Sunday, September 21, 2008

Stormy Six: Macchina maccheronica (L'orchestra, 1980)

One of the founding members of the Rock In Opposition movement (Henry Cow/Art Bears, Samla Mammas Manna, Etron Fou Leloublan, Stormy Six, Univers Zero, Art Zoyd, Aksak Maboul), Stormy Six had the great pop-musicologist Franco Fabbri as a guitarist. They began their career opening for the Rolling Stones concert in Milan, in 1967. After a couple of singles based on Italian cover versions of English hits, they released their first album "Le idee di oggi per la musica di domani" (Today's ideas for the music of tomorrow). Their style evolved from a Beatles/Moody Blues psych-pop into a complex and politically engaged progressive folk, strongly influenced by the neo-Partisanism of the Cantacronache movement. The peak was reached in 1975 with their fourth album "Un biglietto del tram" (A tram ticket); the nine-minute long "Stalingrado/La fabbrica" is still a classic of left-wing demonstrations.
"Cliché" collected a couple of theatre soundtracks, but the real turning point towards a more explicitly experimental attitude was "L'apprendista" (The apprentice), in 1977. With its complex Gentle Giant nestings, its chamber/folk leanings and more easy-going lyrics, it was more than just a prelude to the unique R.I.O. sound of "Macchina Maccheronica" (Macaronic machine).

Being released in 1980 - definitely late for a progressive album - "Macchina maccheronica" was overlooked in Italy, but it was praised by the German critics. Featuring ex-Henry Cow cellist Georgie Born, the LP still focuses on the elaborate inlays of the previous one, but the attitude is much more ludic: fanfare-like passages are spread everywhere, multi-style renditions of the Milanese 30s song "O mia bèla madunina" are used as track separators. The music's anyhow the most experimental ever released by the band until then: unusual scales and harmonies, complex rhythm patterns and instrumental weaves are the key elements of the longer tracks, which particularly shine for the lively wind lines and the Fripp/Frith guitar soloing of Franco Fabbri.

The band would continue their career until the mid-eighties and face some live reunions in the Nineties, but I'll probably write about these events in a second time.

  1. Macchina maccheronica
  2. Le lucciole
  3. Madonina
  4. Megafono
  5. Madonina
  6. Banca
  7. Pianeta
  8. Rumbo sugli alberi
  9. Enzo
  10. Verbale
  11. Madonina
  12. Somario
  13. Madonina
  14. Macchina Maccheronica
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