Ske - Insolubilia

Ske – Insolubilia

Dragging his sorry ass to the laptop, the writer desperately attempts over several whiskies and incantations to summon his muse, long confined in the depths of Purgatory, from whence there seems no escape. The writer has done this in order to review (aaaarrrrgggghhhh… even the very word is causing his two typing fingrestogoallfrrppptt**{%nnnhty) a long neglected album that no-one else in this stagnant pond seems to have even noticed. The writer goes to these lengths, as this is a work of some merit that deserves, nay, demands the attention of the discerning listener, and it would be a grand injustice if it were to languish at the bottom of the black sea of download promos, unloved and unheard.

Right, enough of that bollocks, what have we here then? The second solo album from Italian keyboard maestro Paolo Botta, is what. Some of you may recognise the name, as Paolo was one of the cornerstones of releases on the now sadly defunct altRock Productions label, appearing in bands such as Not A Good Sign, Homunculus Res, Yugen, and others, as well as performing production duties for numerous acts. Just type his name into Discogs and you’ll find a treasure trove of fine music associated with our ivory tinkler.

Back in 2011, Paolo released his first solo album under his nickname “Ske”, the stunningly good 1000 Autunni, which any lover of well-crafted, intricate, cliché-free music should investigate immediately! Ten years later sees the release of the follow up, an album three years in the making that is just as bewitching, being as it is a technical masterclass in musical arrangement, with Paolo backed by a simply stellar supporting cast – see the impressive roll call at the end of this doggerel, most of whom appeared in one or more bands of the altRock stable.

Credited to, amongst others “full-time dreamers all around the world”, Insolubilia is a trip to a fantasy land on the other side of the mirror, a place where orientation is optional, and always shifting, and one’s imagination runs the gamut of fanciful sonically crafted cream cakes and towering structures of shawm, or summat.

Seriously… the album is symphonic in structure with largo, andante and lento, and several other terms associated with “proper” music all present and correct within this labyrinthine journey to the shores of pink. While fitting into an avant/RIO descriptor, the music herein is always melodic – witness Luca Calabrese’s beautiful keening trumpet on Lo Stagno del Proverbio – and thematic, and as such should not scare off the less spikily inclined listener. How anyone could fail to like the prog-space-funk beat of Akumu is beyond me! It’s all available to preview on the Bandcamp link, so try it and see.

Nearly entirely instrumental, it is a welcome surprise when Mélanie Gerber’s gently declamatory vocals appear on the penultimate track, the fourth part of the title suite. In typical fashion, the five parts of the title track are presented throughout the album out of order, although I’m sure it’s only a semantic trick. Insolubilia IV turns into a baroque chamber rock exercise, with Vitaly Appow’s bassoon taking centre stage. The album ends with the pastoral Insolubilia III, a continuation of the chamber rock of the previous track, but on a grander scale, eventually breaking through in a more “rock” fashion, Francesco Zago’s guitars under the spotlight.

“Dynamics” is a word that easily comes to mind where this album is concerned, exemplified on opening track Sudo, which shifts from the opening bars of chamber music to the fast’n’furious virtuoso prog rock in the blink of an eye, with more tempo shifts and key changes than you could shake a National Health album at. All this could sound clunky in lesser hands, but Paolo’s arrangements are highly accomplished affairs, and while there is an awful lot going on, it is all woven together seamlessly. The following Insolubilia I is suitably andante to the opener’s largo, to start with at least, eventually setting off at an increased pace.

Along with Francesco Zago, Paolo’s other altRock production team alumni Marcello Marinone is the man in the producer’s hat, as he was on several altRock releases. The sound is gorgeous, and I’d love to hear and see this on vinyl, what with the lovely cover art deserving of the ultimate aesthetic treatment of an LP-sized cover, although that is probably highly unlikely.

Each listen to this fascinating recording will reveal something new, in the best tradition of full-on classical symphonies. Some four months after I first heard the album it is still giving me new sweeties on each listen. The sweetie jar remains on a high shelf, just out of reach. This one is a keeper. Do yourself a favour, crack open a libation of choice, and take a well spent hour or so to listen to, and get lost in, this sparkling gem of an album.

The writer feels better for that… maybe the muse can be persuaded to stick around for a while, but the writer is not counting on it.

01. Sudo (3:44)
02. Insolubilia I (6:24)
03. Tor Cia (1:38)
04. Insolubilia II (6:54)
05. Lo Stagno del Proverbio (3:07)
06. Akumu (6:06)
07. La Nona Onda (7:00)
08. Scogli 4 (2:46)
09. Insolubilia V (6:56)
10. Insolubilia IV (3:50)
11. Insolubilia III (7:08)

Total Time – 55:33

Paolo Botta (Not a Good Sign, Yugen) – Keyboards, Composition
Fabio Pignatelli (Goblin) – Bass
Luca Calabrese (Isildurs Bane) – Pocket Trumpet
Lars Fredrik Frøislie (Wobbler) – Harpsichord
Keith Macksoud (Present) – Bass
Tommaso Leddi (Stormy Six) – Mandolin
Nicolas Nikolopoulos (Ciccada) – Flute
Evangelia Kozoni (Ciccada) – Voice
Vitaly Appow (Rational Diet, Five Storey Ensamble) – Bassoon
Simen Ådnøy Ellingsen (Shamblemaths) – Saxophones
Alessandro Cassani (Not a Good Sign) – Bass
Martino Malacrida (Not a Good Sign) – Drums
Francesco Zago (Yugen) – Guitars
Maurizio Fasoli (Yugen) – Grand Piano
Valerio Cipollone (Yugen) – Clarinets
Elia Leon Mariani (Yugen) – Violin
Jacopo Costa (Loomings, Yugen) – Vibraphone, Marimba, Xylophone, Glockenspiel, Cymbalum
Maria Denami (Loomings) – Voice
Massimo Giuntoli (Hobo) – Harmonium
Pierre Wawrzyniak (Camembert, Oiapok) – Bass
Mélanie Gerber (Camembert, Oiapok) – Voice
Guillaume Gravelin (Camembert, Oiapok) – Harp
Pietro Bertoni (FEM) – Trombone, Euphonium
Thea Ellingsen Grant (Juno) – Voice
Tiziana Azzone (Il Giardino delle Muse) – Theorbo

Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: Italy
Date of Release: 11th July 2021

Ske – Facebook | Bandcamp