I haven’t revisited this series for a while. Last I dipped into this theme was 2021, in fact. Thankfully I’ve since been able to return to the continent and am already booked up to do so again this summer.
The stupidity and complete cuntwomblery that is / was Brexit has made it a little tricker – bit more faff at borders – but there is hope that this will soon change as the reality of just what a fucking twat of an idea it was becomes clear and the costs of that blue passport* become clearer cause climb down after climb down…. I’ll stop before this becomes too political again. Where was I? Oh, yes, with Italy on the cards again this summer this felt like a good opportunity to pull this one out of ‘drafts,’ blow off the proverbial dust, finesse and let it loose.
Italy is one of those countries I’d longed to see and doing so in 2011 was a fantastic experience. We’ll be going back this summer and getting to show the cub some of the wonderful things the country has to offer is something that fills me with immense joy. When it comes to culture and, particularly music, Italy is a touchstone and has given so much to us.
But, if this blog doesn’t touch on the expected classical (though Vivaldi is responsible for some of my favourite pieces), discuss opera or, as sure as the Pope wears a ridiculous hat and heads a shameful organisation, won’t add a Måneskin video – what has my digging into music from the footwear-shaped country yielded?
Red Light Skyscraper – 4AM
Let’s get things started with a little post-rock – because it’s usually my way ‘in’ to a country’s music lately. One of the joys of a mostly-instrumental genre is its universality and yet there are differences to be found in the genre from country to country as well as region to region in some instances. Red Light Skyscraper (yes, a very post-rock band name) hail from Siena and lean to a more modern (concise tunes vs, say, GSYBE!’s 20 min epics) and propulsive element, with a few choice samples here and there and some solid driving beats. ‘4AM’ (I’m a sucker for a song with a time in the title) kicks pretty fucking hard once it gets going.
Ennio Morricone – Gabriel’s Oboe
When it comes to film score composers Ennio Morricone, born in Rome in 1928, was one of the very best. Not as grand in sound as John Williams, say, but nobody could create a score as evocative or moving as Ennio Morricone – whether it’s the famous stand-off in ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’ or the sheer emotional heft that lived in the swell of strings throughout the score from’Once Upon A Time In America.’ For me, though, very little beats ‘Gabriel’s Oboe’.
Massimo Volume – Le nostre ore contate
These guys have been at it since 1991, save for a temporary break between 2002 – 2008. Their vocalist has a sort of poetic, spoken-word approach to vocals (Italian sounding like one of the more poetic European languages vs, say, German) against a guitar and drum-driven instrumental backdrop that’s almost like post-rock in its build ups, rhythms and structure. All bloody good things and right up my alley.
Baustelle – Charlie fa surf
Now this one I’ve really been enjoying – it’s got a brilliantly upbeat, bounce to it, I really dig the vocal harmonies and it gets bonus points for, in what seems like a made-for-radio tune, including “andate a farvi fottere” (go fuck yourself). It’s always good to learn the important phrases when trying a new language.
Hailing from the Tuscan town of Montepulciano, Baustelle describe themselves as having an “extremely peculiar blend of Italian pop tradition, British pop (Pulp, the Smiths), and French chanson… mixed with 1960s naivety and 1980s imagery.”
Manuel Agnelli – La Profondità Degli Abissi
From what I’ve read there were a few big rock bands to come out of Italy during the ’90s. One of them was a group called Afterhours and this is a solo song from their singer Manuel Agnelli. ‘La Profondità Degli Abissi’ (the depth of the abyss) packs a lot into its three minutes and, even though I haven’t a clue what he’s singing about, it’s an all-out bonkers-yet-brilliant cracker and I really dig the way his vocals build up and soar off with strings.
*I had to update my passport on return from France last year and reluctantly traded in my ‘EU’ passport for the dark blue one but take great amusement from the fact that, inside, it bears greater resemblance to the EU ID cards than anything ever before
3 thoughts on “Out of Europe: Five From Italy”
Interesting post! Even though I visited Italy multiple times while living in Germany for the first 26 years of my life, I know relatively little about Italian music. It mostly comes down to what you would call singer-songwriters/crooners.
In particular, I like the tunes you highlighted by Red Light Skyscraper, Massimo Volume and Manuel Agnelli. “Baustelle” actually is a German word and means “construction site”.
Here’s a ’70s tune I find cool:
Really? That’s interesting, it means ‘boxes’ in Italian – I wonder what the common root word is.
26 years? Whereabouts did you live? I’ve yet to even visit
I grew up close to Bonn and also spent several years in Tuebingen near Stuttgart as a student.