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(55:06, Lizard Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Stupa 7:44 2. Passato e Presente 4:00 3. L'Albero Cosmico 11:02 4. La Citta Rosa 10:03 5. Ganesha Puja 9:35 6. Inno a Surya 12:44 LINEUP: Gottardi Roberto – guitars; electronics, electronic percussions Morghen Germano – drums Buttiglione Giuseppe – bass Raffaello Regoli – voice
Prolusion. The Italian band RUNAWAY TOTEM was formed back in 1988, and has a dozen albums to their name as of 2015. They are generally considered to be amongst the relatively few bands exploring a brand of progressive rock known as Zeuhl, with a trilogy of albums released in the ‘90s generally considered to represent the band at their very best, and are otherwise known for having a fairly constantly revolving line-up. "Affreschi e Meditazione" is their 11th full-length production, and is also their most recent studio album, released by Lizard Records in 2012.
Analysis. While Runaway Totem may be best known for their particular brand of Zeuhl-oriented music, this 2012 album documents that this is a band that has a taste and desire to explore material outside of this sphere of reference. While this is a production that doesn't quite fit into this sphere of reference, the material is still of the kind that merits a description as challenging however, but on a different level altogether. These are what one might describe as meditative sound pictures, the meditative reference a somewhat loose one, to my mind, at least, and while one might imagine that this calls for descriptions of music more ambient in expression this isn't exactly the case either. Opening track Stupa and the fourth one La Citta Rosa both come across as combinations of oriental world music and jazz rock, chants and ethnic sounding drums for the former and dominant, almost shrill and intense keyboard textures for the latter, as defining elements particular for each of those creations. Second track Passato e Presente is probably the most ambient track on this CD, a creation that might be described as a tranquil excursion into cosmic, electronic-meets-chamber rock. On the third track L'Albero Cosmico we're treated to the sole composition featuring vocals to a greater, with firm bass guitars and majestic electronic horns combining with plucked acoustic guitar details, coming and going on a sonic journey that comes pretty close to merit a description as space rock. Ganesha Puja is another track on this disc with more of an ambient presence to it, combined with bombastic fanfare-like keyboard textures, cosmic vibes and ethnic plucked instrument details in a compelling, but ultimately a bit too repetitive manner. At last, Inno a Surya returns to the space rock reference with a recurring floating guitar solo motif, again combined with ethnic sounding plucked instrumental details, intense driving bass guitar and what may or may not be dampened, dark guitar riffs in the second half, with a liberal use of cosmic vibes as supporting elements. I should add that the electronic sounds and keyboards used generally have a distinct sound to them that manages to combine cosmic vibes, eerie tonal and harmonic elements alongside the fact that most if not all of them are at the same time subtly familiar sounding, often giving the impression that these are emulated instruments of various kinds where the emulated sound has been subtly treated to become more alien in expression. And the plucked acoustic guitar used liberally throughout only rarely has a meditative quality to it, more often than not meriting a description as energetic, pace-filled and intense. Those looking for music with tranquil, meditative new age-style plucked acoustic guitars will have to look elsewhere. But if you like intense, ethnic music and tend to enjoy psychedelic excursions, you'll most likely grasp and comprehend this production more readily.
Conclusion. "Affreschi e Meditazione" comes across as a fairly innovative production. This is an album that combines elements from cosmic, psychedelic, ethnic and ambient music into a grand totality that is more challenging than what you'd expect from such a brew. Mainly by combining ambient and intense details, but also by using sounds and tones that are either challenging or unusual or both. An intriguing production on many levels, and one to inspect if ethnic-tinged, cosmic music created in a challenging manner sounds like something you might enjoy, especially if you also have a taste for jazz rock.
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