Nothing makes one cringe more than when someone tries to “modernize” traditional music. The issue isn’t with modernization but with trying to will it so that “traditional” music has no way of becoming modern other than by adding modernity to it. What does this all mean? It means that the jaw-dropping music of Italian quartet Ritmia wouldn’t have all the power and twice the timelessness it would, if it tried to modernize Sardinian music by adding some drum beats, wacky sonic effects, and techno samples, calling it a day. That’s not how Riccardo Tesi, Alberto Talia, Daniel Craighead, and Enrico Frongia roll. They modernize it by taking all that’s traditional and transforming their sources into a vital, new timeless musical thing.
Powerful, in a way that most modern music can’t be, Forse Il Mare (Maybe the Sea) doesn’t slot easily into any genre, much less the genre of world music. It’s impossible to slot it into Italian folk, it’s far too improvised for this. It’s impossible to call it jazz, there are way too many side routes into tightly wound melodicism. Inspired by all sorts of roots that give Southern Italy it’s unique place, stuck in the middle of the Mediterranean gorgeous, Force Il Mare is a wonderful, joyous rumination on the African, Balkan, Gaelic, and Middle Eastern roots found in their homeland. a truly avant garde sound. It’s fourth world music, merely by acknowledging the wealth of potential ideas hidden, in plain view, right on the coast itself. If you found something special in the ideas of Eliseo Parra, Ritmia exists on a parallel wavelength.
Driven by the equal weight of all the talented members of the group who are virtuosos in all sorts of reed, strung, and drummed instruments, the bulk of the movement cycles between them. Riccardo Tesi might introduce some intricate accordion work in “La Stella e La Luna” then Danielle Craighead or Alberto Balia might alternate melodically around with guitar, clarinet, or piffero (a reed-like from Southern Italy) that offers all the out-there spirit many would use all sorts of sonic gadgets to attempt to convey. There’s nothing groundbreaking about the way these instruments work, it’s the breath, fingers, and ideas oscillating between this tightly spun group that makes Forse Il Mare sound unlike anything you’ve ever heard. When Enrico Frongia begins to sing, a communal force of musical nature just spins these powerful webs around him that can easily catch anyone in its pull.
Four long cuts. All true journeys into balearic music that’s yet to exist…but has existed inside a truly talented group just waiting to project it out. It’s rare to hear an album where you’re just waiting for the next surprising twist and turn. It feels heavy and light. It feels sunny and breezy. It’s just pure joy that only 500 special people were able to own when it first was released. Revolving and evolving, you’ll get what I mean when you hear. What can I say, I gotta spread that joy…