted by skilful players, rendered with precise nicety, this is a truly astonishing collage. As for the aforementioned song (which features the vocals of the ex-Caravan and Hatfield & The North bassist and singer Richard Sinclair), on it they explore a more relaxed and smooth quasi Jazz-Fusion, lying not too far away from Sinclair’s first band’s similar landscapes.
Conclusion. Just like its predecessor, “Kublai” is a musically colorful album, located under the shadow of expert musicianship. I recently began sketching my personal chart of the year, and have just added this item to it. Recommended is the word – in its irrefragable sense.
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