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OTEME — Un Saluto alle Nuvole
(Ma.Ra.Cash Records MRC 084, 2020, CD / DL)

Un Saluto alle Nuvole Cover art

Osservatorio delle Terre Emerse, or OTEME for short, is a most interesting musical collective, formed around 2010 by musical director Stefano Giannotti, creating a juxtaposition of rock and jazz songwriting and spoken dialogs around a core of vocals and chamber music. Un Saluto alle Nuvole translates to “Say Hello to the Clouds,” not a happy subject, but instead a concept album about death and passing, a firstperson observation told by those who take care of terminally ill patients every day at the Hospice of San Cataldo in Lucca, Italy: the families, nurses, healthcare assistants and doctors. Their testimonies became the spoken word parts that introduce the songs and separate the chamber music vignettes across the thirteen tracks that make up this, the group’s fourth full length release. The spoken parts here are all in Italian, but the musical elements are universal, featuring a relatively large group of nine regular members (including Giannotti) plus four additional members on vocals, vibraphone, and violin. The nine main players cover flute, piccolo, recorder, clarinet, bass clarinet, acoustic and electric guitar, banjo, electric and string bass, keyboards, componium, harmonica, string harp, drums, percussion, and more, as well as vocals. Those sung vocal elements, where they appear, are quite harmonically impressive, even a bit alienatiing at times, though blending seamlessly with the instrumentation. There are also sampled sounds that add a distinctive avant-garde feel to certain parts, most evident on the twelve-minute “Turn,” where samples are combined together into a percussive loop while bass and vibraphone work around them. Throughout, the results are distinctive and unique, though never abrasive or off-putting, and for those Italian speakers who understand the spoken and sung parts better than myself, that’s certainly a bonus. The MaRaCash label has made a Bandcamp page where every track can be heard (link below) and that’s probably as good a place as any to start.

by Peter Thelen, Published 2020-08-24

In 2012 OTEME founder Stefano Giannotti was asked to film a documentary about the hospice of San Cataldo in Lucca, Italy. A hospice is a facility where the terminally ill go to die and receive palliative care, the “last port” many people reach. In that original video, Un Saluto alle Nuvole or Say Hello to the Clouds, nurses, healthcare assistants, doctors, and relatives answered questions about death, happiness, and memory. Six years later Giannotti decided to take this material and compose new work for OTEME, using the reflections from the interviews as poetic inspiration for the creation of songs and chamber pieces that straddle folk, avant-rock, and jazz. This new CD, Un Saluto alle Nuvole, is a further elaboration of Giannotti’s project, with an extension of the band from six to 13 musicians, including special guests Tuxedomoon’s Blaine L. Reininger on violin, and Antonio Caggiano on vibraphone. The 10 tracks incorporate interview excerpts from the hospice medical director, healthcare assistants, a nurse, and a relative, all in Italian. Plus other songs use the hospice logbook for lyrics. “Gli Angeli di San Cataldo / Bolero Quarto” takes its name from family members calling the loving nursing staff Angels. The instrumentation includes woodwinds, guitars, banjo, componium, piano, harpsichord, synths, harp, bass, harmonica, drums, violin, vibraphone, and vocals. This loving homage to the hospice and to those nearing the end of their days is quite touching. The tracks that stand out for me are “Quando la Sera” or “When in the Evening,” “Truni” or “Shifts,” and “”Una Mamma Disperata” or “A Desperate Mother.” Plus the instrumental title track of harp and organ is the capstone for the entire album. You have to experience this music for yourself.

by Henry Schneider, Published 2020-12-31

Filed under: New releases, 2020 releases

Related artist(s): Osservatorio delle Terre Emerse (OTEME)

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