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CD Feature/ Ex-P: "Ancora Saigon" & "Carpaccio Existenziale"; I/O: "Polytone"

img  Tobias

In its cheapest form, cross-over simply means blending two distinct styles into a new musical entity. In its advanced state, it is the result of recognising that no one except the commercial demands of the art business and institutionalised market forces are preventing you from using every musical tool and technique at your disposal. Taking these considerations as a starting point for their personal definition of true Avantgardism, fourpiece Ex-P have built a manageable but meaningful discography of two releases with an ardent potential of shaking up the borders between Rock, Jazz and Ambient.

Quickly approaching their fifth anniversary, the band have established themselves as a local underground phenomenon, whose reach may have faltered at the borders of their native Italy with their first album, but whose continued live presence, highly ambitious visual presentation and professional distribution contacts should virtually ensure wide-spread recognition for their second studio installment – unless their undeniably wild and eclectic blend of musical styles should cause an implosion among members in the meantime. 

Aforemnetioned debut “ancora saigon” was a veritable tour de force, its post rock structures transporting both relentless energetic propulsion, emotive textural stasis and pure and simple pastoral beauty. Discounting three short pieces just underneath the two-minute mark, tracks take plenty of time to develop, regularly passing through several distinct parts and passages to arrive at euphoric finales, whose crescendi safely avoid both the blandly hymnical and the hushedly blase. 

Stylistically, the record veers between psychedelic chambermusical fantasies, peaceful acoustic atmospheres, electronic experimentation, aggressive, heel-yepping Proto-Funk and the shisha-puffing, lavalamplit Hippie-Dream of eleven minute closer “Zaratustra Reprise”, replete with echoes of The Doors and rolling Timpani-toms. The foundation supplied by the use of two basses provides for a sensation of deep calm and rich, rippling resonance, while the timbral contrast with Andrea Chiuni’s Clarinet adds a fairytale-like, classical feel to some moments. An intimate and immersive listen.

Regardless of the band’s more than just noteworthy first statement, this year’s follow-up “Carpaccio esistenziale” takes everything that made “ancora saigon” special and sublimates it into an even more spectacular sonic extravaganza. Alessandro Cartolari has joined on Sax, but it is less his contribution than the immensely extended pallette of compositional possibilities that keeps one hooked and glued to the edge of one's seat: Despite its concise length of just over fourty minutes, its twelve pieces try on every imaginable genre, every arrangement-related eccentricity, every striking contrast and mood swing.

More than ever, this is trippy, druggy music with a cinematic touch. The Rock element has been fortified by more openly groovy passages but at the same time, the inclusion of cool Jazz struts slows the momentum of the album down again. And just after you think you’ve settled into this on-a-dime stop-and-go rhythm, a soft, labyrinthine soundscape opens the gates to the stars.

Thanks to its occasional celebratory drum shuffles, the record manages to attain the inconceivable: Sounding both more daring and accessible than its predecessor. “Carpaccio Esistenziale” is an album that flows effortlessly despite its complexities and which offers pleasures of the mind and the body alike. Its contours are drenched in a bizarre light, regularly revealing stains of blood and extreme obsessions – an album that needed to be made and most likely forced itself through the birth canal rather than a resulting from a loose string of feel-good jam sessions.

Also an amphibical hybrid between Rock and Jazz, but with a much more focussed lense and an almost obsessive drive, I/O are the dark and dirty demon-version to Ex-P, the kind of lost brother who visits you once every ten years to ask you for money, takes you on an unwanted trip through the most decripit places in town and forces a night of drugs and excess upon you, to which you awake with a horrific headache and horrible regrets in the morning. 

“Polytone”, their full-length debut after several sampler contributions and public performances with avantgardistic ensembles in the greyzone between popular aesthetics and academic eccentricities such as LIARS, is a congruent Beatnick maelstrom of ritualistic rhythms, tribal hypnosis, shaman shuffles, grim growls, dirty-old-man grunts and slurping noises. Front-voodoo priest Andrea Reali is your guide, Drummer Paulo benzoni the backbone and spinal chord of the quartet, but it is the trance-inducing communication between the atmospheric rawness of Luca Mauri’s Guitar pulses and Paulo Romano’s thick and angular Bass resonances which puts a stamp on the album.

Even though loosing your mind is an essential theme here, a refined sound, in stark contrast to the blurry fuzz of most comparible bands, is essential for the band’s personality, which relies heavily on intensity and rawness rather than on vague suggestions. Producer Paolo Censi as well as Giuseppe Iealasi, who was called in for mastering assistance, are therefore not just technical aides, but almost additional band members for I/O, whose monolithic rock propulsion, jazzy coolness and structural proximity to the sound art department provides them with ample opportunities of taking their style to new horizons – just imagine these pieces stretched to a staggering thirty or fourty minutes and the relentless mayhem they could cause and you’ve got a potential live sensation in the making.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Ex-P
Homepage: I/O
Homepage: Fratto 9 Under the Sky Records

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