A name that has regularly cropped up in recent years, is Swiss-born Italian keyboardist and composer Alex Carpani. I’ve heard a couple of pieces by him previously, but for whatever reason he seems to have always remained on my to do list, until now that is and this release from the Alex Carpani Band, via Festival Music (F2), presents me with the opportunity of a more in depth listening.
Researching Alex Carpani reveals that he has released three studio album with the Alex Carpani Band (ACB), although this is merely the tip of the iceberg when looking through his impressive, self-produced and extensive thirty plus discography spanning 1990-2007. Along with this catalogue of releases are musical collaborations with Bernardo Lanzetti (PFM, Acqua Fragile), Aldo Tagliapietra (Le Orme), David Cross (King Crimson), Tony Spada (Steve Morse, Rick Wakeman, Steve Howe) and David Jackson (Van der Graaf Generator), the latter featuring prominently here on this latest release.
From the very outset and throughout the album there’s a strong link to the bombast of the early 70s and the influence of Emerson Lake & Palmer in particular, however with David Jackson entering the fray within a few bars of the opening track, The Silk Road, then references tilt towards Van der Graaf Generator. And of course the presence of the Italian pioneers – Le Orme, Premiata Forneria Marconi, Area, and Banco del Mutuo Soccorso spring to mind across whilst listening to the album. Having said this, those wishing to explore Alex Carpani’s music and this album in particular will find each of the lengthy journeys on 4 Destinies show an extremely varied palette and one that merely draws from these artists. The end result is constantly shifting and absorbing pieces of music.
4 Destinies is a concept album exploring four possible life paths, starting from one particular point before moving in four different directions and all I can say here is that each of these destinies must surely have taken distinctly twisting and ever turning course. So varied are each of the tracks that it would be nigh on impossible to dissect any of the four pieces to offer a direction to follow. Lyrically I found the concept somewhat difficult to follow, however this personally did not detract from the music as a whole and in truthfulness those sections sung in Italian were, by far, more enjoyable and attractive. Vocalist Joe Sal comes across really well throughout the album, possessing a warm and enticing voice and with Alex Carpani produce some memorable vocal melodies & harmonies – particularly in the opening section of Sky And Sea and during The Infinite Room.
Alex Carpani is an impressive player and one with a keen ear for sounds, therefore this release must surely appeal to those who enjoy their prog ‘old school’ and with lashings of Hammond, Moog and Mellotron sounds. This is a densely populated album with much attention paid to the many layers of keyboard sounds. Mention here of the rhythm section of GB Giorgi and Alessandro Di Caprio who are impressive throughout and although not so prominent, guitarist Ettore Salati’s contribution must not be overlooked. Certainly his Hackett like guitar circa ten minutes into Time Spiral brings a smile to the face every time, in fact at that whole section is magnificent – Jackson’s understated sax is just magic.
The album is chock full of magic moments, whether it be the Far Eastern tinged, atmospheric opening to The Infinite Room that devolves into a Pink Floyd inspired vocal melody, or the delicate piano, soprano sax and vocally melodic opening to Sky And Sea, bringing latter day Hackett versions of Genesis material to mind. Along with this are the multitudinous sweeping synth parts, GB Giorgi’s thumping Rickenbaker bass lines and David Jackson’s wonderful flute and saxophone contributions. The list goes on…
This is an impressive body of work and as each of tracks are thirteen minutes plus and constantly evolving to boot, then the music requires several listens before you can fully appreciate what is going on. Certainly time well spent and over the past month or so 4 Destinies has grown on me immensely. Backtracking through the two previous albums, albeit this is still a work in progress, 4 Destinies is by far the most ambitious work by ACB. The inclusion of David Jackson is an excellent one as he offers not only his truly gifted playing to the music, but adds some truly memorable moments – from the pastoral to the strident and as might be expected, that quirkiness and edge that he does so well.
By nature of the ever shifting arrangement of the music this album took a while to sink in, but once it did it turned out to be a real gem and one that is still growing on me. The overall audio production is a little bass heavy, requiring a bit of tweaking on the EQ, but on the plus side added a warmth, almost analogue depth, often missing from prog music these days. And in these days where, what is and what is not prog, seems to becoming increasingly blurred, certainly does not apply to 4 Destinies. As mentioned above 4 Destinies enjoys an association with old school prog, but I would certainly recommended ACB to fans of The Tangent and The Flower Kings in particular.
Alex Carpani has apparently written all the music for his next studio album Man On Wire, scheduled for release in late 2015 early 2016 and promises to be a departure from the previous three proggier ACB releases.
01. The Silk Road (13:00)
02. Time Spiral (13:39)
03. Sky And Sea (14:04)
04. The Infinite Room (14:18)
Total Time – 54:29
Alex Carpani – Vocals, Keyboards
David Jackson – Saxes, Flutes
Ettore Salati – Guitars
GB Giorgi – Bass
Alessandro Di Caprio – Drums
Joe Sal – Additional Vocals
Record Label: Festival Music (F2)
Date of Release: 31st March 2014