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Nichelodeon - Bath Salts CD (album) cover

BATH SALTS

Nichelodeon

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.56 | 16 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
3 stars NicholOdeon present this double CD treat with a 48 page booklet featuring striking paintings and an odd assortment of artwork; visual poetry by Effe Luciani and photos by Andrea Corbellini. The 2 CD package of "Bath Salts" comes with the delightful addition of In Sonar's 2 albums "L'Enfant et le Menure", and "Ashima", all wrapped up with string in an elegant autographed handmade box, that has a black texture and green shimmering lipstick; each as unique as the next. This is an original idea and certainly catches the attention even before the music begins. The art in particular is wonderful and seems to be symbolic of the content within. This is a mammoth project by instigator visionary Claudio Milano, who is joined by a plethora of talented musicians; Raoul Moretti, Pierangelo PANdiscia, Vincenzo Zitello, with Michel Delville (The Wrong Object), Walter Calloni, Paolo Tofani, Valerio Cosi, Fabrizio Modonese Palumbo (Larsen), Alfonso Santimone, Stefano Delle Monache, Elio Martusciello, Paolo Carelli, Lorenzo Sempio, Max Pierini, Andrea Breviglieri, Andrea Murada, Massimo Falascone, Sebastiano de Gennaro (Baustelle), Giorgio Tiboni, Laura Catrani, Valentina Illuminati, Ivano La Rosa, Luca Pissavini, Alessandro Parilli, Francesco Chiapperini, Andrea Quattrini, Fabrizio Carriero, Anna Caniglia, Marco Confalonieri, Simone Pirovano, Simone Beretta. Milano states that the album is: "A concept audio book about cannibalism in interpersonal relationships. 5 Decades of Italian (but not only) avant garde music under the same sky (32 musicians). A contemporary minstrel enchanted by Brecht/Artaud/Beckett/┴gota Kristˇf. A grounded bridge between sound, literature, visual arts and theatre." It certainly is a unique visual experience.

"Bath Salts" opens on CD 1 'Capitolo 1 D'Amore e di Vuoto' with 'Prologo' featuring chiming Celtic harp that sprinkles the atmosphere with an angelic fragrance. The Italian vocals are handled with aplomb by Milano, with a tinge of sadness and melancholy. A haunting melody follows on 'Un Posto sicuro' peppered by Electrocaustic harp, Santoor and Alto Sax. The music wanders along aimlessly like a lost soul searching for meaning, and the mournful vocals are unsettling and alienating. 'Ricordo d'Infanzia' is a minimalist piece driven by lilting harp (6:23) and Milano's aching soulful voice. There is a disquieting ending with chilling shrieks, ethereal wind and guttural deep resonances.

The harp takes on a heavenly quality on 'Surabaya Johnny' and there is a distinct time signature change. Again it is minimalist with Milano's voice overpowering and a lonely musical accompaniment, no drums, just harp. Milano has a field day on this reaching high register falsetto, and octave changes from low to high effortlessly. 'Bolle' features a cacophony of string instruments such as Viola, Marimba, Cello and Harp in turn as Milano sings with true power. I love the instrumentation here as they compete against each other and yet have an appealing dissonance.

'Rapporto sulla Fine di una Storia' has a quirky melody, still off kilter and the odd assortment of instrumentations and vocals is akin to Magma's sound. There are some unsettling piano phrases and really weird effects on this as well as overlaid musings and vocalisations that take this one to another level of dementia.

'(This Side of) The Looking Glass' is a piece written by Peter Hammill so it is of interest in particular to a VDGG addict such as myself. It has that existentialist feel that Hammill exudes and is as disturbing in content as the rest of these tracks. The English vocals made it more pleasant for me as I could at least comprehend what it is all about such as "I am left to pass these nights alone." The song is about coping with madness and perhaps signifies the rest of the album. It is again a depressing soundscape about emptiness, isolation and the human condition.

'Desiderio nascosto' has delightful harp and Cello played by Zitello, and Milano reaches his falsetto range to create an ambient atmosphere of beauty. AZIONI - Musica per la Carne has an array of percussion instruments, some of which are very rare according to the liner notes, and the sound is generated over Milano singing and some oral readings. The Italian is heavily pronounced and given a measure of passion over a mere semblance of melody. Milano moves from piercing screeches to a low guttural tone at will; the experimental vocals are at the extreme end of the scale when it comes to Avant RIO, anything but pleasant listening and this is intentional. 'Giulia - nata in 7 Mesi, morta al primo Appuntamento' closes CD 1 with harps and bass flutes, a gorgeous resonance. The peaceful atmosphere is relaxing to the soul after the dissonance previously. Moretti is a master musician on harp and really shines beautifully. Zitello joins on Alto and bass Flute as the tempo quickens and the track becomes more intense. The flute solo at the end is exquisite, and this is easily my favourite piece on CD 1.

CD 2 'Capitolo II. Di Guerre e Rinascite' begins with 'Terra' stands out as it features a woman's vocals towards the end, and the track has a hissing sound with some ghostly reverberations, and a definite measured cadence. Again it feels like a Magma sound, though without the incessant drums of Vander dominating. The rattling on the track is made by rattling nails, and this is an enhancement that provides a deeply disturbing soundscape.

'Alla Statua dei Martiri di Gorla' is a lengthy track at 9:23 driven by harp and deep Cello vibrations. There are even stone slab sounds thrown in and some slices of violin. The track goes on for quite a duration and takes some patience as there is very little variation. 'Fuoco Amico - mai N.A.T.O.' has a delightful Cello rasping as we hear Milano reach a low growl and then launch into high register.

'Trittico 50 mg' has some odd percussion and irregular rhythms with a multilayered vocal from Milano at either end of the octave scale. The harmony oddly enough has a hypnotic power. It becomes a bit heavy to handle in places but I love when the piano comes in with a strong staccato melody, sounding Avant classical. 'Johnny dei Pirati' is dominated by harp, has a Japanese sound, and Milano is a constant presence on emotive Italian vocals. The E- bow Guitar has an interesting sound on this.

'Secca in Festa - Lode ad Antonio Primaldo' is perhaps my favourite track on CD 2 as it has a gorgeous melody, a beautiful musical accompaniment and Milano sounding pleasant. 'L'Urlo ritrovato' is the longest piece clocking in at 12:45, and it is driven by floating swathes of violin and harp that keep an irregular pattern over Milano's vocalisations. When the female operatic voice chimes in I was delighted as it made such a difference to the atmosphere. Laura Catrani has a sweet tone in her voice with a sensual quality that is haunting. This is a very complex track even featuring some odd readings from some actors that must have meaning but I have no idea what they are saying, so I feel I am missing the point here. Having an avid interest in theatre, this missing piece of the puzzle is tantalising, so I must find out what it is about. The way the actors are carrying on, moaning, laughing, and arguing and even arousing one another, has a very ethereal atmosphere as we hear some eerie music. I can guess it is a break up between lovers or they have perhaps gone mad; the music itself has the atmosphere of an asylum.

'Un Posto sicuro #2' has a steady cadence, with violins and harps taking over. 'Finale - Ninna Nanna' features an angelic harp, wire chimes, Japanese flute and Sax drone, so unsurprisingly sounds very oriental and it is distinctly calming to the senses. The album closes with 'Portami un Fiore', a short piece with bleating vocals and more minimalist music with harps, viola and electronics; an unsettling sound that screeches and has an ominous timbre. The album ends on a note that not all ends well; the descent into madness is complete.

Like a lot of RIO or Avant Prog I found this to be a very challenging experience and at times grating on the nerves; though if I knew Italian the experience would obviously have more meaning. It was fun to put my own meaning to the music. There are passages of beauty and mesmirising moments particularly on harp and strings that are heavenly for the most part. Milano has a keen sense of the theatrical in his vocal resonations, emotive falsetto battling with his low growl, acutely Italian flavours and taunting experimental sounds. The conceptual project has some dreamy, gentle nuances, that swoon over in the instrumental sections and then break out into odd angular rhythms; and with Milano's vocal presence it is evident that this is an album dripping with passion and highly charged emotive power. The degree of high strangeness may or may not be to the average listener's taste but the music is designed for those with an attuned ear to dissonance and discordance rather than a commercial standard sound. It is an acquired taste in essence, completely out of the box, however it is certainly an original approach from NichelOdeon; guaranteed to inspire many artists venturing into the murky territory of disturbing RIO soundscapes.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 3/5 |

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