Tugs — Europa Minor
(AMS AWS 221, 2013, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2014-01-09How many times have we heard about Italian bands who were active in the 1970s, but failed to get any recordings out before the musical styles changed and progressive rock was no longer fashionable; then years later the band reunites and gets back to business and releases some reworked material they were playing back in the day. Tugs is another such band, a five-piece fronted by singer Pietro Contorno who were together from 1978 to 1982, then split, eventually reuniting after a long hiatus with three original (Contorno, guitarist Nicolo Melani, and bassist Bruno Rotolo) and two new members on keyboards and drums, plus a handful of guest players (flute, violin, cello, mandolin, mandola and percussion), to record the concept piece Europa Minor that they were performing in their early years. Following some radio sweeping and the sounds of an air raid, the first three cuts “Waterloo,” “Il Re e il Poeta” (the king and poet) and “La Brigata dei Dottori” (the doctors’ brigade) set a folky European, almost Celtic tone, supported by tasty arrangements and superb playing all around. Contorno’s commanding and unique voice leads the show while he’s singing, but allows the players plenty of room to work their magic in numerous lengthy instrumental sections. By the fourth track “Pietroburgo 1824,” the band is in full-on symphonic rock mode, comparable to the work of Banco and Le Orme of just a few years earlier. The guest strings (including the mandolin) add beautiful textures to the basic five-piece sound wherever they are utilized, while the guest flute seems to bring a Jethro Tull and PFM influence into the mix. The six minute instrumental interlude “Il Sogno di Jennifer” led off by acoustic guitar and piano breaks up the album’s heavier pieces nicely, eventually building to a full band piece. All taken, Tugs’ long-overdue debut ranks right up there with the best of the classic Italian symphonic progressives.
Related artist(s): Tugs
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
Seaprog 2019 Lineup Almost Complete – The Seaprog festival in Seattle is scheduled for June 7-9 this year, and they've announced their lineup of performers. The revitalized Trettioåriga Kriget will cap Friday night, perennial favorites Marbin are on Saturday, and District 97 will finish off the fest on Sunday night. In support, they've booked a stellar variety of artists from the Northwest and around the world, including EchoTest, Markus Reuter and Trey Gunn, and the live debut of the amazing Troot project. » Read more
You Can Be Part of an Ambient Electronic Project – The Gesture of History is a new electronic project put together by Sam Rosenthal of Black Tape for a Blue Girl, Steve Roach, and violist Sam Shadow. The music started as an instrumental track Rosenthal was working on for a Black Tape album, but took on a life of its own and demanded further enhancements. The majority of the funds raised will go to manufacturing costs for LP and CD editions, as well as other items as detailed on the Kickstarter page. » Read more