OTEME - il giardino disincantato

Osservatorio delle Terre Emerse (Observatory of Dry Lands), or OTEME is the carefully nurtured musical child of Italian artistic polymath Stefano Giannotti, who formed the band in 2010 to play a mix of rock and chamber music. Back in 2012 an album, il giardino disincantato (The Disenchanted Garden) was issued forth to barely a ripple of response outside of Italy. That in itself is a crime, for this rates as one of the most, well, enchanting pieces of music I have come across in a long, long time. Indeed, I would not normally review a "new" album so long after release, but I shall make a deserved exception in this case.

This imagined observatory is the place from which Stefano throws his net for inspiration, catching anything that drifts by on the currents of collective conscience. As he puts it himself in the CD booklet:

"Today the composer could (and not should) take a stab at daily noise, information saturation,...the cows in the country...the ozone hole and could in all that, while having fun, discover internal silence. This is when artistic creations become...observation points...Hybrid islands..."

With that implied aim, what we have here is a delightful construct that varies from the marching chamber rock of Caduta massi to the pastoral strains of Per mano conduco Matilde, visiting many points in between.





The lyrical concerns, luckily for us linguistically challenged Anglos, are reproduced in the CD booklet in English alongside the sung Italian. Like all good poetry, for this what we are reading, these concerns are impressionistic and fleeting and as such they are open to a number of interpretations, but they all point to a barely concealed heart of danger beneath a deceptively benign nature, both of the natural and metaphysical worlds.

After Tema dei campi, a beguiling chamber rock instrumental for piccolo, oboe, clarinet, double bass, teponatzli and cymbals, Ed io non c'ero is a tale of love, betrayal, and confusion to the backing of another effortlessly gorgeous melody, this time piano-led and perfectly conveying the melancholy and regret of the lyric.

As if the subtly complex beauty of the music was not enough, the artwork of the comprehensive CD booklet and of the tri-fold-out cover manage to further convey the mood with all the style and grace the music deserves, illustrating the permanence of geology juxtaposed with a hint of decay.

The album winds its way down a twisting stream through an autumnal wood with Dite a mia moglie (Tell My Wife) which as it unwinds might be a guiding hand to the woman left behind. Is the narrator dead or just elsewhere? Intriguing, and an example of the careful thought that has gone into the lyrics equals that put into the music, a rare occurence these days.

The title track is an almost funky chamber jazz workout and shows the whole ensemble for the high class outfit they obviously are. The highly varied instrumentation skips along with a carefree joy, cantering through a near-avant section that has passed before it has you thinking "hey, that was a bit strange". This garden has a waterfall, and it is here the track plays out as we leave this place. Il giardino disincantato the track, and in actual fact, the album too, is a very good example of highly skilled arranging and composition.

Tenuous links to earlier musical themes reappear, linking the hybrid islands as it were, in Sopra tutto e tutti, as a metaphorical flood devours all, the observation point being a mountain peak. Per mano conduco Matilde, a brief tale of the turning wheel of fortune and perseverance that includes a harmony section reminiscent of a Simon and Garfunkel tune precedes closing instrumental Terre emerse (Bolero primo). This last track does exactly what it says on the tin, but in the so easily absorbed subtle manner I have now come to expect.

This album is the most lovely thing I have heard in many a moon, and comes highly recommended if you were at all moved by the likes of last year's Empty Days album, to use a recent example of high art without a trace of bombast.

Tracklist:
1. Mattino (2:09)
2. Caduta massi (6:07)
3. Dal recinto (3:58)
4. Palude del diavolo (4:14)
5. Tema dei campi (5:01)
6. Ed io non c’ero (4:59)
7. Dite a mia moglie (5:05)
8. Il giardino disincantato (8:43)
9. Sopra tutto e tutti (9:01)
10. Per mano conduco Matilde (4:35)
11. Terre emerse (Bolero primo) (7:43)

Total running time - 61:35


Line up:
Valeria Marzocchi - flute, piccolo, vocals
Nicola Bimbi - oboe, English horn
Lorenzo del Pecchia - clarinet, bass clarinet
Maicol Pucci - trumpet, flugelhorn
Stefano Giannotti - lead voice, classic and electric guitar, bajo, componium, harmonica, synth, teponatzli, metallophone, plastic bottle
Valentina Cinquini - harp, vocals

Emanuela Lari - piano, organ, vocals
Gabriele Michetti - bass guitar, double bass, vocals
Matteo Cammissa - drums, xlyophone, tympani

and:
Thomas Bloch – glass harmonica (1)

http://www.stefanogiannotti.com




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