Almamegretta

Sanacore

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Sanacore was Almamegretta's breakthrough album in Italy and made some international noise later when the moody, mysterious opener, "O Sciore Cchiù Felice," popped up on the soundtrack of The Cell starring Jennifer Lopez. Their second full album finds the Neapolitan quartet at the height of their dub infatuation -- the group basically introduced the form/concept in Italy and enlisted underground dub maestro Adrian Sherwood to mix Sanacore. It's not hard to see why Sherwood answered the call -- extremely strong basslines abound, whether coming from Pablo's keyboards or Mario Formisano's bass guitar. "Maje" works off a classic two-part reggae bassline with Rais' crooning and atmospheric keyboard effects creating a Mediterranean variant on the On-U Sound sound. The song gets propulsive, with incremental additions over a convincing riddim that makes you surrender -- Almamegretta instinctively knows how to understate and leave things out, which probably accounts for their dub love in the first place. The spare, minimal arrangements rely on wispy fragments rather than full-blown melodies and leave Rais' voice to fill the spaces. They cannily mix varied elements into their dub voyage -- North African sounds, either oud or Michele Signore's violin on the hauntingly simple "Pé Dint' 'E Viche Addó Nun Traase 'O Mare," or the guitar wailing in the background of "Ruanda." The title track features vocal tradeoffs over light raggamuffin, while the dreamy crooning over reggae of "Nun Te Scurda" sounds a lot like an Italian Bryan Ferry fronting the original lineup of the Specials. "Sciosie Viento" is pushier, with a choppier drum rhythm, funk bassline, and recited vocals more in a hip-hop vein. But dub rules, whether it's the eerie keyboard effects and bubbling background percussion on "Ammore Nemico" and "Se Stuta 'O Ffuoco" or the trombones and mixing-board sound science that fuel "O Sciore Cchiù Dub." With Sanacore, Almamegretta firmly established their Mediterranean mix in the front ranks of the international dub underground.

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