Death By Water
Francesco Zago's avant baby puts together another amazing collection of experimental/exploratory songs-- their first studio album since 2010's wonderful masterpiece, Iridule. Percussionists and a percussion-mindset seem to rule the day with YUGEN work, and Death by Water is no exception. The ubiquitous JACOPO COSTA (NOT A GOOD SIGN, THE LOOMINGS) and Giuseppe A. OLIVINI practically steal the show--though the wind section, piano of Marcus FASOLI (NICHELODEON, NOT A GOOD SIGN, EMPTY DAYS), and rhythm section of Stefano FERRIAN on 8-strings guitar & Chapman stick, Francesco Zago on electric & acoustic guitars, Alessandro CASSANI on electric bass and Matteo LORITO on double bass are the glue that hold it all together.
1. "Cinically Correct" (7:48) This song, from its opening notes, makes me laugh. It is pure Yugen as only Yugen does it. Each musician contributes their individual lines as if to a conversation, a heated debate, a street brawl. Even the 'heavier' stuff that begins at 1:13 serve to move the development of the song along quite nicely. A relatively calm and predictable electric piano based section of about 90 seconds occurs in the third and fourth minutes, but then Dalila KAYROS begins to spit out rapid fire some odd vocal ejaculations (in Japanese?) Wow! That was unexpected! At 5:04 Dalila and Paolo "Ske" BOTTA team up to create a freaky space melody using voice and synthesizer, respectively! Awesome. More! The 'alien' conversation that occurs soon after is so funny--coupled with Dalila's machine gun spray of Japanese-sounding syllables. This is amazing! So creative! I don't know how these guys could/would ever replicate this in concert--it's seems so free form and diverse! They throw every thing at you but the kitchen sink! The final minute or two fall under the sway of the heavier rhythm section while all of the incidentalists throw in their epithets over, under, and in between the flow of the rhythmists. (9/10)
2. "Undermurmur" (1:31) is a jazzy excursion in which playful piano, double bass and drum interact before horn hits and synth whizzes are added to the mix. Fun. A song that could be developed further. (9/10)
3. "Death by Water" (5:06) is an awesome jazz fusion exhibition--like a PAUL WERTICO-led PAT METHENY GROUP song. I don't which drummer is working this song, Michele Salgarello or Carmelo Miceli, but they do an incredible job with the cymbal play. (10/10)
4. "Ten Years After" (1:12) (8/10) is a brief foray into djenty-heavy metal territory that gradually fades into:
5. "As It Was" (4:58) one of the two showcase pieces for the always precious Fancesco ZAGO-Elaine Di FALCO collaborations. I do think, however, that Elaine's voice is mixed just a little too loudly into the mix on this song. Her sonorous meanderings are a little too dominant, making it sound as if she is above or separate from the band and music. I'd like to hear this song in which her vocal line is mixed in, embedded within, the beautiful, intricately rendered, musical weave. It's still a great song--with an odd vocal melody that stays with you for days. It just . . . could be better! (9/10)
6. "Studio 9" (2:36) is an odd little jazzy piece that sounds like a warmup exercise for a big band lineup from a 1960s jazz combo--or a Broadway pit orchestra warming up at the end of intermission. Fun and funny, loose and impromptu. (9/10)
7. "As a Matter of Breath" (9:27) uses the more familiar YUGEN style of experimental jazz "un-forms." Though the drummer keeps a fairly steady rock backbeat for the rest of the instrumental dancers to tip-toe and riff and play over, the song is never what you would call 'danceable' as in social club dancing. These are for professionals! Piano--both grand and toy--have a grand time playing with time and interjection as does synthesizer, while horns play some of the more straightforward riffs--repeatedly. After a choir 'hit' at 5:26, the song takes a turn into a more eerie ambient or soundtrack of the macabre section. At times feeling as if the A Trick of the Tail GENESIS lineup were ready to burst out into the finale of "Los Endos," this song plays out with tremendous pent-up energy, waiting to burst forth, but then, instead, peters out and fades. Weird. But brilliant! (9/10)
8. "Drum'n'stick" (2:12) is little drum and Chapman stick duet with all kinds of ghostly spacey sounds parading around in the wings. Really quite cool! (9/10)
9. "Der Schnee" (6:05) is the album's real oddity in that vocalist Dalila KAYROS intersperses the music with all kinds of abrasive and aggressive vocalizations much like a combination of BJÖRK, NINA HAGEN and fellow AltrOck stablemate FACTOR BURZACO's lead singer, Carolina RESTUCCIA. The song opens with an eerie space synth weave over which lower register brass play long notes. Dalila begins throwing her voice around in the second minute. The final 90 seconds are quite ambient, even peaceful--in a 2001: A Space Odyssey-kind of way. Interesting--to say the least! (8/10)
10. "A House" (1:25) opens with acoustic guitars being picked in folk song style as Elaine Di FALCO sings front and center and ethereal male and female vocalists whisp and willow in the wings. Quite beautiful! This is one I'd love to hear go on for five or six minutes: the vocal arrangements alone are beautiful and interesting in a Josquin des Pres kind of way. (10/10)
The most curious thing about Yugen productions, to me, is that they are truly the brain-child of visionary FRANCESCO ZAGO, and Francesco is primarily a guitarist, and yet we rarely get to see/hear the guitar showcased! Is that selflessness or is it more attributable to the reality that Francesco is truly more of a conductor than an instrumentalist? Still, there is no doubt that when Francesco and his Yugen-mates get together to create music, they are fearless. On Death by Water the listener is treated to artistic expression of the highest order: modern in that dissonant, discordant way, yes, but still highly engaging and interesting. I find it mesmerizing.
Five stars; a masterpiece of progressive rock music." - ProgArchives