Armonite — And the Stars Above
(Purple Pyramid CLO 0826, 2018, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2018-10-28
For their 2018 outing, the duo of Paolo Fosso (keyboards, compositions, arrangements) and Jacopo Bigi (acoustic and electric violin, viola, ukulele) present a set of pieces produced with movie soundtracks in mind. The Cleopatra label has branched into film production (mostly low-budget horror), so there are likely opportunities for groups such as Armonite to get in on the action. That being said, as far as I can tell, these 12 tracks (plus two bonus tracks) were not designed for any specific film, and actually work just fine as a collection of music. The first track is called “The March of the Stars,” and it starts with a quietly energetic pattern on piano and violin that backs multi-tracked female vocals from Maria Chiara Montagnari, reminding me of something Yoko Kanno might have come up with for an anime soundtrack. Then a full band sound kicks in with pounding drums and a prominent electric bass from Colin Edwin. This builds to an epic level with keyboards and emulated brass. Other tracks bring in more electronic sounds, like synthesizers, and throw some distortion on the violin to stand in for electric guitar — and at times you’d swear there’s an actual electric guitar, though none is listed in the credits. Over the course of the album, three bassists other than Edwin contribute, as well as three different drummers, and two cellists, though generally not at the same time. There’s also a string quartet on one of the regular tracks and one of the bonus tracks. All of the pieces are in the two to four minute range, so there’s not a lot of development of ideas — the mood is set, the theme is played, there’s a contrasting section or melody, and then it wraps up. Several cuts feature more stripped down parts, usually involving piano and violin. This variety does evoke similarities with movie soundtrack albums, which generally involve short mood pieces, though at times I’d like to hear the material investigated more thoroughly in longer, more developed pieces. Interestingly enough, almost all of this music sounds way too cheerful to work in a horror movie, and would probably be more suited to a fantasy or sci-fi anime film. All in all, it’s quite an enjoyable listen, with enough complexity to please many prog fans, and with a little luck will point them in the direction of some success in the soundtrack business.
Jon Christensen RIP – Word reaches us today of the passing of Norwegian drummer Jon Christensen, a musician whose sensitive playing did much to help define the atmospheric sound of ECM jazz recordings. His work with Jan Garbarek, Bobo Stenson, Terje Rypdal, and many more was sensitive and varied, adapting to a wide variety of styles while maintaining a distinct identity of its own. Christensen was 76. » Read more
Gong Announces UK Tour for 2020 – Having spent the last few years touring the world, including dates in Japan with psych legend Steve Hillage, multiple headline European tours and festivals, America’s Cruise to the Edge festival, a South America headline tour, and a headline performance at Tomorrow Festival in China, the band have won the hearts of both traditional and modern Gong fanbases. During this live journey, Gong has delved further into the truly psychedelic, exploratory, and mind-expanding side of the music. » Read more
Wolfgang Dauner RIP – Pianist Wolfgang Dauner, one of the pioneers of both European free jazz and jazz rock, has died at the age of 84. With his own groups and with the United Jazz+Rock Ensemble, his playing and compositions were a prominent presence in European jazz from the mid-60s until just recently. » Read more
Michael Allison RIP – Michael Allison, who since 1997 has been recording as Darshan Ambient, passed away on January 9th after a long and brave battle with cancer. He has been at at the forefront of the new ambient/electronic music scene, with over eighteen releases to his credit. » Read more