Review: Nichelodeon – Il Gioco del Silenzio

It’s hard not to be won over by “Il Gioco del Silenzio”, this Italian septet’s first studio album. Though a predominantly dark, brooding affair, it is infused with a splash of wit and charm, and exhibits a degree of macabre theatricality, all of which helps to prevent it from becoming an oppressively or overwhelmingly morose experience.

The main group plays a huge range of instruments on this record; guitar, bass, sax, flute, piano, melodica, synths and theremin to name but a few. This diversity of instrumentation coupled with a variety of guest musicians, superb, expansive production and a liberal use of noises, effects and field recordings all makes for an extremely rich palette of sounds.

Perhaps unusually for a band often tagged with the somewhat indefinable term “avant-prog”, the music on this disc is rooted in often quite traditional song structures, though these are admittedly often subverted through the use of dissonance, improvisation and passages of largely non-instrumental noise. However, it is Claudio Milano’s powerful vocals and thoughtful, cliche-free lyrics (helpfully printed with English translations alongside the original Italian) which provide the focal point for the majority of the album. The result is an endless struggle between melodramatic song, manic free improvisation and deep, textured soundscapes. At times reminiscent of Van Der Graaf Generator or the darker ‘classic’ Italian bands like Il Balletto di Bronzo, at other times redolent of Henry Cow at their most free and adventurous; there is an urgency and power to this music, a constant bubbling intensity, which makes it impossible to resist.

This is a refreshingly contemporary record which really stands out against the often contrived efforts of many avant-prog/chamber prog groups who seem content to retread the same old path as their predecessors. Nichelodean do not create artificially complex music. Instead, they allow their natural musicianship and feel for both melody and counter-melody, structure and improvisation to create a sound of their own which is powerful, arresting and truly unique. Highly recommended.

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