In June 2017 a disastrous fire broke out at Grenfell Tower in London, and 72 lives were lost. Karmamoi were writing their fourth album and, like many of us, were affected by this tragedy, particularly the story of two Syrians, Mohammed and Omar, who lived in the tower. They decided to use that tragic event as the theme for The Day is Done. In all honesty, I was previously unaware of this band, but choosing such a theme did strike a chord as it is a story that needs to be told. I was surprised that a progressive rock band from Italy would choose to focus on Grenfell… but then again, even though this happened in England it was an event which affected so many nationalities and was known throughout the world. This is not just a British story – it resonated with so many around the world. Choosing this theme was certainly a brave and ambitious artistic decision – did they do justice to the story and, more importantly, the victims of the Grenfell Fire?
The Day is Done commences in an understated manner with Alex Massari’s guitar and Sarah Rinaldi’s gentle voice setting the scene of people feeling safe and secure in their homes at the end of their working day, particularly for some occupants who were refugees from war torn areas of the world. The song appears to be from the two perspectives of the young men with Mohammed feeling initially safe in his flat, and then later his brother Omar looking back regretfully on the loss of the brother whom he could not help to escape. A mournful clarinet sounding keyboard and simple piano presages the melancholy that will understandably pervade the album, before the tempo picks up with a brief guitar solo at the conclusion, perhaps reflecting the sudden change from peace in their homes to the violent conflagration that engulfed the building so quickly?
The album then moves back to the beginning of the story for Omar and Mohammed with Take Me Home describing their flight from their country:
‘Home’ is clearly not really a place but a state of mind, and when you are fleeing war and persecution your ‘Home’ is your family and whatever you can carry. Omar and Mohammed had made their home in what they hoped would be the safety of central London. Luca Uggias’ simple piano introduces the song with the finely judged bass of Colin Edwin, once of Porcupine Tree. Massari throws in some Gilmour-esque guitar lines, interweaving with Geoff Leigh’s intricate flute. The song ends with quite an extended section with the whole band underpinning the guitar and flute duel (which may have extended the piece a little too far for some). One of the highlights of the album, Portrait of a Man continues the story with rather stately guitars and a grand wall of keyboards and drums… before the piece eerily descends quietly with weird keyboard sounds and operatic effects over a simple piano and Rinaldi’s mournful voice.
Rinaldi has a good, melodic but rather melancholic singing voice, and the fact she is singing in a language other than her own appropriately underlines the cosmopolitan makeup of the occupants of that fated building. What is clear is that this is an unpredictable album with the listener constantly surprised by the turns the songs are taking. A percussive and vocal upsurge introduces a dramatic section with pulsating keys, chanted vocals and short, punchy impactful guitar solos, before the whole piece dissipates in forlorn, stark piano notes. This unpredictability in the songs is exemplified later in the remarkable Your Name which starts with a sinister synth (reminiscent of Pink Floyd) with Edwin and Daniele Giovannoni providing an insistent chugging rhythm on bass and drums before developing it into a driving rock song, presumably portraying the awful fire with the trapped occupants:
Fire on the Walls… Hell on the Earth.”
Then suddenly the song just seems to drop off a precipice in the middle with a simple piano, ethereal guitar notes and weird bass noises before the music rises in volume with Sarah Rinaldi elegiacally singing and Alex Massari wringing all sorts of emotion out of his guitar in a powerfully touching conclusion.
After such sorrow there was the inevitable anger felt by so many, and expressed powerfully in Mother’s Dirge, another song packed with unpredictable twists and musical elements. An opening techno type beat leads to a short coruscating guitar passage, and then abruptly stops with Rinaldi voicing the grief of a mother over a simple chiming melody. As her sorrow turns to anger so the music rises in power and a flowing guitar section before we briefly return to melancholy sounds. However, the song then ignites in a driving rock section over which Valerio Sgargi raps about the lost souls, which then further develops with Emilio Merone’s swirling keyboard solo over Giovannoni’s impressive drumming. Massari’s stirring guitar returns to elevate the piece for a dramatic conclusion.
This tragic story appropriately ends with the chilling noises of sirens and eerie keyboards in the wordless Lost Voices – sometimes there are simply no words that can truly convey the feelings. The album ends with a sinister synth drone which abruptly and unexpectedly ends, like so many lives that night.
Clearly with such a sombre project there will inevitably be an overarching sense of sadness which makes it a challenge to fully hold the listener’s attention and emotional investment for nearly 60 minutes. Karmamoi may be stretching the listener and themselves a little too far at some points. Getaway and Running Through the Lands, albeit with a fluid bass from Alessandro Cefalì, do feel like songs covering ground already explored sonically and emotionally in other parts of the album. They are certainly not poor songs but sometimes ‘less is more’ in terms of impact.
The Grenfell Tower Fire was nothing short of a national disgrace for Britain in which the poor and devalued in society were needlessly put at risk by negligent authorities, with the appearance of a building within sight of much more affluent neighbours seemingly more important than the safety of those inside. Karmamoi have bravely, but possibly not wholly successfully, tried to express the pain and sorrow associated with those ‘Lost Voices’. The fact they have tried to do so is certainly worthy of hearing as there have been fewer stories that need telling more in modern British society than Grenfell.
Karmamoi should be commended for turning a spotlight on this issue so emotionally and imaginatively – Thank you.
01. The Day is Done (6:52)
02. Take Me Home (8:47)
03. Portrait Of A Man (11:20)
04. Getaway (7:43)
05. Running Through The Lands (2:58)
06. Your Name (8:50)
07. Mother´s Dirge (10:50)
08. Lost Voices (1:21)
Total Time – 58:41
Daniele Giovannoni – Drums, Keyboards, Backing Vocals, Music
Alex Massari – Guitars, Backing Vocals
Sara Rinaldi – Main Vocals, Lyrics
Colin Edwin – Bass (tracks 2,6 & 7)
Geoff Leigh – Flute (track 2)
Alessandro Cefalì – Bass (tracks 1,3,4 & 5)
Emilio Merone – Piano (track 1), Keyboard Solo (track 7)
Luca Uggias – Piano (tracks 2 & 3)
Lara Bagnati – Flute (track 1)
Valerio Sgargi – Rap (track 7)
Emilio Merone – String Arrangements (tracks 4 & 6)
Record Label: Sonicbond
Country of Origin: Italy
Date of Release: 30th November 2018
– Karmamoi (2011)
– Odd Trip (2013)
– Silence Between Sounds (2016)