Il Ballo delle Castagne - Soundtrack for an Unreleased Herzog Movie

My last encounter with Italian musical mavericks Il Ballo delle Castagne was 2012's Surpassing All Other Kings, a Gothic-tinged Rock Progressivo Italiano album of some merit that nonetheless maybe tried just a little too hard.

This new album is an altogether different kettle of fish. As its title might suggest, Soundtrack for an Unreleased Herzog Movie is the musical backing for an imagined film by the famous German art-house movie director.

Herzog's grandiose trips into the filmic equivalent of Wagnerian drama, often with religious themes lend the band a neat tie-in to their own Gothic soundscapes.

Heavenly and slightly removed choirs illuminate opener In The Garden of Popol Vuh, itself paying tribute not just to the film maker but also to the iconic German band who contributed soundtracks to many of Herzog's films. Suitably low-key, this is followed by more tribute to Florian Fricke's marvellously ethereal band, as synth space whispers weave through harpsichord notes before an understated organ chord progression takes hold, giving the piece an early Floyd feel. Then comes the more upfront Il Pianto di Cristo su Gerusalemme which features narration in Italian from leader Vinz Aquarian and more of the heavenly choir.



Psychedelic Middle Eastern atmosphere permeates Profumi di Oriente, and more Italian narration  features in the closing and longest track Sicut in Caelo. Built around a neo-classical piano melody from Marco Garegnani, who plays with style and restraint throughout, the tune takes a stately and unhurried progression to a dusty corner of introspection, moving from lento to moderato and back again, with synth embellishments occasionally making eddies in the dust motes dancing in the sunbeams. A tune to get lost in.

Of the two albums I have heard from Ballo di Castagne, this is by far the most realised and mature, and if you are a fan of Popol Vuh, look no further! Soundtrack for an Unreleased Herzog Movie hints at good things to come from this intriguing band, who are taking modern RPI somewhere a little off the beaten track.

Tracklist:
1. In the Garden of Popol Vuh (4:56)
2. Lentus In Umbra (7:04)
3. Il Pianto di Cristo Su Gerusalemme (8:33)
4. Profumi di Oriente (4:43)
5. Sicut In Caelo (10:38)

Total running time - 35:54

Line up:
Vinz Aquarian - voice, moog, kaossilator
Diego Banchero - bass
Marco Garegnani - piano, harpsichord, acoustic guitar, percussion
Roberto Lucanato - guitar, synthesizer
Davide Bruzzi - guitar
Marina Larchi - voice

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Note - originally released in a very limited run of 100 on vinyl on the Hau Ruk! SPQR label, it is not immediately apparent where you might get hold of this album now. I suggest you contact the band through Facebook.

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