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(45.31, AltrOck Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Escher 3:50 2. Abisso 2:11 3. Campo 3:29 4. Colonia 8:17 5. Mattarello 2:33 6. Piani 5:50 7. Sviluppi 4:47 8. Uova Fatali 16:44 9. Complicazioni 6:11 LINEUP: Paolo Botta – el. piano, organ; harp Tommaso Leddi – mandolin Pietro Cavedon – keyboards Maurizio Fazoli – fortepiano Francesco Zago – Mellotron, guitar Valeria Cipaleone – clarinets, sax Ella Mariani – violin Mattia Signo – drums Giuseppe Olivini – percussion With: Mario Arcari – flute, oboe (1) Michele Epifani – organ (1) Paolo Domenici – accordion (3) Giacomo Di Paolo – el. bass (13) Alberto Morelli – double-reed piffero (3)
Prolusion. Founded in 2004 by Francesco Zago (formerly with The Night Watch) and producer Marcello Marinone, YUGEN (an untranslatable word that describes the artistic canon of Japanese art) have been one of the most exciting surprises of the past few years on the progressive rock scene. Nominally Italian, though multi-national to all practical purposes, at the end of 2006 they released their debut album, “Labirinto D’Acqua”, to universal acclaim. As the title says, Tommaso Leddi, mandolinist of Stormy Six (one of the founding bands of the original RIO movement), and a member of the Yugen ‘extended family’ since the beginning of their activity, is the author of the music performed on “Uova Fatali”.
Analysis. In the space of a mere three years, Yugen have managed to conquer the hearts (and ears) of even the most jaded fans of progressive rock. “Labirinto D’Acqua”, a collection of mostly short pieces written by band founder Francesco Zago and partly based on Eric Satie’s work, with its rich instrumentation and complex textures seemed to bridge the gap between ‘classic’ symphonic prog and the more avant-garde tendencies of the genre, with a pinch of Italian spice thrown in for good measure. It should not be surprising, then, that prog fans expected more of the same when “Uova Fatali” was released in the second half of 2008 – even if the album is more of a side project than a Yugen album proper, interestingly featuring only Italian musicians (unlike its cosmopolitan predecessor). The difference between “Labirinto D’Acqua” and “Uova Fatali” becomes immediately evident when looking at the latter’s cover – a vaguely disturbing depiction of a gaggle of somewhat menacing-looking chickens, with Milan’s flamboyant, Gothic cathedral as a background. The title itself recalls Russian author Michail Bulgakov’s satirical sci-fi novella “The Fateful Eggs”, published in 1925, which in 1977 was serialized by Italian national TV. The titular suite, however, is only a part of the album, its five movements with their funny, chicken-related titles lasting about ten minutes altogether, and distinguished by a strong avant-garde slant. Most of the other tracks, while obviously complex in structure, retain a kind of accessibility that is largely lacking in the not-so-controlled chaos of the suite. The compositions on “Uova Fatali” display the outstanding level of musicianship that listeners have come to expect from Yugen and other similar outfits. Variety is the name of the game here: while some tracks possess a natural flow and more than a hint of a melodic structure, others are somber and almost atonal. The most prominent example of the latter tendency is the aptly-titled Abisso, a darkly dissonant effort with violin, guitar and drums very much in improvisational mode, and an ominous feel that is somewhat at odds with the general mood of the album – which, as a whole, could be defined as rather upbeat. Album opener Escher begins in a surprisingly fluid, even melodic way, then undergoes an abrupt change of pace, with things generally going into stop-start mode, alternating quiet, rarefied moments with more rhythmic, strident one. Reeds, bass and violin dominate this track, which is a rather effective musical depiction of M.C. Escher’s fascinating art. On the other hand, the 8-minute Colonia, the longest single track on the album, has an apparently loose structure, sparse at times, at others flowing in an almost jazzy way, spiced by the occasional rock guitar lick nimbly interacting with the omnipresent reeds. The Uova Fatali suite, as briefly outlined above, is a slice of almost canonical Avant-garde, suitably angular and abstract, where the instruments are left free to emote, and sometimes seem to weave in and out of the composition in a random pattern. A careful listen, however, will reveal a kind of progression within the suite itself, culminating in the brisk, dynamic ending of the final movement – as well as a strong comedic strain embodied by odd sounds and noises meant to suggest clucking. In sharp contrast, the violin- and clarinet-led Campo (surely the most distinctive item on offer) harks back to Leddi’s folk beginnings in Stormy Six. An acquired taste for some, the vintage feel of its waltz-like pace is quite reminiscent of some of the soundtracks written by Nino Rota for Fellini movies – melancholy and upbeat at the same time, and very Italian in flavor. At 45 minutes in running time, “Uova Fatali” avoids burdening the listener with an excessively dense amount of music. In fact, Yugen seem to have realized that, especially in the challenging world of RIO/Avant Prog, less is definitely more – a very promising sign for the future of this excellent band.
Conclusion. Those who were impressed by Yugen’s combination of avant-garde with more ‘traditional’ progressive rock elements in “Labirinto D’Acqua” will find “Uova Fatali” a pleasant change of pace, even if they will obviously notice the difference between the two albums. In any case, this is a must for RIO /Avant-garde /Chamber rock fans, which proves that the band is capable of evolving instead of choosing to repeat the winning formula of their debut album. Top-20-2008
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