Bron Y Aur - "Quien Sabe?"
Anatrofobia - "Tesa Musica Marginale"
Gianni Gebbia / Lukas Ligeti / Massimo Pupillo - "The Williamsburg Sonatas"

[Wallace Records,]

It seems the Italian independent music scene is quite healthy and these three releases only further prove this point.
Some would call this post-rock, while others would favour the label prog-rock or perhaps some would say no-wave. Regardless of labels, four members of Bron Y Aur have taken their 70's prog rock heritage seriously to heart, melted it with influences from kraut rock scene [I can hear echoes of Faust in most tracks] and enhanced the whole musical dish with healthy doses of improvised music influences. "Quien Sabe?" demonstrates how melting guitars can actually take on new shapes, while the elastic percussion can act as a catalyst. The band freely admits what they wanted to do on this release is to record some free improvisations, rather continue to stick to song-forms that they'd favoured in the past [they've covered Pink Floyd tracks on their first demo tape]. In parts, these jam sessions remind me of metal days gone by, while in other sections, the quartet is really stretching and showing off their innovative side. My favourite moments arrive when they utilizes feedback in a duel fight with percussion. Feedback dies down and the percussionist Marco Mazzoldi is left alone with his cymbals. As he starts a game of playing tenderly with his set, the other members slowly reappear. My biggest beef is the fact that the tracks here are too short, which means a lot of ideas are left underdeveloped. Deliberately slow and grueling in their pacing, while full of superb ideas, Bron Y Aur are one step closer to becoming better known outside of their homeland.

Anatrofobia is a quintet that has been around since 1990. "Tesa Musica Marginale" is their fifth record, and similarly to Bron Y Aur, they too like to showcase their prog-rock influences. Once again, guitar feedback is a big love for the band. Roberto Sassi shows great skill at inching angular feedback ever closer to our ears as they're about to bleed. The mood is ominous and the themes on the record are quite grave. This is not to say that the record is lacking in any form of subtlety. Check out the tender bass lines that intermingle with the [surprise] melodic guitar picking on "La Prima Merla". But then again, to show-off their other personality, as the piece winds down, the quintet breaks out in a staunch rock march. So what if some of this music sounds like a soundtrack to video games from early 80's [anyone still remember Centipede sound effects?], truth be known, these musicians are trying to pen something across that is equal parts ambitious and novel. Maybe they should consider writing a rock opera?

Finally, we come to the trio record "The Williamsburg Sonatas". Played and composed by alto saxophonist Gianni Gebbia, drummer Lukas Ligeti and bassist Massimo Pupillo, this record is an exercise in composition over improvisation. For some reason, each piece is dedicated to an important figure to the band Shirin Neshat, John Zorn, J.M Basquiat or Francesca Woodman. I'm happy to report that Gianni Gebbia's alto work is as angular and squeaky as ever. While he prefers to stay in the upper registers, his cohorts play support roles quite well. Massimo Pupillo gives this session a well-needed kick in the pants as his electric bass playing grooves and stutters along quite nicely. All along, drummer Lukas Ligeti is one player with a keen ear for detail. His drum set is never overplayed. He prefers to keep a low profile and give exact dashes of flavour when they're absolutely needed. Whether you call this session electric jazz, eclectic improvisation or just plain amusing, the result is certainly worth taking a listen to.

Tom Sekowski

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