Acqua Fragile is a bit of an unusual band. Their first album was only released in Italy in 1973. The following year, their sophomore effort was released in Italy and the US. The band were embraced by fellow countrymen PFM, and vocalist Bernardo Lanzetti eventually joined his mentors for a couple of albums. Later, he was part of Mangala Vallis, before reviving Acqua Fragile for another go ‘round in 2017. In 2023, three members of the original band reunited to record only their fourth studio album in fifty years, Moving Fragments. Amazingly, this one just might be their best.
Grandiose Mellotron chords introduce Her Shadow’s Torture, a sumptuous slice of old school progressive rock. Bernardo Lanzetti’s voice seems untouched by time as he moves through an understated but satisfying vocal performance. Musically, this is keyboardist Stefano Pantaleoni’s show, but each of the instrumentalists makes a strong effort without going over the top. Long time members Franz Dondi and Piero Canavera, on bass and drums respectively, each make powerful contributions. Guitarist Claudio Tuma keeps it simple and tasteful while guest guitarist Stef Burns adds some crunch to White Horse on Dope. Repeated listens do nothing to aid in making sense of the lyrics, but here it is the sound that matters to me. Tempo changes and shifting meters give the song depth, and the captivating music makes it a fun listen. Moving Fragments is the shortest track on the album at barely more than three minutes. However, the layers of keyboard sounds contribute to the quirkiness, and the funky bass lines inject a new dimension.
Splitting the difference between a classic arrangement and a contemporary approach, Malo Bravo is the first of several songs performed in Italian. I especially like the way the accordion sits alongside the modern synths. Lanzetti’s passionate vocals bring his operatic tendencies to the fore. Canavera’s drums come across as delightfully madcap, lending an oddball quality to the song which makes it even more endearing. IA – Intelligenza Artificiale carries on the Italian vocals over a much more retro song structure. Early Genesis would be an apt comparison. Female vocals courtesy of Rossella Volta duet with Lanzetti. While both come across as passionate, Volta’s voice has an edge that seems to push the limits of pitch. Luckily, the Mellotron, electric piano and harpsichord are so arresting and add some patina to the throwback sensibility that any misgivings about the vocals are quickly dispelled. The final track sung in Italian is Il Suono Della Voce, a fantastic up tempo tune with a strong hook and an earworm chorus. Everything about the song seems considered without being calculated. There is an exuberance to the tune that lends itself to an arena sing-along, and a rock star guitar solo to boot. My only criticism would be the abrupt ending. If ever a song begged for an extended coda, this one is it.
Black Drone could easily have fit on any early Van der Graaf Generator album, thanks in no small part to guest sax and flute from David Jackson. Lanzetti’s vocals match the ferocity of the music. The sax, drums and guitar all get a workout on what is one of the best songs on the album. Another is Pantaleoni’s solo keyboard instrumental, DD Danz. Electric piano and crickets open the track, eventually welcoming eerie synth and organ. The variety of keyboards, all of them sounding sinister, is impressive and a fantastic change of pace. I’d definitely like to hear more from this talented composer and performer.
The album closes with the longest piece, the nearly six-minute Limerence Ethereal. Another stellar example of what Pantaleoni can do with the ivories, it is also a fine example of the two-edged sword that is Lanzetti’s voice. Sometimes his operatic tendencies seem to overwhelm the music, which it comes perilously close to doing here. When he reigns it in, the song sounds more cohesive; still, this is trademark Bernardo Lanzetti, so you learn to take the good with the overblown and the occasional odd pronunciation. Instrumentally, there is much to admire in this song, especially with the guitar riffs. The musicians make great use of dynamics, elevating Limerence Ethereal into a satisfying album finale.
Thanks to Bernardo Lanzetti’s unique voice, as showcased throughout by the crisp production, there is no other band that sounds quite like Acqua Fragile (unless, of course, Lanzetti is singing and then his vocals seem to dominate any band playing beneath him). Even the music, much of which is Lanzetti’s as well, carries the same quirks, creating something oddly lovable but too far from the mainstream for wider consumption. Which is too bad, because if you have the patience to give Acqua Fragile a full and honest listen, there is much here to be enjoyed.
01. Her Shadow’s Torture (5:52)
02. White Horse on Dope (4:08)
03. Moving Fragments (3:03)
04. Malo Bravo (4:50)
05. IA – Intelligenza Artfiiciale (4:07)
06. Black Drone (3:52)
07. DD Danz (4:16)
08. Il Suono Della Voce (5:05)
09. Limerence Ethereal (5:58)
Total Time – 41:11
Bernardo Lanzetti – Lead & Background Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Percussion, Programming
Franz Dondi – Bass
Piero Canavera – Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals
Claudio Tuma – Guitar
Stefano Pantaleoni – Keyboards
Stef Burns – Guitar (track 2)
Brian Belloni – Guitar (track 4)
Davide Piambino – 7-string Guitar (track 5)
David Jackson – Saxophone, Flute (track 6)
Gigi Cavalli Cocchi – Drums (tracks 1 & 6)
Sergio Ponti – Drums (tracks 1 & 9)
Rossella Volta – Vocals (track 5)
Record Label: MaRaCash Records
Country of Origin: Italy
Date of Release: 20th October 2023
Acqua Fragile – Bandcamp (MaRaCash Records)