Dario And The Clear - Banquet Of Noise

Dario And The Clear – Banquet Of Noise

Dario Saraceno is a singer, guitarist and Stickist native to Ripacandida, situated in the Italian province of Potenza, about 150Km east of Naples, and 1300Km from London, where he settled in in the sixties. Dario and his band, The Clear, has released seven albums since 2011. Banquet Of Noise is the third album in a trilogy, preceded by Optic Nerve and Reflective Touch. These three albums are based around Dario’s perception of the social and political state of the world (a concept trilogy of albums could be a first). And let’s assume that most, if not all, concept albums are by prog or progressive rock bands, so this might be one of those.

The Clear, as a band, seems to be more a vehicle for the music, than a constant presence of an established crew that is called into action to serve Dario’s collections of songs. On this album the band features Trey Gunn. Mr. Gunn is not a character from a Dickens novel. He plays tapping instruments like Chapman Stick and Warr guitar. These instruments are associated with progressive music and so this is consistent with my theory that this is progressive rock and with my other theory that The Clear has no permanent crew. I don’t see Mr. Gunn in the credits for the first two albums. For reasons that should be obvious, Trey Gunn, known for his work with Toyah Wilcox, who by coincidence is also not a character from a Dickens novel, and some bloke she is married to, Robert Wilcox, is in itself a sign that Dario Saraceno might well be a prog artist. It also features Steve Ball, Founding Member of the Guitar Circle, Seattle and, like Mr. Gunn, a disciple of that Robert Wilcox. This is all factually correct. And talking of fact, I think the followers of that Wilcox bloke might be a bit of a fripping cult! The plot thickens.

Is it prog, though? Despite my instinctive aversion to prog, I got past the first few bars of the title track that was offered to me as a teaser. So, it might not be. This, the eighth track on the album, Banquet of Noise, I found most intriguing. With its plinky-plonky guitar sitting over a lo-fi middle eastern style rhythm, albeit in a more pedestrian 4/4 and not some 10/8 Samai groove, it felt different enough to grab my attention. Sadly, the opening bars fail to develop into a theme for the song, fading out some 23seconds in. It is replaced with some traditional Tube Screaming guitar led rock, replete with a fully syncopated groove. Which is nice.

Now, I know what you’re saying – “10/8? You like 10/8? I thought you didn’t like prog”! To which I say, “Yer Mum”.

By the time I’d cycled back around to the second track, Self Disclosure, I heard the unmistakable sound of a phased tapping instrument, front and centre (actually it was jumping from the left channel to the right, but you get the point) and I am a sucker for tapping instruments, like Chapman Stick and Warr guitar. Even though Dario plays Stick, I suspect that this must be Mr. Gunn and his Warr. I think this is the catchiest track on the album and I’m singling it out as my favourite.

While the press release compares the music on this album to that of Talking Heads, Blondie, and The Eurythmics, I’m not convinced. On first listen, I had not yet read the promo blurb. I found more than a hint of David Bowie’s influence. That’s a very broad statement to make, given the same man did a Laughing Gnome through I’m Afraid Of Americans all the way to Blackstar, demonstrating just how diverse Bowie’s output was through the years. Even so, this reminded me less of his more experimental Berlin albums, my favourite period in Bowie’s history, and more his commercially successful music from the early to mid-1980s.

There are some very Bowiesque sounds going on. I’d go as far as saying The Clear sounds more like a David Bowie backing band than a band made up of actual David Bowie backing band alumni that I recently saw in That London! Even though this has a later period Bowie feel, the guitar sometimes carries a saucy Mick Ronson-like tone and, on occasion, a palpable, compelling, and sustained RobertWilcoxAtronix sustain.

Vocally, there’s often a clear David Bowie similarity/influence in Dario’s mid-range, though Dario sometimes sings in a deeper register. His tenor voice possesses a similar crooning timbre to that adopted later on by Bowie after he was finished being The Thin Great Aladdin Stardust, though when Dario does choose to sing in a lower range the similarity to our beloved Goblin King or any other of Mr. Jones’s alter egos is less obvious. It’s not like I’m a Bowie fan or I’m particularly sensitive or clever or nuffink, but blow me down if I didn’t read the release blurb which revealed that Recall is a tribute to David Bowie, as evidenced by the clear lyrical references to Bowie’s work throughout the song. There’s little evidence, musically, of Bowie’s early stuff, though. I found Recall much closer to the pseudo Industrial feel of Earthling than it was to The Bewlay Brothers.

At this stage of a review for The Progressive Aspect I usually ask, somewhat tongue in cheek, if it’s prog. But I already did that. Mercifully, I don’t think that Banquet Of Noise is. I don’t think it’s even overly derivative, even though the press release pretty much invites comparison to David Bowie. Even so, I feel justified in banging on about the Bowie connection. I hope for some it will be a compelling reason to follow up and give it a damn good listening-to.

Would I buy this album? In truth, even though I enjoyed doing the review and listening to the album, I’m undecided. It doesn’t quite flip my switch. But I do wholeheartedly recommend giving it a listen and consider whether YOU would buy it. At the time of writing this the whole trilogy (and more) was available to hear on YouTube (link below), and if you enjoy it for free in this way then you should definitely consider visiting the Bandcamp page and parting with your $15USD, because that is how the right thing is done.

This does come across as an almost tribute album, or, if you prefer, a love letter to a muse. Well, if you’re going to adopt a muse for your inspiration – and do it well – I can’t think of a better muse than David Bowie. Buy it because it’s a bit like Bowie, but enjoy it because it’s Dario And The Clear. 

01. Recall (4:17)
02. Self Disclosure (3:19)
03. Love Has Won (3:47)
04. Angels Crying (5:09)
05. Convicting Silence (5:19)
06. Star-Crossed Lovers (3:39)
07. Gotto Contro Topo (4:44)
08. Banquet of Noise (4:53)

Total Time – 35:07

Dario Saraceno – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Bass, Chapman Stick, Keyboards
Eric Dalton – Backing Vocals, Engineering
Trey Gunn – Warr Guitar (5)
Tony DePaolo – Lead Guitar (4)
Sue Leonard – Vocals (6)
Jason Blake – Warr Guitar (7)
Natasha Coward – Vocals (3)
Gabriel Marin – Lead Fretted & Fretless Guitar (8)
Eric Person – Sax

Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Date of Release: 1st April 2024

Dario And The Clear – Facebook | Bandcamp | YouTube