Another new band to me, Macroscream, hailing from Rome, feature a core sextet who cover a lot of instrumental ground already, to which is added a cast of seemingly dozens contributing vocals, brass and woodwind, padding out the sound and giving them the fire-power to try just about anything, which they proceed to do with an invigorating joie de vivre.
This self-titled release is actually their second, following on from 2012’s Sisyphus. The roots lie clearly in the classic progressive rock of Gentle Giant and Jethro Tull among the others, but there are also clear folk-rock influences and hybrids of jazz and fusion. Frank Zappa also soaks through here and there but overall the influences are used as a starting point, certainly not the final destination. When the music starts the instrumental variety and stop/start quirkiness immediately puts me in mind of Gentle Giant as some of the phrases sound quite familiar, however the way they use them is anything but.
Imagine, if you will, a musical toyshop, packed with all manner of brightly coloured sounds, ready to sparkle and dazzle. At the counter stands a beaming Alessandro Patierno, for the diversity of styles and genre-hopping inherent in the music of Macroscream all come from his hand – and if you ever bump into him, give him a warm handshake from me. This is a fascinatingly well realised collection of pieces that stray in all manner of directions, accumulating additional musicians as and when required to deliver what the contents of Patierno’s feverish imagination desires.
The delivery is energetic and brimming with enthusiasm, the playing spot on as it effortlessly negotiates the twists and turns. The opener is effectively a near 20-minute suite seguing two complementary pieces, a confident gambit but Macroscream deliver Mr Why and the appended and initially harder hitting Then It Goes Away with some style, taking in jazzy Stefan Grapelli violin, Uillean pipes, reggae rhythms and didgeridoo along the way. The vocals of Luca Marconi have a lovely tone, the use of a female voice complementing it perfectly, as on closing track Impenetrable Oak Bark. The piano and violin coda brings Phideaux to mind, and that’s not a bad thing, as the piece rolls effortlessly from one mood to the next, the dynamic breadth truly mesmerizing with a wonderful interplay between the instruments. The softer elements emerge into rousing flourishes with the influences appearing here and there but never suggesting pastiche and standing firmly on their own merits.
Unquiet is a more unsettling affair; the off-beat rhythm of the intro with violin skittering in and out moving into scat vocals as the violin becomes more strident. There’s a funky electric piano and the sweeping vocals soar. Ebbing and flowing, calm is restored before the violin takes the lead with Hammond organ support for a fantastic climax. The funk really makes its mark on The Flying Giampi, brass, woodwind and the band in full flow giving a Zappa feel here and there. Electric piano adds a warmth that fits well with the easy vocal and there are jazz and world music influences, sax, flute and trumpet solos and even a gong to complete the uplifting crescendo. Throughout, the core band are on the money, playing up a storm. Goliath also suggests Zappa elements, swept up in a maelstrom of jazz with tabla adding Eastern flavours as Patierno’s quirky vocal bounces off the rhythm.
This really is spectacularly accomplished stuff.
The instrumental sections are particularly well realised, all of the elements working with each other to produce a warm and accessible sound. The songs give enough space for the band to spread its wings, the players doing so with gleeful abandon.
Impenetrable Oak Bark adds Americana to the Gentle Giant influences to make a piece quite unlike anything else I’ve come across. The warmth of the violin rises majestically and the supporting female voice adds a lovely touch. The instrumental sections smoulder, the organic instruments making their voices heard with the violin particularly impressive, bringing everything together. Towards the end Marconi’s voice takes on a manic tone and a sinister feel permeates through to the fade out.
The whole thing is just beautifully arranged, it is at times tricksy but not for the sake of it and maintains an upbeat melodic approach that makes me smile and will no doubt satisfy those who demand melodic quality. Don’t be put off by thinking of this as “difficult” music. The dynamic scope is vast and it is certainly complex but Patierno has paid heed to the requirement that music needs to engage its audience. The writing is exemplary, packed with interesting ideas in a delivery that is jam-packed with energetic twists, and he has delivered a superb experience that bears repeated plays with ease. There is so much to hear that it takes a long time to even start to take it all in.
One of the most exciting and ingenious releases of exuberant ensemble music making I’ve heard in ages. Everyone contributes beautifully and it all flows magnificently. The variety is breathtaking but it doesn’t sound forced in any way, ideas falling like rain – the whole thing a pure joy. And that is what music should be about.
01. Mr.Why (12:52)
02. Then it goes away (6:13)
03. Unquiet (8:04)
04. The Flying Giampy (8:56)
05. Goliath (10:51)
06. Impenetrable Oak Bark (12:15)
Total time – 59:11
Tonino Politano – Electric & Acoustic Guitars
Gianpaolo Saracino – Violin
Davide Cirone – Hammond Organ, Electric Piano, Mellotron, MiniMoog, Korg Synthesizer
Alessandro Patierno – Bass Guitar, Classic Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Piano, Mandolin, Vocoder, Percussion, Backing Vocals
Marco Pallotti – Drums
Luca Marconi – Vocals
~ Special guests:
Pierluigi Pensabene – Soprano Sax
Edoardo Capparucci – Tenor & Contralto Sax
Fabio Angelo Colajanni – Flute
Francesco Marsigliese – Trumpet, Sordina
Daniele Bicego – Uilleann Pipes
Davide Eusebi – Percussions, Vibrophone
Sanjay Kansa Banik – Tabla
Esharef Alì Mhagag – Backing Vocals
Awa Koundoul – Backing Vocals
Chiara Calderale – Backing Vocals
Ben Slavin – Voice (on Mr. Why)
Rodolfo Demontis – Orchestral Parts
Daisy – Dog’s Steps (on Then it goes away)
Record Label: AltrOck Productions
Date Of Release: 4th April 2016
Country of Origin: Italy