ACQUA FRAGILE – A New Chant
Esoteric Antenna 2017
“The need for a mild revenge” brings Italian art-rock mavericks back for a final blow.
Not content with keeping a solid position in the footnote of Apennine music’s annals, this ensemble found another fount of creativity on the other side of millennial divide and returned with, arguably, their finest work, giving a warped continuity to the band’s two classic albums. The group stopped after 1974’s “Mass-Media Stars” when Bernardo Lanzetti jumped ship to sweeten "Chocolate Kings" for P.F.M., but it’s like there hasn’t been a 43-year hiatus, as neither the singer nor the rhythm section of Piero Canavera and Franz Dondi show any wear ‘n’ tear.
They may be prone to a certain self-criticism, yet it doesn’t get in the way of vim and doesn’t affect their burning ambition. The folk-stricken “My Forte” – the strength which, the veterans admit, is to surrender – sends a piano ripple across triumphant strings, while the effusive vocals – deepened, not withered by the passage of time – stage an ever-expanding, dramatic performance on oratorio scale, whereas “Rain Drops” is wrapping Peter Sinfield lyrical miniature in operatic, orchestral awe. Grandiosity isn’t a thing here, though, what with Animoog revving and multiplying its harmonic assault to lend “Wear Your Car Proudly” a modern, if dipped in art-rock tradition, edge and let sharp riffs define a danger.
The incantation of “All Rise” turning into a speedy romp through cosmic landscape could work wonders live, yet the song sounds superficial on the album. It’s balanced with a tender serenade “How Come” and the stately title composition which floats through the fabric of years but, treading pop waters, “Tu Per Lei”- the only number sung in Italian – holds a brass band march in its parade to lead the listener towards a polyphonic anthem. Still, it’s “The Drowning” that’s the passionate pivot of it all, a piece most impressively immersive when the track’s tremulous balladry is swept away with a heavily rocking wave only to be lifted by a hymnal chorus and taken beyond the horizon on a scorching guitar solo.
This horizon can be the last line for the ensemble, and if it’s so their comeback was worth the effort.