Exposé print issues (1993-2011)
Alex Carpani — Microcosm
(IA-003, 2022, CD / DL)
by Jon Davis, Published 2022-07-22
When the 70s gave way to the 80s and progressive rock musicians found themselves in an increasingly hostile environment, many of them turned their talents towards writing music that they felt suited the times. They did so, of course, with varying degrees of success, and with varying reactions among the long-time fans. Many of us were severely disappointed with projects like Asia, where supremely talented players wasted their talents on sub-par material. (I’m aware that they did garner legions of fans as well, but my feeling is that most of them weren’t long-time prog fans.) But decades have passed since then, and some of that generation have returned to new versions of the old sounds, only sometimes infused with what they learned from dabbling in more mainstream styles. And then there are younger musicians like Alex Carpani, who was a young boy during the heyday of progressive rock. He’s absorbed the classic music but approaches it with the viewpoint of a later generation. He has produced a succession of quality albums over the last few years, and with Microcosm, he further proves that he’s one of the masters of applying progressive ideas to concise songs and balancing clever musicality with simple catchy appeal. He’s enlisted the talents of a few well-known guests — David Cross (violin), David Jackson (sax), Jon Davison (vocals), Theo Travis (woodwinds) — in addition to his core crew of Bruno Farinelli (drums), Andrea Torresani (bass), Davide Rinaldi (guitar), and Emiliano Fantuzzi (guitar). The album starts out strongly, with an impressive version of King Crimson’s “Starless.” Somehow, the electronic touches Carpani adds work really well, resulting in one of the best covers ever of this iconic song. Carpani’s originals are similarly engaging, applying musical craft informed by progressive rock to memorable melodies. The use of saxophones in the arrangements is particularly nice, and they don’t sound out of place among all the keyboards and guitars. Microcosm is one of those rare albums that can achieve broad appeal without compromising quality or artistic integrity.
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