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(55 min, Lizard)
TRACK LIST: 1. Il Viaggio 4:56 2. Onirica Mente 10:52 3. Dietro le Mura 7:19 4. Ritratto Libero 15:23 5. Involuzioni Rapide 8:32 6. Ballo al Molino 8:19 All tracks: by Chiave Di Volta. Produced by Pasquali. LINEUP: Gabriele Pasquali - keyboards Nicola Torpei - guitars Veiri Villi - vocals; flute Donato Masci - bass Mattia Grofoli - drums
Prolusion. CHIAVE DI VOLTA was formed in 2001 by keyboardist Gabriele Pascali, singer/flutist Veiri Villi and bassist Donato Masci, who previously played in the outfit called Campanile-18. Since its birth, the band has been actively touring through their homeland, Italy. "Ritratto Libero" is their debut album.
Analysis. Examples abound, there is a great many of the Art-Rock-related albums today that feature talented performers and blockbusting sound. Far fewer can lay claim to such rare and much more important qualities as original sound and strong composition. Chiave Di Volta's "Ritratto Libero" features plenty of all of said qualities, and the result is often quite stunning. The rather short opening track, Il Viaggo, appears with the approximately equal quantity of vocal-based and purely instrumental arrangements. (On subsequent compositions, the latter are always prevailing.) While being Neo-like by structure, the vocal sections are instantly accessible. Nevertheless, the song as a whole tends to have an entrancing strength and grandeur to it. I can bravely declare that this is the best Neo-related composition I've heard this year, though perhaps the reference is somewhat exaggerated, inasmuch as the music is free of any influences, just as everywhere on the album. Nevertheless, the further tracks are more challenging, with many sudden stops and starts, with loud and soft sections alternating back and forth. On Onirica Mente and Dietro le Mura, the band follows the romantic traditions of Italian Art-Rock, laid by Le Orme, Banco and PFM in the beginning of the '70s, but with no borrowings from the founders of the genre. Warm and soulful, at times truly magical, the music displays a perfect balance between melody and complexity and is so compelling that it's hard to believe it comes from a young band. There are some really wonderful instrumental sections with piano and flute at the fore, with beauty and expressiveness reminding me of those from Genesis's "Firth of Fifth", "Lamia" and the like. The remaining three compositions are largely instrumental, and the first of them, the 15-minute title track, located right in the middle of the album, is the turning point here. While retaining enough of the classic Art-Rock-related features to appeal to the genre's traditional fans, it's full of highly innovative ideas, features a lot of improvisational-like solos and, sometimes, has a quasi avant-garde sense. Brilliant stuff. The last two tracks, Involuzioni Rapide and Ballo al Molino, feature very few vocals and have little in common with classic Italian Progressive and even Art-Rock as such. The music here is often more intense and dynamic, with plenty of elements of Jazz-Fusion, propelled by Pascali's confident jazz-tinged piano and Donato Masci's slap-solos on bass, and also those, which I am hardly able to call otherwise than a highly unique symphonic Industrial.
Conclusion. "Ritratto Libero" is a fascinating debut release from one of Italy's most promising new bands, displaying a mature, original and crisp sound, which puts Chiavo Di Volta in the upper echelon of contemporary progressive Rock music. Sincerely recommended.
VM: March 16, 2005
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