|Greg Northrup||8-November-2001||Picchio dal Pozzo|
Picchio Dal Pozzo - Picchio Dal Pozzo (1976)
This is probably the album I have been the most excited about in the last month or so. Picchio dal Pozzo's debut is considered a classic in some circles, and is certainly not what one would consider to be typical Italian progressive in any way, shape or form. Because of the band's relative obscurity, the album was fairly low on my Italian prog wish list. Thankfully, I finally got around to picking it up recently, and to my delight have discovered what could be one of my very favorite albums out of the country. Picchio dal Pozzo is certainly a refreshing treat to those somewhat burned out on the "classic" Italian progressive sound, but still willing to mine the depths of the country's scene in search of one last undiscovered gem. Picchio dal Pozzo come from a completely different wing of influences than the typical vaguely orchestral, pastoral, flowery melodicism of many of the country's bands, looking towards jazz, RIO, Frank Zappa, Gong, and especially, Robert Wyatt and the Soft Machine as major influences. Funnily enough, the result is just as beautiful, as angular melodies coexist with fuzzed out guitar, churning horns and soothing, seemingly free form song structures. The tempo is always slow, as sax, piano and otherworldly vocals just float above the mix, creating a exquisite, emotional atmosphere, with just a dash of dissonance, angularity and off-beat sensibility to keep things interesting.
It's impossible to pick out standout tracks, as the whole album flows together beautifully. However, the opening of the album, in which acoustic guitar melodies are countered by bell-like chimes, kills me every time. "Cocomelastico" sets the tone of the album perfectly, with its stumbling horn riff, undercut by a surreal walking bass line and shimmering piano. "Sepia", by simple virtue of being the longest piece on the album, actually ends up being the best, delivering on some of the record's most memorable themes.
The overall effect is very much like the Robert Wyatt solo material that I have heard, Rock Bottom and Ruth Is Stranger Than Richard, and in fact, the group actually dedicates the album to one "Roberto Viatti". The vocalist even pays obvious tribute to Wyatt in "Off", during which he imitates Wyatt's charming habit of imitating horn parts with his voice. However, it's definitely the musical and instrumental palette of Wyatt's work that has the most correlation with Picchio dal Pozzo. Waves of sounds gush over the listener, like some kind of morphine induced euphoria, crisp piano sprinklings offset by some howling saxophone or guitar, but without ever taking away from the overall soothing tone of the album. The result is the most perfect, beautiful form of painkiller. Perfect music.
Greg Northrup [June 2001]
|Cesar Montesano||24-Feb-2001||Picchio Dal Pozzo|
Picchio dal Pozzo carries on in a tradition paying (rocking) homage to Zappa and the Canterbury scene with an extremely soporific quality that almost makes it seem as if it comes to you from underwater in slow motion. It's a super-swank moving album replete with blurbs and tidbits that bubble to the surface calmly and then release into an ether above the brow, a heady adventure.
The second cut takes off in a dense, drudgey orifice we know to have been opened up for public consumption from Gong dirges like "Master Builder" and its ilk, complemented by breathy vocal excursions and what seems to be a child's xylophone tinkling about. Go and listen to that track and tell me that the spirt of Tim Blake does not shine through right before it drops into a breakdown of a Henry Cow dreamscape to the nth degree which deposits you into the crystal recitation from a child and then to an apogee of National Health-spiced gentle streams of vocal sounds lilting about. The transmigration to the field populated by the yellow birds on the cover is complete and the warbling bleeps chortle for a spell here and there. The utter camp and level of integration of disparate elements is spooky and there are many layers to be uncovered here. As I listen, it conjures a spell of past memory recall as sections seem to become everpresent as if they had been ruminating in the subconscious mind with conviction. One is forcefully ejected from their own reality and unsheathed within the bubble they exist in. Do not be mistaken, the experience is not to be missed.
Soft machinations of a fluid nature begin the capitulation in the middle,
howling with dreamy massed vocals beckoning your wispy attentiveness. Robert
Wyatt-style gentleness comes in to further capitulate the daze. Open up a
general field and lie in it. The passing shapelessness of the clouds may
take you on over this way. Before I can get enough and decide to park, it's
over and I hardly blinked. Did it really happen!?
|Sjef Oellers||25-Feb-2001||Picchio Dal Pozzo|
The album starts off very spacey; Gong in the mid 70s or the quiet parts on Soft Machine 7 should provide some reference points. The second track opens with a Zappa-ish saxophone lead with spacey synths in the background. When the other instruments set in, the music comes closer to the the sound of the Canterbury scene. The bands mentioned above are just introductory references, basically this is unique and original music characterized by spacey synthesizers, varied use of percussion, and beautiful sections for flute and saxophone. A magical album with a timeless quality to it.
|Sjef Oellers||25-Feb-2001||Abbiamo Tutti i Suoi Problemi|
On their second album, Abbiamo Tutti i Suoi Problemi, Picchio dal Pozzo play in a more RIO-oriented style. The arrangements are denser (with very beautiful sections for brass instruments) and less spacey than on their first album. An angular style of playing rather typical for the RIO movement is more prevalent. Influences from Henry Cow, the Canterbury school, and Zappa are evident, but besides there are a few acoustic/folky parts that remind me of Stormy Six. Just like the first album by Picchio dal Pozzo, Abbiamo Tutti i Suoi Problemi is a brilliant piece of music that successfully merges elements of the Canterbury school, RIO, and Zappa into unique and inventive experimental progressive. Both albums are indispensable classics, if you like the musical styles mentioned above or have a general interest in experimental (yet fairly accessible) progressive.
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