Piero Umiliani

Angeli Bianchi... Angeli Neri

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This 1969 album contains the score for a bizarre Italian documentary that explored the world of Satanic worship. Despite this subject matter, Piero Umiliani's score never panders to the easy horror-movie soundtrack clich├ęs that it might have inspired. Instead, his music combines instrumentals and pop tunes done in a late-'60s lounge style with Brazilian music recorded with genuine Brazilian musicians like Wilson Das Neves and Maria Penha Da Silva. The end result is a soundtrack album that is equal parts adventurous and dated. The tunes that come off the worst in retrospect are the vocal ones; though competently performed, songs like "Sweet Revelation" and "Now I'm on My Own" suffer from trite lyrics about danger and insincere, sterile, Vegas-style vocal performances that negate their effectiveness. However, things pick up when Angeli Bianchi...Angeli Neri shifts into instrumental territory: "La Foresta Incantata" mixes swirling strings, subtle brass, and hypnotic wordless vocals to create an atmospheric and sultry slice of instrumental lounge, and the cleverly arranged "Toccata E Samba" starts off as a gothic organ piece but quickly shifts into a fast-paced samba where classical organ lines are layered over a cymbal-driven beat. The Brazilian-styled instrumentals are energetically performed and full of catchy Latin rhythms, but suffer due to programming that puts them all together (example: the disc comes to a close with six back-to-back variations of "Saudade"). These tunes would probably be more effective if they were better integrated with the other tunes. In the end, Angeli Bianchi...Angeli Neri is too haphazardly assembled and suffers from too many lackluster vocal numbers to recommend to the casual listener, but Umiliani fans and hardcore lounge devotees will find plenty of solid instrumentals to enjoy on this disc.

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