Full disclosure: I am a sucker for both symphonic Italian prog and concept albums. Kim, by L’Estate di San Martino, satisfyingly scratches both itches. Formed in Perugia in 1975, the band has had an unconventional journey to this point. Following the release of a single in 1978, the band broke up, only to reform after the discovery of a 1983 concert recording which finally saw the light of day in 2006. It wasn’t until the following year that the first studio album, Febo, was released, followed by the sophomore effort five years later. Another release in 2015 (an acoustic rendition of the second album) showed that these gentlemen were in no particular hurry, so the seven year wait for Kim should not be unexpected. During that time, the line-up was augmented with the addition of a new vocalist and guitarist. The band’s name literally translates as ‘Summer of Saint Martin’, which is an Italian euphemism for Indian Summer (a beautiful story on its own). The music in this recording, despite its subject matter, reflects that soft, warm, pleasant weather, embodied by the sound of a 12-string acoustic which is never far away.
Kim is based on the story of a 23-year-old American girl, sick with cancer, and the attempt to put her into suspended animation for reawakening at a future time when her illness can be cured. Darwinism and the tension between science and religion figure into the story-line, as prog a concept as they come. However, since the lyrics are all in Italian, I will concentrate on the music and the sound.
The obvious influence here is early Genesis, as exemplified by the pastoral combination of acoustic guitars and flute. A more modern approach to production keeps Kim from sounding like a mere retread of someone else’s past glories. Several instrumental tunes, including opening track Cretto, appear among the vocal pieces, a beautiful piano-driven track with some interesting changes in tempo and mood. Sax and flute are used to add an airy touch which blends nicely with the deft percussion, pushing the track forward in its final minutes. The first vocal track, Sul Prato sounds at first like a long-lost leftover from Genesis’ Trespass sessions. Backward-masked guitar flows effortlessly into acoustic guitar and flute. Andrea Pieroni’s vocals, however, break the Genesis fever dream, as they (thankfully, because it doesn’t tie them too tightly to the past) sound nothing like Peter Gabriel. There is more in common vocally with the Italian heavyweights of PFM and Banco than anyone else, sans the latter’s operatic touches.
The drumming of Sergio Sevadio is a particular standout. His use of middle eastern percussion adds new colors and textures to Inanna. Throughout, his playing is wonderfully sympathetic to each song – hearty when called for, restrained when appropriate, nonexistent when it serves the purpose of the song. Keyboardist Stefano Tofi occasionally dips into the Tony Banks bag for a familiar-sounding phrase or two (Watcher of the Skies pops up on more than one occasion), but never stays there for very long. His synth leads are a particular highlight for this listener, using the full palette of colors to add an expressiveness which renders the language barrier almost irrelevant. Libera is a fine example of how Tofi’s organ and synth lines masterfully blend multiple moods in a single tune.
Il Monaco Pierre is another tremendous track. It rocks out with some heavy guitar and in-your-face drumming that slips through the time signature changes like water through a crack. That is until the piano/flute coda simplifies the proceedings without losing the tune’s sinister edge. Pieroni’s star turn comes on Immaginami. His impressive command of melodic possibilities is to the fore on this tune, avoiding the obvious phrases and taking some odd turns which prove utterly delightful. The “It”-style instrumental break which closes the song provides a showcase for Tofi’s synth leads.
The combination of synth bass and bass guitar brings a heavy edge to Caleidoscopio, at 9:32 the longest track on the album. Again, the song goes through several changes, showcasing a particularly powerful vocal turn by Pieroni. This mini-suite reveals a multitude of guitar and keyboard layers, especially when listening on headphones. The only misstep on the album is the closing track, Tewar, which is actually a collection of disparate short instrumental pieces. Had they ended at the first one, it would have been the perfect closer, thematically dark and foreboding, as one might expect from the storyline. But even with a half-minute of silence before the remaining “ghost tracks” kick in, the mood is ruined. Nothing is wrong with the tunes themselves; it’s just that they don’t fit with the temper of the music that came before.
All in all, Kim is a rewarding listen. If you like Trespass-era Genesis, you’ll find this delightful without being slavish. Combined with a distinctly Italian sensibility, the mixture of old and new school prog bears repeated listening, revealing its treasures slowly, like a rose opening up to its full glory.
01. Cretto (3:20)
02. Sul Prato (4:43)
03. Inanna (5:46)
04. Gocce (6:09)
05. Libera (5:47)
06. Il Ciclope (1:29)
07. Il Monaco Pierre (4:08)
08. Immaginami (7:14)
09. Caleidoscopio (9:32)
10. Tewar (+ ghost tracks) 11:01
Total Time – 60:09
Andrea Pieroni – Vocals
Marco Pentiricci – Flutes, Saxophone, Harp
Riccardo Regi – 12-string Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar
Stefano Tofi – Keyboards
Luca Castellani – Electric Guitar
Massimo Baracchi – Bass, Bass Pedals
Sergio Servadio – Drums
Mauro Formica – Bass (tracks 7 & 8)
Record Label: AMS Records
Country of Origin: Italy
Date of Release: 11th November 2022