My first spin of
this album came on a sleepy evening journey back home, slumped against a coach window and wearily watching car headlights
whizz past through the pitch black. I haven’t found a more appropriate listening environment since. It’s a record
of beautiful flow, with guitar finger-picking that overlaps in pretty chords that slide graciously across one another, never
fluctuating too much in terms of dynamics and never fully resolving either. Eastern Landscapes is the sort of album that sets
your consciousness on stand-by, in the best way possible.
It’s an album that doesn’t sit still – the
guitar (both softly distorted electric and bright acoustic twang) chooses not to settle into repetitive ‘hooks’
and prefers to dance around in complex arrangements, rarely throwing the same shape twice. And it sounds good, particularly
when it stumbles briefly into a gorgeously discordant harmony or a pretty major chord in a seemingly accidental fashion. But
there’s no half-arsed noodling going on here. I’m unsure as to whether each note is carefully composed or expertly
improvised, but the playing is confident and assured regardless, the needlessly indulgent guitar solo during the second half
of “Joey” being a rare exception for me.
My favourite element of the record is Marco’s addictively
monotone voice, low enough in the mix to sound as though he’s laying lazily over the intricately weaved blanket of guitars.
Anything above the softly spoken mumble present here would make the record uncomfortably bustling and busy, but as it is,
Marco’s words drip neatly over the other instruments and provide the perfect compliment.
To say that Eastern Landscapes
is ‘pleasant and welcoming’ almost implies that’s it’s devoid of depth. Needless to say it’s
not. It’s a charming enough first listen, but tricky to fully comprehend – there’s distinct melodies running
all the way through the record, but they’re caught beneath the torrent of activity taking place over the top, requiring
the listener to manually unearth them over repeated plays. It’s well worth doing, as each is as beautiful as the last.
Way back in 2006 we covered a band/album entitled Bad Side of the Cop. The album was intriguing because the songs
seemed to come from a unique perspective that was unlike anything else we were hearing at the time. Now in 2010 Marco Panella
returns (he's the man who was Bad Side of the Cop) with an album of all new material. Eastern Landscapes is a much more subdued
release than Panella's last album. The songs are more organic in nature and far more laid back. Part of what makes us appreciate
Panella's music is that there seems to be little regard for any kind of commercial success. The songs on this album are sometimes
strangely fragmented and peculiar. We particularly like the slightly obtuse guitar playing and the vocals that at times sound
almost unrehearsed. The packaging is beautiful...the warm photo sleeve is a mindblower. Cool tracks include "Carry You
Home," "Foolish Gifts," "Electric Interlude," and "M."
Marco's Panella's release
is a strange kind of album, in tonalities and with its stretched conceptual nature it sounds a bit unusual and different,
with a dense atmosphere. Under a cloud a lighter acid acoustic element is omnipresent. The voice and singing reminds me a
bit of Alexis Gideon, which I just reviewed a few weeks before, with more coincidental musical reminiscences. The singing
is with a very down voice but at the same time with singing melody, so more melodic than Syd Barrett, and more story like.
Accompanying is a completely adapted percussive textures. Dominating are the two layers of guitar (Telecaster and acoustic
guitar) like mountains of a landscape expressed and visualised by the guitar, with open structures of pickings, track after
track. A surprise is that the last track is sung by a female voice, uplifting in atmosphere a bit, with a slight poetic effect.
Odd. A bit over 30 minutes.
DOUG MOSUROCK/STILL SINGLE
Panella is a guitarist playing in the midst of rock, country,
folk and jazz, and this new album of his is a worthy artifact of the creative mind untethered. He doesn’t wander outside
of song-based forms, which is harder than you’d think for a lot of folks who play the guitar and want to stand out.
Maybe the key here is understatement, which is not the same as underplaying; everything here sounds in balance, from Panella’s
deadpan vocals and wry, humorous lyrics (I like “High School, Southern Vermont” and its call-outs of sustainable
farms, personally) that crop up throughout this eight-song set. Most listeners will come into this one cold, and be stunned
by what he can accomplish in and around known s-sw forms with no more than a few layers of guitar, and the instructiveness
and authenticity to pull it off. Really beautiful work, stern and strong and masterful. 400 copies, w/ obi strip, as is Tequila
Using folk as a stepping stone "Eastern Landscapes" by Marco Panella,
moves of into more abstract territories, the landscape haunted by primitive guitar and gently flowing melodies. Glistening
beautifully, "Carry you Home" opens the album in eloquent style, Marco showing a lightness of touch that makes the
notes shimmer across the room. Thing become, harsher on "Joey", The electric guitar sawing in the background, whilst
The deep vocals spin careful words across the tune. With a lovely swing to it "Foolish Gifts" has a summertime heart,
the lightness of touch once more in evidence, whilst a chattering drumbeat keeps things moving. Flipping over, side two opens
with Electric Interlude, an instrumental that displays the inventiveness of the playing, two guitars intertwined like lovers
dancing, slow and languid yet fully awake and commited to each others world. Highlight of the side is an original and haunting
version of "Wildwood Flower", the music opening doors into more peaceful realms, gently caressing you before "M"
closes the album by interpreting a poem by Montgomery Hare, the words sung by his grand-daughter Anna Bario, who also contributes
Cello to the record.
MASSIMO RICCI/TOUCHING EXTREMES
This American artist of unambiguous Mediterranean origins
is also a nearly literal namesake of the Italian Radical Party’s founder (but, for our good luck, much brighter; not
that it takes an extreme effort to achieve that goal, though). Helped by the sweetly untrained voice of wife Anna Bario (who,
all alone, delicately intones the conclusive “M”) and bassist Tyler Gibbons, the man is “endowed”
with a pokerfaced tone, as if he didn’t care a iota about the mere concept of uttering lyrics in tune, preferring to
chew them up as they happen to materialize in his mind (and mixing the whole in a way that often drowns the singing amidst
the sounds). That said, the actual strength lies in the approach to the guitars – both acoustic and electric –
plucked and picked with cleverness and piquancy, giving relevance to tunings that exalt inexplicably tilted resonances and
moderate clashes between the upper partials. The songs are effective, too: think of a cross of Sam Amidon’s bad brother
(accompanied by a sum of all the guitarists who have played with Captain Beefheart) and a calmer type of person – who
may even love bits of Neil Young and the likes – willing to let the echo of a 000 model vibrate and stay there, enjoying
the resounding jangle and the smell of wood coming from within the sound hole. Look, I’m not wasting additional time
with words: the guy has balls and personality, and knows the right moment in which the notes must die away. Listening to this
record is a pleasure, and this writer is looking forward to hear more from Panella, a name to keep ears open for. Fellow axemen,
take note: the cat can play (and presumably stands well clear off the door of politics).