Franco Battiato

Sulle Corde di Aries

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Working with a smaller band and greater range of side players -- including, intriguingly enough, cellist Jane Robertson, fresh from working with Don Cherry on Relativity Suite -- Battiato aims at a somewhat more grandiose level with Sulle Corde di Aires. Consisting only of four pieces, the first of which, "Sequenze e Frequenze," is a mostly instrumental number spanning a full side, on the one hand Sulle Corde sounds like Battiato taking himself a bit more seriously. On the other, it contains enough vibrant life to be well worth a listen beyond the world of prog fandom. The combination of acoustic guitar elegance (credit Gianni Mocchetti in particular for his work) and electronic drum pulse and keyboard overdubs some four minutes into "Sequenze e Frequenze," for instance, has a Krautrock-inspired life of its own. Battiato subtly ups the ante a little bit later with an increasingly wacky and fun kalimba sequence over a rolling, stuttering synth/guitar loop that could be right out of Pink Floyd's "One of These Days," with even more keyboard drones and melodies adding to the at-once serene and playful mood. The remaining three songs offer up more in the way of general variety, touching on everyone from acid-folk tribalism to hints of neo-classical approaches, not to mention a playful pseudo-Renaissance jam via oboe and clarinet combined with Mochetti's mandolin on "Da Oriente ad Occidente." The jazz connection hinted at via Robertson's appearance on "Aria di Rivoluzione" gets a more conventional nod due to Daniele Cavallanti's work on soprano sax and Gianni Bedori's performance on regular saxophone. Both are competent players if not uniquely inspired, but Bedori's jamming on the increasingly intense "Aries" deserves a nod. Battiato himself sings only at a few points on Sulle Corde, but when he does, it continues the balanced mood between seriousness and sheer joy.

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