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(49:03, Altrock Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Two Views on Flight 4:17 2. Ankoku 4:55 3. Words Lurking 3:12 4. Kurai 5:50 5. Flow My Tears 4:17 6. Ananke 1:34 7. Running Water 5:04 8. The Ghosts of Dawn 4:14 9. In Darkness Let Me Dwell 4:55 10. A Knife Under the Pillow 1:22 11. Coming Back Home 3:56 12. Waiting for the Crash 2:08 13. A Dark Vanessa 3:03 14. This Night Wounds Time 3:16 LINEUP: Francesco Zago – guitars, bass; Mellotron Paolo Botta – keyboards Maurizio Fasoli – piano Elaine Di Falco – vocals Jacopo Costa – vibraphones Giuseppe Olivini – percussion Pat Moonchy – electric zen garden With: Bianca Fervidi – cello Rachel O'Brien – vocals
Prolusion. The Italian project EMPTY DAYS appears to be the creative vehicle of composer and musician Francesco Zago, as he is the writer of the greater majority of music and lyrics on this initial, self-titled, production by this new band. The CD was released in 2013 through Altrock Records.
Analysis. Those with a deep interest in the more avant-garde parts of the progressive rock universe are looking forward to just about any new release by the Italian Altorck label. They have made themselves a reputation for finding and releasing quality material generally residing in this part of the progressive rock universe, and while Empty Days is a project that doesn't quite fit into this context, it also comes across as appropriate that this band was signed to this label. One of the key elements of this recording is that it doesn't have much to do with rock music as such. We're treated to some tortured guitar details and textures drawn-out guitar soloing undercurrents at times true enough, and of the kind that invites to referencing Robert Fripp, but these are subordinate, supplemental details that don't at all serve as providers of any rock music based approach as such, and could just as well have been provided by another instrument. Instead, this is a production that focuses on careful and frequently ambient musical details, and goes about it in a rather unconventional manner. We're treated to chamber music oriented pieces, sometimes with fairly elaborate vocal arrangements, like on opening track Two Views on Flight, a piece that gave me associations with Gentle Giant's most sophisticated vocal arrangements, but backed by chamber music rather than progressive rock, and also to darker and ominous escapades like the haunting, sparsely arranged In Darkness Let Me Dwell. There are compositions that focus on ambient moods, using acoustic and electronic instruments both to craft brooding, unnerving atmospheres, such as Ankoku and The Ghosts of Dawn, the latter adding a slight Asian-sounding folk music touch to the proceedings. The brilliant, albeit brief, Ananke uses surging noise textures to create a mood and atmosphere of horror like proportions, and there's even a slight sense of the operetta to be found on Flow My Tears. This production basically skips, jumps and wanders to and from chamber music, ambient excursions and noise-oriented careful escapades, slightly flavoring them with minute touches of folk music and jazz. The latter of these mainly by way of the vocals admittedly, but nevertheless, very much present for those who know what to listen for. So while you won't find many elements from any kind of rock music present on this production, it is truly a creation that will have its strongest appeal towards an audience familiar with and with an affection for avant-garde and related kinds of music. Progressive music or art music if you like, creations that seek to expand and broaden the listeners musical boundaries, be it by accident or design.
Conclusion. It is always satisfying to be able to describe a production of ambient music as one that is experimental in nature and sophisticated in content. The bleak landscapes explored by Empty Days on their self-titled debut album blend ambient music, noise textures and chamber music into a satisfying and adventurous whole, and comes with a general recommendation to those who tend to enjoy exploring music residing outside of conventional musical boundaries. And while I suspect that those with a strong affection for chamber music and chamber rock will be this band's key audience, this is an album that should also warrant an inspection by those who have a taste for experimental music in general, up to and including liberal minded fans of classical music and jazz.
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