Even in the dead of the winter, this sunlit EP of Italian Pop can break through any forecast. One of my favorite finds of the year was this brief, but spectacular, EP by Bolognese musician Mario Acquaviva. What’s in Mario Acquaviva? Its eighteen masterful minutes of ruminative springtime Mediterranean piano pop mixed with all sorts of found sound, funk, AOR, post-disco, and other assorted, gorgeous stuff. Capturing a beautiful slice of Italian sentiment, it’s only a few re-edits away from making it onto everyone’s eternal dance floor.
Not many dance floor bangers begin quite like “Notturno Italiano”. Kicking off the album with fragments of static-filled radio recordings, the song gradually fades in the massive drum and bass groove that will take you on the unlikeliest of dance journeys. It’s the fascinating, distinctly Italian, melodies played on electric guitars and brass instruments (the ones that underpin the whole groove) that allow the song to seamlessly go from exploratory funk –turn on a dime– become introspective, then turn again, and become deeply romantic and bittersweet. When the radio recordings creep back in, the dance floor you probably imagined this playing at the beginning surely must have changed near the end. For all of you who appreciate the music of Steely Dan, shades of Katy Lied seem to track deeply in this song’s creation. Looking at the liner notes, let’s give a huge high-five to Mauro Spina (who’d graced other brilliant Italian artists like Faust’o, Pino Daniele, and Mauro Pelosi with his production work) for showing massive amounts of attentive detail here, flushing out Mario’s ideas to perfection.
The same song construction that started there continues carrying itself through the whole EP. “Ho Perso Tutto” (whose performance was met with rapturous applause at Italy’s iconic Festivalbar songwriting contest) rightfully earns its accolades by trumping what a “normal” piano-pop song should sound like. Few piano-pop beauties begin with an ambient intro, then build to a middle ground of sophisticated disco that ends with a Godley and Creme-like Art Pop finish. Only the bit slight balladry of “Sei Ancora Buono” threatens to take you off course, but oh what a final track exists to right that ship…
“Fortuna” quite possibly my favorite track of the whole EP, is a masterful piece of post-Battisti Pop. Stringing together everything that makes the best Italian Pop music so different and amazing – unexpectedly earnest drum machine and electronic synth rhythms, gorgeous acoustic guitar meditations, plaintive/elegiac vocals, and those sonically deep bass lines that you only find in the best Italian Art Pop – it’s a wonder of composition acumen featuring a deft maneuver that gets you to feeling all sorts of things you didn’t expect to. Is there such a word for saudade in Italian? If there isn’t, once these 18 minutes are done, I guarantee you’ll have the weirdest pining to go back and rediscover this music at some other golden hour of your choosing.