By Eduard Antoniu
This project was born as of this millennium in Turin, Italy, as the musical baby of Walter F. (vocals, guitars, bass, synth, vocoder) and Danilo Abaldo “Pannico” (drums, percussion, piano, marimba, harmonica, glass, Farfisa). They spent a few years experimenting, then recorded an EP in 2005. Down in Shadows must be considered then their debut album, albeit not a long one.
The good part: it’s a versatile album. It goes from ambient, through acoustic and kraut, to experimental, sometimes within the same track. Sure all those years spent in experimentation are reflected on the album. The title track is a 19-minute suite, which, divided in two parts, sandwiches the rest of the album’s material. It is this suite that spares the listener’s fearing they’re listening to an EP. No, at 40 minutes it’s still a CD, with unused available space, but still longer than a Gentle Giant album. Perhaps it’s the very nature of the music that dictates the album’s length, since its experimentalism probably can’t be taken for very long.
Samples of their experimentalism include: a carillon, which, armed in the beginning of the album, plays in its end; dialing the number of a phone that is disconnected (“Day After Day”); using a lighter twice, in the beginning and in the end of an only 3 minute track (“Colour”); Danilo Abaldo takes the chemical formula of codeine as title of his composition and builds words on it (“C18H21NO3”).
The album is also very strong lyrically. It tells the tale of a personal wound and of alienation in the contemporary society. The “contemporary” prog, with its anguished vocals and instruments, is the perfect musical background for such lyrics (“O.Y.O. (On Your Own)”, “Wait”). The infusions into this material are sometimes unusual: vocals over glockenspiel, oriental patterns, heartbeat-like bass, whispers (“Down in Shadows (Part I)”). The two musicians have their moments. Walter F. switches from acoustic balladesque to electric delirant (“Day After Day”), goes arpeggiatto (“Wait”), and noodles (“Wait”, “Down in Shadows (Part II – Including Crime)”). Danilo Abaldo’s drumming is something to pay attention to throughout the entire album, especially the rolls in “Wait”. He’s also noticeable on marimba (“Down in Shadows (Part I)”), piano (“Colour”, “C18H21NO3”), Farfisa (“C18H21NO3”).
What saves, or sells the album, is the presence of more or less known guest performers. Trey Gunn is easily recognizable on Warr guitar on the title track. David Jackson solidly contributes sax and flute on “O.Y.O. (“On Your Own”) and “Down in Shadows (Part II – Including Crime)”. Marco Allocco, also from an experimental group, Quintettango, enhances “Colour” and “C18H21NO3” with his cello. And then there is the haunting voice of opera trained Adina Băjenică, of Romanian goth band Frozen Dusk (“C18H21NO3”).
My favorite part is “Crime”, the beginning of part II of the title track. Unfortunately, this time I started liking an album by the time it ends.