Fascination. That’s the main word I can use to describe the reason I’ve devoted my time in shedding light on Christina Moser and Maurizio Arcieri of Chrisma/Krisma. Most artists you can follow a trajectory pointing you how they get to a destination. However, Krisma from their beginning as a disco duo to this point as a beat driven electronic group took a road that they had to pave themselves. In the beginning of their journey, they had passion focused in the right place but didn’t have the talent to quite get there. Somewhere down the line they owned up to their strengths and weaknesses, then used these reflections to guide their way to the end.
The opening track of their first album Chinese Restaurant proved them to be voracious music listeners, in “Thank You” they give thanks to Buddy Holly, Iggy Pop, Neu!, Jim Morrison, the Beatles, Roxy Music and also somewhere in the lyrics they give thanks to music publishers for giving them only 50% of their publishing rights. This bit of dischord lets you know that this was a group not working towards separating themselves from fame or notoriety but instead willing to engage with an audience because they wanted to be remembered.
For them, to forsake singing in Italian, to try their luck in the English-language market took courage since it nearly guaranteed them little to no success. What no one imagined was they knowing how to exploit their beauty/taste to fashion an image and a sound that was seductive and revolutionary on its own terms. Their first two albums Chinese Restaurant and Hibernation finds them combining all of their influences to present a unified sound where both of the duo were able to play off each other and force the issue visually by creating an inviting image of two people who obviously enjoyed the sexy part of rock-n-roll.
|Cover Artwork by Mario Convertino|
From their beginnings trying to surprise and titillate with their videos for tracks like “U (I Dig You)” through their commanding imagery in “Aurora B.” they were trying to slowly bate an industry into providing them more resources to distribute their musical brand further and an audience into following them ever more into their rabbit hole. After a brief respite in their Cathode Mamma phase, they managed to solidify these two important crowds. With those two groups firmly entrenched they did what they wanted to do all along…create the most personal album that they could. What they did wasn’t unique to them: the Beatles started off as a schlager group only to mutate into the pop juggernaut we know, the Rolling Stones started off as a R&B group that mutated into one of the best Americana and hard-nose rockers ever…in all courses the trip was as important as their destination. For Krisma, Clandestine Anticipation was the artistic peak.
Starting off with the grappling “Miami” they present a tone that you either buy into or don’t. True fans who had followed them since their start would hold on for dear life, but wayward fans or interested parties just fell by the wayside. This was an album that from the get go didn’t demand your attention but instead posited itself as it was. For once, Krisma were doing things exactly as they needed and you either bought into it or not. Albums like these, are hardly ever popular (many other bands have shared the same experience) but they do serve an important role: they thin the musical herd and evolve our sonic makeup. Take a track like “Crucial Point” a dastardly funk groove made up of neo-Italo Disco and dance-punk rhythms expertly blended by Christina and Maurizio. This type of experimentation which entices the audience rather than repels them masterfully engages the listener to stick around for the rest of the album.
Without a “Crucial Point” to engage a novice listener, they might not be ready for a track like “Melonarpo“that borders on being avantgarde industrial music. That was a risk Krisma was willing to take. They trusted those who were willing to stick around, through their whole journey up until then, to have an open mind to go along with something new they were into. If they did, they were then rewarded with the Darkside-like Progressive/Psychedelic Electro-Dance of “Silly Europeans” a virtual glimpse of the future a ways, away. I’m just trying to envision what made them create a track like “Wrong Island” which owes much more to beat-heavy hip-hop than any electronic or rock band around at the time, then use this influence to wrap around their lineage in dance music. Before Ableton or samplers of this sort were easily available, here was a band dropping, with ease, disparate sounds that shouldn’t groove this much, together. And then, just to pull the rug a bit under the listener, they follow it up with their most weirdly rocking song, matching Devo at their own game.
The album closes with two of their most exhilarating tracks “Water” which I wrote about here and my personal favorite track of them all, the closer “Zacdt Zacdt”. This is just pure dance adrenaline, its as if Christina and Maurizio took all the accumulated knowledge they had about dance music: the seduction, the hold, the movement, and most importantly the power it can deliver…and distilled it down to its purest, unlaced form. Over another stop-start bass line from the gods, Christina introduces the track authoritatively by stating “From the Beginning…Zacdt Zacdt” then starts to sing the mantra “Ready to defend the third world” as the track proceeds she steadily reduces her chants to their elemental, guttural forms as Maurizio starts to invent and disassemble countless electronic dance genres at will behind her.
Man, what a way to end an album…I can only imagine for listeners back then this was their Kid A-moment . You always knew a band like this had the taste and the talent to get somewhere, because of the journey you’ve gone with them, but nothing could have prepared you for the sheer audacity of their chosen destination. Their career had nowhere to go but down after this, financially and fame-wise it did, but the trip they took to get there proudly forgoing doing stuff like this ad nauseum and instead choosing to stick together as a personal and musical couple through thick and thin was what lead them to this shining moment. I gotta give them just major props for displaying their trust and affection with each other as way points to remain the great artists that they were and still are.
Its all of those reasons that I’ve had them stuck in my aural space all of July and had to pick this album specifically as my album of the month. The album is no longer available in the US, but you can find it through the link below. Just a criminally forgotten band that definitely needs more evangelists. I can’t leave this review without posting a cool set of Krisma videos throughout this important era that I didn’t cover through the blog (how about Krisma performing “Gott Gott Elektron” on the same stage that Rockets puzzled/delighted their Italian audience!).