Aktuala — La Terra
(GDR CD 1103, 1974/2013, CD)
by Peter Thelen, 1995-07-01:
The creative forces behind Aktuala were Walter Maioli (arabic oboe, bamboo flute, naj, harmonica, piccolo, etc.) and Daniele Cavallanti (soprano and tenor sax, clarinet) who formed the band in Milan in 1973. Originally a quintet, at their peak they were a seven-piece, including instruments like acoustic and Spanish guitar, balalaika, flute, bells, harp, tabla, moroccan bongos, cello and viola. Originally on the Bla-Bla label, they recorded a total of three albums of what could best be described as world-fusion, combining the influence of Asian and North African traditional music with elements of jazz and folk, play exclusively acoustic instruments.
The first album from 1973, simply titled Aktuala, probably sports the most jazz influence of the three. Here, their music might remind of bands like Embryo or early Between, or take the Paul Winter Consort and strip out all the classical elements... in fact the music on this first album might occasionally hint of some of the more adventurous stuff on the ECM label. The opener, a twelve minute "When the Light Began" sets the tone for the rest of the album. Only "Mammoth R.C.," a free-jazz wail on multi-reeds seems a bit out of place.
For their second album, the lineup swelled to seven – plus guests, and included the renowned percussionist Trilok Gurtu. While the first album sported longer less-structured pieces that sometimes wore out their welcome, La Terra from 1974 was clearly a move to a more raga-based structure in the vein of early Third Ear Band, and the strong percussive elements here carry the album to a higher plane. The harmonica / sax interplay on the album opener "Mina" is quite unique. Overall, this one tends to be more energized than the other two, and thus I'd recommend it as the one to start with.
The final album, Tappeto Volante, is clearly the most stark – a more traditional sounding adventure of thirteen shorter tracks. At this point the jazz and raga elements had almost completely yielded to the very strong Moroccan / Arabic influence, yet it could be said that this is the album with the most variety among its tracks. Five of the tracks were recorded by a five piece lineup (including Gurtu, but not Cavallanti), and the remaining tracks by various fragmentations, alternate lineups and guest musicians, usually including Maioli, Cavallanti, or both, between 1974 and 1976. All are adventurous albums and come highly recommended for the open-minded.
by Mike McLatchey, 2017-01-12:
Regarding La Terra:
In the wake of the popularity of transcendental meditation in the 60s, the Beatles and others also incorporated the sounds of India and other cultures, although very few of them had the training to do so with any real skill. But that approach disseminated quite rapidly indeed and by the late 60s a lot of groups were picking up the idea of the raga and applying it somewhat haphazardly to popular music. I've been a fan of this kind of thing since I heard Strawberry Alarm Clock's "Sit with the Guru" and "Black Butter" in my teens and since I don't have enough skill to tell the amateur raga from, say, one of Ravi Shankar's, I tend to love all of this sort of thing, even sometimes when it's not so expertly played. The Third Ear Band is certainly one of my favorite ensembles, and Italians Aktuala picked up and pushed forward their approach by performing raga-esque, acoustic instrument driven trance music, here with guitars, tamboura, balalaika, oboe, harmonica, soprano sax, tablas, and other reeds and percussive instruments all with a sort of hippie urgency. The results were three albums by the ensemble, with this title largely considered their finest work. One of Italy's most oddball discographies, yet nothing short of magical. And it's nice to see them all in print again, as there was something like a ten year gap where they weren't widely available.
Legendary Co-Founder of The 13th Floor Elevators Passes Away at Age 71 – Sadly, Roky Erickson passed away on May 31, 2019. Known as the father of psychedelic music and co-founder of the ground breaking 13th Floor Elevators, Roky had a profound influence on music from the 60s to today. Plagued by his own personal demons, Roky had a difficult life and is now free of these burdens. » Read more
Help MoonJune Bring Great Music to Life – Like many music lovers around the world, we’ve been thrilled and amazed to hear the recordings that have been released by MoonJune from sessions at La Casa Murada in Spain. Such label stalwarts as Mark Wingfield, Markus Reuter, Asaf Sirkis, Tony Levin, Dusan Jevtovic, Vasil Hadzimanov, and many more have gathered in various combinations at the studio to produce some of the most creative music in recent years. Now, label head Leonardo Pavkovic is offering a compilation, La Casa Murada - MoonJune Sessions, Volume One, as a fundraiser for upcoming sessions. » Read more
The Pineapple Thief to Tour North America – November and December of 2019 will see The Pineapple Thief bringing their music to Canada, Mexico, and the US, and famed drummer Gavin Harrison will be on board. The band has been touring extensively in Europe, but North America will be new territory for them. » Read more
Scott Walker RIP – Noel Scott Engel, better known as Scott Walker, was one of the most intriguing and enigmatic musical figures in the second half of the 20th Century. His strange career started with The Walker Brothers, an American pop group that featured no one named Walker and no brothers. After moving to England in 1965, they had a series of hit singles. Scott's solo work started with Scott in 1967. Starting in the 80s, his work took an increasingly avant-garde turn. » Read more
Freedom to Spend Unearths June Chikuma's Archives – Jun (June) Chikuma is well known for her video game and anime soundtracks, but she also released an album of experimental electronic music back in 1986 called Divertimento where she indulged the kind of spontaneity that wouldn't work in a soundtrack. RVNG Int'l label Freedom to Spend is bringing this overlooked item to broader attention with a deluxe reissue. » Read more
Susanna Lindeborg's Mwendo Dawa - Enter the Outloop – Swedish band Mwendo Dawa inhabit the spacey jazz realm that also serves as home to Weather Report and Earthworks. Saxophonist Ove Johansson is the primary composer, and it is his sound on the tenor... (1999) » Read more