Last year, one of my favourite releases was the debut recording from Italian band Ikitan, a twenty-minute-and-twenty-second opus named Twenty-Twenty. I couldn’t help but read into it feelings and experiences from that year. Of course, these were my feelings, and this being an instrumental suite, my inferences were in no way indicative of what Ikitan were attempting to convey. The beauty of instrumental music is the way it allows the listener to draw their own conclusions, or merely allows themselves to be taken along for the ride. And there is no doubting that Ikitan take us on a journey with Twenty-Twenty. Unlike the year it’s named for, however, Twenty-Twenty is a trip I’m happy to take again and again. I would have no hesitation in naming it my favourite EP from 2020, in a year that had a lot of competition.
While presented as a single piece of music, Twenty-Twenty seems to me to be dividable into three almost distinct sections, which each have multiple passages and sections. Again, this is my inference more than anything else, as Twenty-Twenty is seamless in the way it progresses. It could just as easily have been composed as one piece, or two, or six. That I hear it as three pieces has much to do with the way I have interpreted the music. Thus, regardless of whether or not Twenty-Twenty has been stitched together from separate compositions is entirely irrelevant. The whole that is presented never feels like the sum of parts, and any transitions between sections (if they exist at all) are certainly not overt. Even if they were, of course, that would not necessarily be negative (considering how highly regarded patchwork pieces such as Supper’s Ready and 2112 are, for example).
For those who didn’t read my review of Twenty-Twenty, the band have a progressive post-rock sound that could be compared with bands such Long Distance Calling and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, but I also hear a lot in Ikitan’s atmospheric instrumental music that is reminiscent of Tool and Amplifier, particularly the former. I made the potentially bold statement that if Tool were a post-rock band, they might well sound like Ikitan, but many months on, I stick to that. There’s something very special about Ikitan, and I have been awaiting a new release from the band for some time. That this is a live performance of that debut EP played in its entirety could easily have been a disappointment – but it’s absolutely a triumph, and gloriously so.
What makes this live performance a real treat is where it took place, and the accompanying video is stunning. Given the year of lockdowns and self-isolation that 2020 presented, the choice of location is perfect. Not only does it look incredibly similar to the stunning art-work for the EP, but it has the band in stark isolation, playing to themselves. I’m sure they probably would have preferred to have their first live performance of Twenty-Twenty in front of an audience, but honestly the silver lining virtually overshadows the black cloud here. There is so much energy and passion evident in the performance – which might just have been due to needing to keep warm, as it looks verrrrry cold and windswept up there. It can’t have been the most comfortable place to film, but given that a lot of Twenty-Twenty isn’t completely comfortable listening, this again works in the band’s favour. Honestly, the only thing that could have made the video better would be a little sausage dog called Orazio, though I’m sure he was there in spirit.
What’s truly amazing to me is the sound and visuals of this performance. I’m presuming that an old fort on top of a hill is unlikely to have much in the way of infrastructure, meaning the band must have lugged up a lot of equipment to make this work. And either the band has some very talented friends, or they hired a film crew that know exactly what they’re doing, as the footage is spectacular, captured from several angles, along with some stunning drone work. But, of course, no matter how awesome the visuals might be, the main draw has to be the music. What I really like about this performance is that it doesn’t appear to have very much post-production, so there is a real live feel about it. I’m not suggesting that there are any bum notes, but you can definitely tell that nothing has been “corrected” to make for a “better” performance (not least because the band appear to have missed a trick, the length not quite being twenty-minutes-and-twenty-seconds…).
But, if anything, I suspect “mistakes” probably make for a better performance, as Ikitan very much come across as a band where improvisation is as important as composition. I can’t imagine the three musicians in Ikitan thinking of any deviation from plan being a mistake at all, so much as something to take them somewhere new. I guess that is my only real surprise about this live performance as there was nothing completely new, and this was an almost entirely faithful rendition of the track as it appears on the EP. Again, though, this isn’t at all disappointing. The differences in sound are sufficient to distinguish this from the studio version, and I think I actually prefer it. Credit has to be given to the sound engineer, as the recording is fantastic, but even so, it feels stronger, rawer, and more visceral than the EP. What it really does is remind me of some of the stoner bands from the Palm Desert Scene.
The stoner sound is definitely present on the EP, but it comes more to the fore in this live performance. However, I’m not sure how much this is down to the visuals, as I watched this performance before listening to it separately, which may have been a mistake as the imagery was burned in my brain. In a sense, the isolation of this gig can be compared to the generator parties of the Palm Desert Scene, and I’m guessing Ikitan may well have had to provide the generator for their own party, too. A shame they couldn’t have brought the audience, but hopefully the time will come soon when they can play to one live. In the meantime, this is a fantastic keepsake of a time when they were unable to do so, and I love that the band chose to do something more than just the studio webcast many bands have done. Ikitan continue to be a band full of surprises, and while I’m hoping the next surprise is a new studio release, I’m more than happy with this live release in the interim.
01. Twenty-Twenty (live) (20:00)
Total Time – 20:00
Luca “Nash” Nasciuti – Guitar
Frik Et – Bass
Enrico Meloni – Drums & Cowbell
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: Italy
Date of Release: 25th June 2021