Piero Umiliani

Musica Elettronica, Vol. 1

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Although most of his work straddled the gap between jazz and lounge, prolific Italian composer Piero Umiliani also had a yen for electronic music. A solid cross section of his experiments in this genre is captured on Musica Elettronica, Vol. 1, a typically generous Easy Tempo compilation that covers electronic-oriented tunes that Umiliani recorded between 1969 and 1981. Much of the selections presented here favor experimentation over melody and pop hooks; for example, "Motore a Loni" creates a musical interpretation of an automobile through relentlessly percolating keyboard riffs, and "Officina Stellare" layers atonal tape loops over a drum machine sound that is sped up and slowed down to match the tape loops. However, a few melodic gems shine through: "Centrali Termiche" layers spacey synth riffs over a mellow rhythm section groove to create a space-age lounge instrumental worthy of Air, and "Arabian Synthesizer" layers an Arabian-styled keyboard melody over some watery-sounding drum machine loops. A few tunes also have Umiliani applying electronic trickery to classic tunes; the most notable example in this area is a wild version of the jazz classic "Caravan," which starts with a rapid fire burst of synthesizer blips before transforming into a frantic jazz version of the song that seamlessly integrates the synth effects into its surprisingly funky groove. Ultimately, Musica Elettronica, Vol. 1 leans too heavily toward pure experimentation to be accessible to the casual listener, but it is an essential listen for hardcore Piero Umiliani fans and anyone interested in early electronica.

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