Saturday, August 25, 2012

CD Review: Marco Cappelli's Italian Surf Academy - The American Dream



Marco Cappelli's Italian Surf Academy
The American Dream
(Mode/Avant) www.modrecords.com

In Italy the sound of twangy guitars didn't exactly correspond with images of the beach in the 1960s. It was often the sound that accompanied suspenseful or grisly scenes in films by Sergios Leone or Carbucci, with the score coming from the pens of Luis Bacalov or Ennio Morricone instead of the Ventures. Guitarist Marco Cappelli, an Italian native now living in New York, decided to pay homage to the music of his country. The American Dream comes alive with visual cues which the guitarist blends with the sense of free form experimentation he picked up his new country. But what comes across predominantly is the compositional strength of these pieces and the way Cappelli arranges them.

The guitarist works with a trio setting, joined by bassist Luca Lo Bianco and drummer Francesco Cusa. As quickly as they set the tone, they're just as likely to break it down and reshape it. "Django" begins pensively enough, but it soon goes in a free direction, climaxing with bent surf notes and finally fading out with a wah-wah reggae power chord. Morricone's "The Sundown/S. Antonio Mission" has the pathos for which the composer became famous. From there, though, the trio breaks into free jazz in which the rhythm section almost sounds like free metal, except for the fact that the production cuts down on the low end bombast. "Blood and Black Lace," composed by Carlo Rustichelli, has the minimal accompaniment that leaves the guitar swinging naked in the breeze, with a prime descriptor of this kind of music.

Vocalist Gaia Matteuzzi joins the Academy on two songs with greatly different results. Anyone who heard John Zorn's take on "Erotico (The Burglars)" from his Morricone tribute The Big Gundown remembers Shelley Hirsch's yelping vocals, and might think of it when hearing Matteuzzi on Armando Trovajoli's "Sesso Matto." The difference is Matteuzzi seems to be going for more of a fake orgasm feel - double-tracked at that - while Hirsch seemed to be lampooning that concept. In other words, it's a bit much. (Of course, some, uh, dudes might think it's a good accompaniment to The American Dream's cover.) Better is "Deep Deep Down" which almost sounds like a pop song, with leaping intervals that offer another impressive point in Mr. Morricone's favor.

Closing the album with "Secret Agent Man" brings the album back to our shores, beginning with a shout-out to ol' James Bond. Cappelli gets rid of the syncopation in the melody which make it sound a little square at first. But upon further thought, it feels like the way one of the previous composers might have scored it.


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