Franco Battiato

L' Egitto Prima Delle Sabbie

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The last album of what could be called Franco Battiato's "classic prog" period, L'Egitto Prima Delle Sabbie consists of two sidelong compositions strictly arranged for piano only, without any vocals; and even more intriguingly, neither of the performers on the album are Battiato himself. He limited himself strictly to the roles of composer and producer. After Battiato's many different sonic explorations and efforts throughout the '70s, such an effort may seem curious, but in retrospect it makes sense, given his future range of interest in composing as well as singing and playing himself. The title track, played solely by Antonio Ballista, is a fairly romantic sounding (if not necessarily Romantic sounding) composition that strikes a balance between meditation and a more active approach. It's not Erik Satie by any means, but it is a flowing and lovely piece that rewards attention. More up-front is the second piece, "Sud Afternoon," played by Ballista and another performer at the same time. The two work very closely in sync with each other to excellent effect (the album art shows Battiato directing the two in studio), and the end result is both entrancing and quite driving. It has hints here and there of Steve Reich's minimalism transcribed for a solo instrument (or two) towards the end; an abstract but still potent connection with the trance goals of so much '70s art rock and space rock, but in a notably different setting.

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