Stramonio - Mother Invention

Year of Release: 2002
Label: Frontiers
Catalog Number: FRCD120
Format: CD
Total Time: 56:10:00

Mother Invention is the follow up from Italian band Stramonio's strong debut, Seasons Of Imaginations. In the two years between albums, they have changed from a six-man band to five (losing one of their two guitarists, Luca Arrighini), switched labels from Northwind to Frontiers, and obviously listened to a hell of a lot of jazz. From a Dream Theater-esque prog metal band, they have morphed into a complex, contemporary style that is highly unique and heavily jazz-influenced.

I really, really enjoyed this album, but fans of their previous work should not expect it to sound too similar. It's a mixture of diverse musical styles, interesting because it's not quite like anything I've heard before. On this album, they remind me a bit of The Flower Kings - not really because they sound like them, but because of the styles they've chosen to blend together. Like The Flower Kings, they have their own unique style of prog which is cut with jazz, some classical influences, and a few other things besides. Unlike The Flower Kings, who have a certain cynicism in their work, the poetry in Mother Invention is delightfully light and airy - not deigning to do anything so common as rhyme, or even make much sense:

(From "Loose From A Dam") We stop to listen to a deaf and far off
sound, to fill the image of an invisible vibration that seems to be arrived with a force
like water let loose from a dam...

This almost haiku-like feeling is something I find intriguing, and is a trait that calls to mind the contemporary lyrical style of Björk. Further adding to the overall abstractness of the words, vocalist Frederico De Vescovi sings with such a thick Italian accent that he is virtually incomprehensible until one reads the lyric sheet. These idiosyncrasies actually increase the album's attractiveness for me, but I know there are many who will think otherwise. Be aware of these details before investigating.

Album highlights? Listen for the husky flute section at the end of "Antarctic Oasis," where the hustling 5/4 time signature gives it a distinct Mission: Impossible feel; I also enjoyed the melody lines in "Appointment With Life" and "Time." Closet jazz fans will love this album and should particularly listen for "Here I Am," a lazy hi-hat and sax number that one could easily get away with playing in a New Orleans wine-and-jazz lounge. Stramonio throw in strange musical cameos, joyfully bursting into a fast-forwarded Beethoven's "Ninth Symphony" in "Desert Night" (the same song which breaks into heavy growling later in the piece), and the beginning of "In My Eyes" is immediately recognisable as the Blues Brothers theme. Lesser musicians would stand a good chance of botching a patchwork of styles like this, but Stramonio pull it off comfortably, creating an end result which is musically very interesting. One thing the musicians don't do much of is individual soloing, so don't expect to hear a lot of virtuosic showing off. The songs are well-composed, the ensemble is tight and the production is great - a well put-together album overall.

To sum up - I personally love this album, but I can see an awful lot of things about it that might turn people off... the heavy accents, the fluffy lyrics, the complex and odd mix of styles, the dissimilarity to their previous work. I recommend it, but I also recommend having a bit of a listen before buying.

Similar to: Björk, The Flower Kings

[This review originally appeared July 2003 at the ProgPower Online review site -ed.]

Desert Night / Appointment With Life / Snow Crystal / In My Eyes / Loose From A Dam / Antarctic Oasis / Here I Am / Time / Someone Like Me

Federuci De Vescovi - vocals
Nicola Balliana - guitar
Cris Zanvettor - bass
Luca De Lazzaro - keyboards
Roberto De Cesero - drums

Seasons Of Imagination (2000)
Mother Invention (2002)
Time Will Tell (tbd)

Genre: Other

Origin IT

Added: January 31st 2005
Reviewer: Karyn Hamilton
Artist website:
Hits: 985
Language: english


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