Following on from Balearic Mike’s marvelous musings on a couple of Italy’s contributions to the canon of Balearic Beat classics – namely Funk Express and the “Soul II Soul” bootleg of Edie Brickell’s Circle – here’s a quick a round up of a few more recent interesting Italian releases that you might have missed. A huge, huge, Thank you! to the legendary Leo Mas for all the help with prepping this piece.
Ritmiche Italiane: Percussions & Oddities From The Italian Avant Garde (1976 – 1995) – Ultimo Tango – 2022
This is a cracking collection of “organic” psychedelic obscurities – subtitled “Trance Tribalism” – on Milan-based imprint, Ultimo Tango. Put together by label founder Luca Fiore, with some serious sleeve notes by Dave Masotti, everything on the album is great, but I do have a couple of favourites. Paolo Modugno is a name that might be familiar to a few, since his 1988 album, Brise D’Automne, is coveted in certain underground circles and was reissued by Archeo Recordings a little while back. The track Morte di Soundjata Keita is lifted from his 1992 long-player, La Bala et la Mouche. Inspired by African myths that Paolo encountered on travels through Senegal, and constructed, in part, from looped field recordings that he made there, it sounds like the recreation of some ancient sacred rite. The melody, Middle Eastern, North Saharan. Shrill vocal shrieks punctuating, piercing, the buzz and drone of traditional strings and woodwinds – like warnings or war cries. Shamanic, unsettling, and suggesting some occult dark art, the music fit perfectly with a moonlit drive I was doing. When the sun sets here in the Japanese mountains we hand ownership of the land back to the wild animals. Local folks don’t tend to go out. Doors are locked and windows are shuttered. Navigating narrow roads in the pitch black, the temptation is to tear around since no one is about, but I check my speed, since I’ve been startled more than once by my nocturnal neighbours on the prowl for prey. Silvana Simone’s Dimensione Kitmo is also based upon African hand-drum rhythms, but it’s a lot less scary. Silvana’s seductive vocal, warm and welcoming. If it’s a spell, or ceremony, then it’s likely concerned with fertility.
291Outer Space – Transcendence Rain Forest – Taste Records – 2022
291Outer Space is spin off of 9-piece band, 291Out, led by bassist Luca “Presence” Carini, and producer Ivan “Flyme” Cibien. Their latest E.P., 너머 (Beyond), is a piece of plugged-in cosmic dance-floor jazz. Operatic arias and spoken prose poems mix with Arp-like arpeggios and a house 4 / 4. Keys shine like stars. Gems reflecting light, galaxies away. Vocals duet, duel, with an echoed sax, and sometimes it’s hard to hear where the voices and synths join and swap places, since they are so in tune, in harmony. A TB-303 gets switches on and it’s like Sault’s AIIR on acid.
Lipelis & Andy Butler – Generations Of Sunsets – Polifonic – 2022
This collaboration between Moscow’s Leonid Lipelis – a top DJ and producer – and Andy Butler, of NYC’s Hercules & Love Affair, is taken from an E.P. on Milanese imprint, Polifonic. The 12, titled Itria Vol. 2, features tracks from hometown hombre, Federico “Eternal Love” Facchinetti, and the internationally famous folk, Yu Su, and Nicky Benedek. However, Generations Of Sunsets is my favourite. An acid house update, but built on a Euro rather than Chicago template. Sitar strains make way for some uber Balearic Spanish-flavoured guitar action, before a climax of carnival whistles, timbales and a TB-303.
Strata-Gemma – Complex TV Soul – New Interplanetary Melodies – 2022
Fine four-piece, Strata-Gemma, released an expansive and ambitious album, Radamanto, on Florence-based label, New Interplanetary Melodies, the imprint run by revered Italian dance music veteran, Simona Faraone. Simona having been among Italy’s first wave of house and techno DJs, back in the late `80s. The LP, mixing live instrumentation and electronics across a range of tempos, is definitely best described as jazz. The standout for me, the one with perhaps the most crossover potential, is something called Complex TV Soul. Driven by Igino Luigi Caselgrandi’s damn funky drumming, and blasted by Luca Cacciatore’s honking, bleating sax, its roughshod energy recalls Red Snapper, and / or Andrew Weatherall’s remix of Deep Joy’s Fall. Other sonic touchstones might be similar stuff that Mr. Weatherall used to spin, “acid jazz” adventures such as Mephisto Odyssey’s Dream Of The Black Dahlia or Mighty Truth’s Is It A Wizard, Or Is It A Blizzard?
Cabopolonio – Storia Fantasy – Reparto Vinile – 2022
Reparto Vinile is a relatively new label, spun out of the record shop of the same name, situated in Northern Italy, in Monferrato, Alessandria. A labour of love for store owner, Luca Bernascone, Cabopolonio comprise Paolo Barbato on drums, Daniele Dibiaggio on keys, plus the vocals of Aurora P. The 45 mix features a mellow intro before launching into some frantic rhythm guitar. The proper, live-sounding soul / disco production should appeal to fans of Jazz N Palms and Nu Genea’s novo Neapolitan funk.
Gianni Oddi – Dreamin’ – Four Flies – 2023
The reissue date on the sleeve for this 12 is 2021, but I’m pretty sure that the vinyl has only just reached shops – which means it was a long time coming. Recorded in Rome in 1974, Dreamin`, is lifted from an album of mainly covers, titled, simply, 3, by saxophonist Gianni Oddi. It’s a nice slice of opulent, orchestrated funk, that in my book, like say Francis Lai’s Number One, is super suitable for a spin at sunset. Wah-wah licked and highly strung – the arrangement first suspenseful then soaring – there are flashes of jazzy Bob James-esque electric piano, while Isabella Sodani sighs sexily.
Bokaye – Ethno Groove – Emotional Rescue – 2023
Bokaye’s Ethno Groove was one of the highlights on the brilliant Sound Metaphors compilation Italian Dancefloor Outsiders 1987-1994, which was released to little or no fanfare last summer. The track’s now been singled out for a bespoke solo / standalone reissue by Emotional Rescue, who have 4 mixes on an 12 ready to go. The track was originally released in 1990 and is the work of Giuseppe “Pippo” Landro – the man behind the legendary Italian label, New Music International, and big Balearic acts such as Landro & Co., EVOE, and Black Machine. Part of ER’s afro / cosmic excavation operation – see also The New Morning`s Riddims Of Culture E.P.s – it sets singing and sitars – some of it sampled from Chaba Fadela’s seminal N`Sel Fik – to a perfect mix of live and machined percussion. It’s as Balearic as, say, Code 61’s Drop The Deal, or anything on Steve Coe’s pioneering Indipop imprint.
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thanx for support @ DR ROB @ Leo Mas