After a five year gap, composer, arranger and all-round musical polymath Rocco Lomonaco, Milan-based but southern Italian by origin, releases his second album as Breznev Fun Club, il misantropo felice (“the happy misanthrope”). The new album continues with the chamber rock template of 2010’s L’Onda Vertebrata: Lost + Found Vol. 1, which was a lovely confection of quiet intricacy contrasted with heady instrumentation. Read my good friend Raffaella Berry’s informative review of that fine work HERE.
Rocco has expanded on the classical elements in this new opus which he composed, orchestrated, directed and produced. Some musical projects thrive on exigency, but not this one. Mainly written as long ago as the turn of the century, with tweaks and additions being made up to 2010, it was recorded between July and August 2011, April 2012, and between July and August 2014. This is a highly crafted work, and much time has passed and care has been expended on this obvious labour of love.
The jazz and rock elements of the debut are more in the background on il misantropo felice, as Rocco follows his muse into more rarefied strata. Whereas L’Onda… has a building momentum, the methodology at work on il misantropo… is less expansive and cinematic but more cerebral, which suits the theme, musically narrating “a short and hypertrophic morning dream of a man from the moment he falls asleep until his cathartic awakening”. However, the music while indisputably possessing an intellectual air is far from being a triumph of rationalism over empiricism, and there is more than the required amount of emotion in these grooves to keep those of us who are not Royal College of Music graduates happy.
The suite begins with A Window Closes, which gradually evolves into an intricate piece of chamber music from the slight disarray of a gentle but angular beginning. The percussion, flute and piano in particular are central to this opener, which displays Rocco’s highly skilled compositional and arrangement talents to best advantage.
This is not music to play in the background, and is best appreciated when you know you will not be disturbed for the fifty minutes of the suite’s duration. Listening to Rocco’s stratagem unfold over the gapless eight tracks, and the way in which the many and varied instruments and Giuliana Di Mitrio’s occasional mezzo-soprano combine in various arrangements, splinter, and then re-form in another grouping is a delight for anyone with the sophisticated musical palate or the perspicacity needed to fully appreciate it. That may read as somewhat elitist; I don’t mean it to be, but I can’t imagine that someone who never ventures beyond tried and tested formulas in their prog listening is going to have the inclination to take this on. Don’t let me put you off, though!
As far as reference points go, there are elements of the more accessible end of RIO in here, along with Gentle Giant touches and Zeuhl-styled arrangements, in addition to much classical influence. However, this goes way beyond all that, and the best approach is to leave any preconceptions at the door and let il misantropo felice take you on its highly enjoyable journey, a journey that ends after the short silence four minutes into After the last silence with a charming meander down an autumnal stream, concluding with a subtle caress of optimism. This is the catharsis of the protagonist as he wakes and continues with his daily routine.
Leonid Brezhnev, the last memorable Soviet leader, existed before Glasnost was a word that was widely known beyond the borders of the USSR. Breznev Fun Club despite or maybe because they lost an “h” somewhere along the way, has no problem with openness as their music is an inviting joyous maze of sound.
Drowning in free review copies as I am, I appreciate that it may be difficult for the casual reader to have sympathy or to emphasise when I say that sometimes I am overcome with inertia and ennui at the sheer amount of music that requires my aging attention. With il misantropo felice, Rocco Lomonaco and his large troupe of helpers have made an album that is as a breath of fresh air blowing a clear path through a settling fog of indifference.
il misantropo felice I-VIII:
I A window closes (3:34)
II Putamen (7:26)
III Beginners dance lessons (3:23)
IV Petit déjeuner chez Picabia (5:51)
V Sperduto nella camera istercia (8:12)
VI Le furieux hypothétique (3:51)
VII Tzig Tzag Tzara (5:51)
VIII After the last silence (11:44)
Total Time – 49:52
Antonio Dambra – Flute & Piccolo
Francesco Larenza – Oboe & English Horn
Michele Motola – Alto Saxophone
Gianfranco Menzella – Tenor & Baritone Saxophone
Riccardo Rinaldi – Bassoon
Vito Verni – French Horn
Francesco Panico – Trumpet
Francesco Tritto – Trombone
Alessio Anzivino – Tuba
Giuliana Di Mitrio – Mezzo-Soprano
Michele Fracchiolla – Drums, Vibraphone, Marimba, Percussions
Simona Armenise – Classic, Acoustic, Electric Guitars & Banjo
Tommaso De Vito Francesco – Electric Bass & Double Bass
Guiseppe Manfredi – Keyboards
Duilio Maci – Violin
Grazia De Vito Francesco – Violin
Paola De Candia – Cello
Record Label: AltrOck Productions
Year Of Release: 2015