1. Magic Sadness 3:46
2. Agonia per un Amore 4:56
3. Witch Dance 4:13
4. Incubus 4:08
5. In Einsteinesse's Memory 5:27
6. Enchanted Wood 12:21
Antonio Bartocetti - el. & ac. guitars; vocals
Doris Norton - synthesizers & piano
Jean-Luc Jabouille - drums
Marco Batti - basses
Ugo Heredia - flute
"Ralefun" is the sixth and penultimate album by Italy’s ANTONIUS REX. It was originally released about a year before this international "magic group" disbanded. Click here to enter the band's section on this site.
Surprisingly, there is nothing dark on "Ralefun". The album is full of romanticism, which, just as an example, was also rather typical of classic Jethro Tull and Gentle Giant, but atypical of Pink Floyd, let alone Van Der Graaf Generator and King Crimson. In other words, even distinctly dramatic colors are rarely to be found in its musical palette. I don't know why Antonius Rex’s music has undergone such a metamorphosis, but then, I well understand why the majority of fans of this cult band turned away from it in the second half of the seventies. But while this fact has resulted in the breakdown of Antonius Rex, it was in no way related to the quality of music they composed during those years. Each of the following four tracks: Magic Sadness, Incubus, Agonia per un Amore and In Einsteinesse's Memory (the first two of which are instrumental pieces) – represents classic symphonic Art-Rock, which is done in the best traditions of the English school of the genre, and yet is free of any direct influences. Although the first two tracks on the album aren't as diverse and intricate as all the others, they have their own merits, and beauty is only one of those. Doris Norton seems to have forgotten her passion for organs and a dark gothic sound; she plays almost exclusively on an acoustic piano and synthesizer, the parts of the latter mostly serving as a background for those of the main soloing instruments, namely flute, bass, electric guitar, and the same piano (listed in order of activity). What is more, instead of using a poetic narration as on the earlier albums, Antonio Bartocetti does really sing here, and his vocals turn out to be amazingly clear and pleasant. The remaining two songs, Witch Dance and Enchanted Wood, are both excellent, too, but aren't completely original, unlike the other tracks. The first of them is a heavy, up-tempo Space Rock of the Hawkwind variety (in the middle of the seventies), but with a flute and synthesizer at the helm of the arrangements, and also with the Black Sabbath-like guitar riffs. The source feeding the roots of Enchanted Wood is even more obvious: this composition could've been right at home on any of Gong's albums from the famous Radio Gnome trilogy. The music is classic Space Fusion, for sure.
While being stylistically a bit less consistent than 1974's "Neque Semper", musically "Ralefun" is hardly inferior to that album. In any case, it is slightly more to my taste in general and better suits my conception of the 70s' Progressive Rock in particular. I don't really know why the band's audience has scattered after it moved towards the lighter realms of music.
Antonius Rex is a band unit best known, or perhaps even infamous, for the production and release of music with a rather dark tinge to it. Outrageous cover artwork, doom-laden church organs and a distinct presence of occult elements and inspirations are a mainstay of the material that comes courtesy of the creative partnership consisting of Antonio Bartoccetti and Doris Norton. With one exception that is. A curious and singular item in their creative back catalogue, "Ralefun" is a production that focuses on rather different creative choices. It is a surprising creation on first encounter, as the songs are rather light in spirit throughout. Uplifting flute soloing, gentle guitar escapades with more than a touch of jazz to them, ethereal symphonic backdrops that occasionally evolve towards a richer and more grandiose arrangement, always melodic, and mostly with a strong cinematic feel to them. Rather often I found myself thinking about Italian movie scores whilst exploring this production. A few darker touches are applied throughout too; a brief visit from a dark-tinged guitar riff, a subtle undercurrent courtesy of the Mellotron (unless I'm mistaken) might slide underneath the dream-laden themes; the spoken, often whispered vocals will occasionally take on a darker, mystical delivery. But by and large the darkness is left out on this occasion, with a lighter mystical mood interacting with dream-laden atmospheres, and only the occasional shadow effects coming forth from the depths to witness that there is a dark presence here, but that it has chosen not to reveal itself just now. Enchanted Wood is arguably the most inventive of these excursions, a gentle piece that gradually takes on a wilder, energetic delivery as it involves, with a wild, passionate improvisational character gradually taking over the song as it evolves. This item, like most others, doesn't come across as a breathtaking sonic experience however. Pleasant, intriguing and subtle in nature, this isn't a creation that will convince in one, two or even ten visits. As I regard it this is a production for those who like and love the process of revisiting a piece of music over the years, gradually discovering details that slowly will stick to your mind. Amidst all the relatively pleasant constructions that were made into "Ralefun", this 32nd Anniversary Edition features a bonus track as well, namely Proxima Luna. A piece recorded in 1980, and on this occasion those who think they know what top expect from Antonius Rex get what they expect: energetic keyboard soloing, darkly whispered, effects-treated vocals, doom-laden church organ and associations towards occult seances and black masses, all present and accounted for in a breathtaking seven minutes and fifty-three seconds.
The mystical musical journeys of the Italian band Antonius Rex tend to be of a nature that will ever so slightly intimidate on first encounter. "Ralefun" is the sole exception of the creations in their back catalogue, sporting lighter, mystical and even accessible escapades. A relatively gentle introduction to the dark universe explored by Bartoccetti and Norton, and perhaps an ever so slightly surprising experience for those who have discovered this act in the last decade or so and who haven't started to investigate its past.