I follow quite a few people whose taste in music can be trusted implicitly. They are not ‘taste-makers’ per se, but individuals who know their sounds and are only too happy to share the love. As you will have probably guessed many of the albums that have been recommended by them have ended up being featured on these pages. Just occasionally, however, a record pops up on pretty much all their recommendations at once… almost magically as if from nowhere; and this second album from Blak Saagan is one of those. To the extent that I went from intrigued to absolutely sold in a matter of hours.
Blak Saagan in effect is Italian multi-instrumentalist and composer Samuele Gottardello, who weaves his sonic magic from near the Venetian lagoon in Northern Italy. This latter fact comes as no surprise when you listen to this wonderful double album, given the indebtedness that Gottardello clearly has to those classic Italian psychedelic/ occult soundtracks of the 1960s and 70s. However, although this set carries many of the atmospheres generated by these classic compositions, he takes his sounds much further out than that into an area that would use eclecticism as an understatement.
The intrigue is further emphasised when you realise that the album as a whole acts as something of a soundtrack to an imaginary film about the the abduction, and subsequent killing, of former Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro in 1978 by Red Brigade terrorists… an episode that is surrounded by layers of politics and conspiracies. Two years in the making, this is a wonderfully sprawling double album that reflects both the claustrophobic intensity of Moro’s internment, as well as providing a panoramic overview to the broader milieu surrounding the event.
The set kicks off with ‘Convergenze Parallele’ as a simple repeated keyboard pattern is gradually augmented by a single drone and organ… from the start you can tell that this is a soundtrack to something, an overture to a more dense narrative to come. Indeed, the album really hits its stride with ‘Scuola Hyperion’, which bears many of the hallmarks you many well associate with Italian film music… there is that beautifully sinister organ pattern which adds so much texture to the sound, with an underlying psychedelic rhythm track anchoring the whole of this from underneath.
It already feels as if we are well into the story when ‘Saltano Le Percorelle’ hits you… a slower number it has a wonderfully languid repeating pattern that really does draw you into the recording… providing an effective backdrop for ‘L’uomo Incapuccacito’ with its gothic organ, and fragmenting and disorienting electronics… taking the listener from the order of the previous track to the edge of chaos here.
The mood is further darkened on ‘Aperitivo Al Bar Olivetti’ with its distinctly monotone feel… if this was in a film you could imagine some sort of black and white interlude that gradually retains its colour as more nuance is added to the basic beat/ drone until it breaks out into a lovely melody as the meaning of the scene is fully revealed. At ten minutes this is a terrific track to accompany deep thought.
After that ‘Ore 9: Attacco Al Cuore Dello Stato’ has a similar vibe in terms of its psychedelic underpinning, at least when you bury down into it. Having said that it is also very different too… and a good example of how Gottardello is able to vary the sound while keeping the listener on track in terms of narrative. This is followed up by ‘Achtung! Achtung!’ which, as the title suggests has more of a Teutonic feel to it with some definite nods to the likes of Kraftwerk. After the varying levels of ethereality this track is built more on solid ground with beats replacing drones as the fundamental foundation of the the piece.
What follows, with ‘Dentro La Prigione Del Popolo’, is a sort of hybrid of the two. There is more of a solid beat here… I may have even spotted a cow bell in there… but the darker drones return too. It is a track that sort of drags you along inviting you to really get inside it with its pulses and reverbs, finally returning to the gothic at the end… a seven minute journey that leaves you entranced.
‘La Trattativa – La Speranza’ begins hymn-like… a slow repeating organ pattern that maintains that gothic/ occult feeling. Gradually, however, a really rather lovely melody once again emerges from the simple beginning infusing an altogether lighter energy to the proceedings. This direction is maintained with ‘E Lo Spettro Disse “Gradoli”’ which has as such a mix of styles in it, including what feels like a stretch right back to Vivaldi at some point. This more panoramic track, then, which also feels like a delve back into the temporal depths of Italian music through to the present day.
While there are hints of ‘classic’ compositions throughout this amazing set, ‘Lettera Da Via Massimi’ sees a return to something more akin to a soundtrack as the sinister vibe returns and you slide through the landscape as if in a 70s drama with this lovely vignette of a track which soothes as much as it disturbs… and that is somehow the essence of this record… hitting you from many different angles and taking surprising turns as you listen to it.
Nowhere is this more the case than with ‘La Firma Del Legionario’ which takes another different tack as the pace once again slows to a throbbing beat atop a dark drone, taking us once again into a dark psychological underworld that occasionally allows us to come up for air. This is Gottardello’s music at it’s most claustrophobic… like, I guess, being in a car boot with limited air.
Which brings us to the title track, ‘Se Ci Fosse La Luce Sarebbe Bellissimo’, at the end of what is an epic and sonically fulfilling journey through much that is good about leftfield Italian instrumental music. This track has a gentle ebb and flow to it, yet is typically far from gentle in its overall persona… it is like the musical equivalent of waves gently lapping on a beach while, in the distance, a storm is raging… you know that the storm will affect you, you just don’t know how yet… perhaps an observation that could encapsulate the music in this set more generally.
This, then, is a majestic and epic seventy five minute set which takes the listener on a real journey through epic psychological vistas and claustrophobic internal conflicts… it is an album that constantly challenges and constantly defies expectations. It is an album in which the listener can feel totally absorbed while at the same time wonder at the atmospheres that are created here… coupled with a narrative that both suggests itself and invites you to develop your own story. All in all this is a fulfilling listen which I not cannot wait to hear in its full glory on vinyl.
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