Music For Uplifiting Gormandizers

Round Robin (Altura mix)
This track, which opens my new EP (released dec. 13th 2019 on Hell Yeah Recordings) belongs to a small family of tunes, there’s more like this on my album (due in spring). Organic (after Don Cherry’s definition), empty music with a repetitive structure that “is always the same but never the same”, as noted by Andrea Amaducci who designed the cover. While working on this music I accidentally bumped into some genres, mixing elements and solutions from distant musical styles. According to Dj and music expert Fabio De Luca, whom I trust, Round Robin exactly captures the spirit of Balearic music, which is really nice to know. Everything here is played by hand including the percussion tracks, which are long loops. A few mistakes were corrected in post-production, everything else is live including the mermaid sounds, made with an electric guitar and the Ebow. I’d like to take the opportunity to thank Marco Gallerani/Hell Yeah for the care and energy in promoting my music.

Ravel’s Bolero is one of the most popular classical music pieces. It is indeed a very approachable piece, with a simple AABB structure and two very pleasant melodies. Also it stays in C major throughout, giving it a tension and simplicity that surely contributes to its success. I’ve been thrilled by the Bolero since day one, as a kid. What really enticed me was its structure: same key and tempo throughout with the constant crescendo. I also found the melodies very attractive, the first more sunny and friendly, the second threatening and lascivious. Even then I loved repetition in music.

I made my first Bolero in 2000, with the complicity of Maurizio Liguori of TechnoGod in their studio in Bologna. It was a dubby/d’n’b take, still unpublished. I don’t really like that arrangement anymore, except for one idea which I kept in this new version: shifting the time signature from 3/4 to 4/4.

In this version there is another suggestion I’ve had while listening to Ravel’s piece: the second theme sounds like it was written for distorted electric guitar. I imagined it being played by two of my favorite guitarists, both very sentimental yet intensely different: Frank Zappa (the most adventurous guitarist I’ve ever heard) and Robert Fripp (the most soulful yet measured and scientific guitarist there is). So I devised a suitable background for this odd sonic marriage to happen. I’ve played guitar for most of my life, yet I’ve never imagined myself as a guitar hero: this is as close as I’ve ever been. Moreover, I’ve always felt that the Dobro was a really funky instrument, with or without bottleneck.

Altamira Shuffle (part 1 & 2)
My very first attempt at a record collection, age 15, was with Jazz albums. Of course I also listened to Prog, West Coast music and the occasional Santana, but my money went to Jazz. Mingus, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker were my idols, although I also had an odd attraction for earlier, pre-Be Bop Jazz: the big bands, Swing, even Dixieland. It was different from, say, Coltrane: orchestral music without long solos, a lot of arrangements, plenty of groove and the Blues loud and clear. When I discovered Count Basie I became his #1 fan: he was the Dr Dre of Swing. His music wasn’t just notes: the ambiance, sound, atmosphere was so deeply cool that it was enough, you didn’t really need melodies. When Swing became Pop in the 1940s, it retained this quality: much of Peggy Lee’s allure is in the sonic places her singing is set into, case in point the urban, nocturne, decadent Black Coffee. I like Jazz but not Jazz solos, with a few exceptions: too many notes way too fast for way too long. That’s why I love Miles: few notes, plenty of repetitions and space in between.

So some time ago I set out to make music that looked like Jazz, retained its atmospheric qualities and rhythm tension, without solos but with two important new ingredients: the delay (which is perfect for swinging beats) and a Dub/Techno mentality. I made a few tunes (there will be more on the album), this was one of the first. Someone called it Voodoo Jazz, it sounds just about right to me.

The beat is made with layers of samples, percussion parts and delays. Everything else is played by hand. The reason it’s (part 1 & 2) is because it follows a structure that goes back to the late 50s/mid 60s. At that time you could only put 3 minutes of music on each side of a 45. But if you had a nice rolling groove and wanted people to hear it all, you could put part 2 on the B side. James Brown did it, and a million other people too. The first time this concept hit me hard was with Julie Driscoll & Brian Auger: their Save Me (part 1 & 2), perhaps the bravest Aretha Franklin cover ever, was my favorite song when I was 9.

Needless to say, by Altamira I mean Altamira.

I have a weak spot for the special mix of love, sadness and calòr in Latin music, may it be spanish, italian, portuguese, colombian or mexicana. This is a man thing: sure, women sing of pain and love too, but these songs are devised as vehicles for “male vulnerability”. Of course it’s a toxic and wrong vulnerability, and it often comes with violent feelings: woman, you’re bad, evil, but I cannot let you go, I might kill you. Yet, the music, the melodies are so passionate in a simple, corny way that I can’t help but love them. It’s the case with Perfìdia (emphasis on the first I), which is so catchy I could remember it from way, way back when I heard it on Tv as a kid. Then YouTube came along and I discovered the Los Panchos version (this one in particular, with the endless intro), which is unsurpassable: Hernando Avilés, the singer, carries the melody like a prince. Everyone covered Perfidia, from Linda Ronstadt to Bocelli, but very few managed to capture the macho despair of Los Panchos.

My version features a fixation of mine: Rhythm boxes. Not just old drum machines, which I like, but those ancient instruments (often attached to organs) that only had preset rhythms: Rock, Swing, Beguine, Cha Cha, etc. I really like these presets, and I’ve often used them in the past. In this case it’s (a high quality sample of) the Bossanova rhythm from the 1973 Roland TR 66, slightly modified. The rest is played by hand. Obviously I didn’t go for amor y sentimiento as only Los Panchos can. Instead I imagined Perfìdia in an exotic dance bar for older weed smokers, played by a guitar orchestrina with a drum box.

Performed, recorded, sequenced and mixed in 2019 by SM, except Bolero, mixed by Paolo Gozzetti. Artwork by Andrea Amaducci.

Bolero, an extract from the forthcoming album Sensual Musicology, was written by Maurice Ravel in 1928. Perfidia was written by Alberto Domínguez in 1940. Round Robin and Altamira Shuffle are by Sergio Messina. 

The phrase Music for Uplifting Gormandizers is part of one of the most magical acronyms in the history of R'n'R: CBGB OMFUG, name of  the legendary New York Punk and R'nR club active between 1973 and 2006. It means "Country, BlueGrass, Blues and Other Music for Uplifting Gormandizers". While writing this music I wasn't sure what genre of music I was making. At first I thought it must be some kind  of odd Country with Jazz and Blues but then it turned out to be something else, so I figured maybe it could be MFUG. I'm still open about the genre.

Thank you to Paolo Gozzetti, Fabio De Luca, Fumo & Eva, Max Pontrelli/Cris Music Milano.

Review on by Andrea Valentini (in italian)
Review on Sbcomunicazione by Stefano Ballini (in italian)
Short review on Repubblica's weekly mag Il Venerdì by Alba Solaro (in italian)
Review on the music magazine Rumore by Andrea Pomini (in italian)

Buy this album on Bandcamp

Download Artwork in PDF