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(59:34, Lizard Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Chromatic Tunes 4:10 2. So Fusion 4:41 3. Bubble Trouble 11:37 4. Blue Sensation 2:54 5. Free-2 5:02 6. Acoustic Image 3:25 7. Space Maze 3:45 8. Freak is Back 4:54 9. Walking in the Sun 3:43 Bubble Trouble Concept: 10. Perigeo 4:08 11. Bathroom 53 3:07 12. Air Universe 3:54 13. Apogeo 4:11 LINEUP: Alessandro Caldato – keyboards Giacomo Girotto – guitar Stefano Volpato – bass Riccardo Pestrin – drums Andrea Massarotto – saxophone, flute
Prolusion. “Chromatic Tunes” is the first offering from Italy’s quintet MAGNETIC SOUND MACHINE (MSM from now on), the press kit saying the group consists of very young musicians.
Analysis. According to the booklet, there are thirteen tracks on this CD, and since – after several inner debates with myself – I decided to view them from that, okay, official perspective, I have to divide them into five or even six different categories, which, however, does not in the least mean the album is stylistically motley. The title piece, Free-2, Acoustic Image and Freak is Back each find the musicians at first generating a syncopated, yet overall quite straight movement where most of them play either in unison or in fourth/fifth which, as you know, is practically the same. Then follows a thrilling shift in theme and pace, after which everything goes on smoothly (in terms of progress), as everyone in the band begins providing different soloing lines, creating in total a multi-dimensional and so amazingly intriguing musical palette. On all these compositions MSM alternates the said two approaches, the first of which, to put it in a generalized way, in all cases represents a variation on itself, whereas the latter always stands out for its diversity and resourcefulness alike, displaying the band’s ability to please anybody who’s into complex music. So what we get here would by and large be a combination of jazz rock standards and real Jazz-Fusion (the idiom implying nothing other than a synthesis of jazz and progressive rock features) and which is what Blue Sensation and So Fusion are about in their entirety, despite each being respectively basically fast- and slow-paced, throughout. As you can see in the track list above, the absolute majority of the tracks range from 3 to 5 minutes in length and only the third one, Bubble Trouble (11:37), seems to be a quasi epic which possibility, though, turns out to be an illusion in the end, since its potential epic sense melts away like morning mist after the sunrise from the very start. Artificially compiled of four different compositions, two of which are in the style of the four pieces described first, the other two are closer to the ones that are being explored next, meaning that the creation as-it-is is lacking in cohesion, suggesting that its creators have failed to embody, well, what they apparently wanted to. However, if all its ‘parts’ had been placed on separate, differently titled, tracks I would have likely been satisfied with each of those, at least overall. In contrast to Bubble Trouble, what is presented as Bubble Trouble Concept, although divided into four tracks, namely Perigeo, Bathroom 53, Air Universe and Apogeo appears as a true suite. Forming the last fourth of the disc’s contents, all these pieces are fairly uniform in style (which is a somewhat atmospheric, yet full-fledged Jazz-Fusion), each of the successive ones sounding much like a sequel to its predecessor, with no pauses between them – unlike the ‘parts’ of the pseudo epic. Compared to the rest of the material, Freak is Back is indeed a freaky composition – in one way at least. With crunchy guitar riffs and driving organ leads at its fore, it instantly brings to mind vintage symphonic (highly progressive) Hard Rock somewhere in the style of Deep Purple circa “In Rock”, and I like it too, while realizing that jazz rock fans might take it as a foreign body within this otherwise stylistically quasi-monolithic album. Now it’s the turn of the band’s performance and related peculiarities to be touched on. The playing is first-rate, with tasty, quite virtuosic, piano and organ passage-work by Alessandro Caldato, a staggering intensity from Andrea Massarotto on saxophone and Giacomo Girotto’s remarkable, often rapid, guitar solos which, unlike those by the other two lead players, represent rock rather than jazz improvisations. Bassist Riccardo Pestrin and drummer Stefano Volpato are also skilled and versatile musicians who at times avoid playing in unison/sync even within those movements that seem to be originally designed for such tricks. Free-2 and Perigeo each, respectively, begins and finishes with a drum solo, while Walking in the Sun contains a section where the bass has complete domination. Bubble Trouble is the only track where Andrea participates as a flautist or, to be more precise, switches between that instrument and saxophone.
Conclusion. While these musicians are far-from-youthfully masterful and inventive, their compositions aren’t equally strong, from a classic progressive standpoint of view. On the other hand, if I were a jazz rock observer this review would have probably been totally positive. In any event, MSM is one of the most original and so most promising jazz-fusion bands to date. Their debut CD comes highly recommended to fans of that genre and – with some reservations – to all open-minded prog heads with a broad stylistic horizon.
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