I’m heading into the island of Milo, Sicily for a tiny bit. Back to catch what Franco Battiato was doing around this time. What a surprise it is to see him wrap up all his first stabs at mixing the electronic with the serene into one way too far ahead for its time musical statement. My track of the day, “Sequenze e Frequenze” (Sequence and Frequency) from 1973’s Sulle Corde di Aries (On the Ropes of Aries) presents another sampling of the incredibly unique sound Italy has always quietly created.
Using a VCS3 synthesizer, in conjunction with acoustic guitars, string instruments, saxophones and tape loops Franco creates something so alien to most people, yet so warm that you don’t quite know how to process it the first time you hear it. I know where all the lineage he draws comes from the serialism of Stockhausen, the electronic drone of Tangerine Dream or Cluster, the worldly folk of Popol Vuh or the Third Ear Band, but there are some gorgeous things in there that are Italian through and through. One of the big influences for Franco during this period was East German atmospheric-folk protest troubadour Wolf Biermann who recorded his albums in his bedroom with his windows open so the sounds of the street could be picked up as well and become in effect a second instrument. In an offhand way, as Franco comes in and out with an Italian aria singing:
to put it concisely in English, it describes how he as young man be repeatedly taught things that later went on to shape him as a man. The lyrics relate how one of his teacher’s backyard would overlook the sea. There he would sit on a fence listening intently to repetitive lessons, on occasions he would look at the sea to catch as he heard the sound of passing ships. These breaks in routine would ease his mind.
When winter came, though, and the lessons shifted inward inside her home, every now and then he would hear the sound of thunder and the reduced light would eat at the wick of their candle. No matter, for him this was the most serene time, in the morning, this rain would bring him the smell of the earth and with it metaphorically, the memory of that sea that startled him so from his day to day trance. So no matter where he was there was a way to find some peace.
As you hear this track get progressively freer from the sound of jazz, the sound of electronic rock, the sound of folk music, the sound of the complex, the sound of the mundane and starts to trigger some kind of memory, and the varied instruments start playing the same sequence and in the same frequency…but in a distinct way each time, in a way that catches your attention…that’s when you start to hear the unique brilliance of this very autumnal song. Sulle Corde di Aries, if you have time, presents another route electronic music tends to forget it can take when its sick of some kind of endless repetition…
Definitely put on your headphones and listen to the complete, untruncated album version at Grooveshark.
Bonus track time, the breathtaking space folk of “Aries”: