That we missed Ms Antolini’s debut ‘big saloon’ solo effort from a year or so ago is our loss and one that after having heard this its follow up is something that’s been escalated and elevated to the highest reaches of our ever expanding most wanted list.
We here are thinking you’ll never quite hear anything that matches the fluency, complexity and disarming seduction that pours from the grooves of this simply stunning eleven track feast. To simply call ‘ a due’ bewitching is to somehow criminally underplay and devalue it.
It is in simple terms – exquisite.
In fact we’d sooner have this than all your Allen’s, Winehouse’s, U2’s and whatever cheap formulised and predictable pop pap currently being peddled by the majors put together any day.
Intoxicating and inspired, ‘a due’ is a brim and overflowing with magic and mystery, like a strangely exotic travelling circus arriving in town, its all at once eerie, enchanting, inviting, unreal, dramatic and demurring.
For the uninitiated – like me – Ms Antolini was born in Macerata, an Italian town in the Marche province. She learnt to play piano at the age of three and went to the Frescobaldi Conservatory in Ferrara to study classical music. Spending her formative years playing drum and bass in various local ensembles, without any enduring success she set about recording a handful of demos in 2005, these recordings becoming the backbone to her aforementioned debut full length ’big saloon’.
So that’s the domestics done with, the rest they say is history.
Anyway back to the matter in hand – ‘a due’ – we here are thinking that a record has to be special if while listening your furiously scribbling notes and in your minds eye conjuring up weird imagery with which to compare it, imagery such as its ability to take the playful and the sinister from say the score of the ’Jungle Book’ and refract them through the kaleidoscopic looking lens of Alice in Wonderland or indeed the way that Antolini is able to weave a spellbinding tapestry that in an instant can be all at once chilling, cute and cuckoo or the small but all to important detail that due to her chameleonic ability that during your journey throughout her strange and beguiled nether world that you’ll have evoked an array of female musicians from the past and present from the likes of Nina Hagen and Diamanda Galas (best experienced on ‘funky show’) right through to Kate Bush, Bjork, Serafina Steer and Nico and for that matter all those in between while simultaneously dipping at will into worlds more readily occupied by the likes of Cobra Killer, Pizzicato 5 as well as fellow countrymen Musseta.
One of the main attributes that makes ‘a due’ such a compulsive listening spectacle is its refusal to rest on its laurels and sit still, within each track a sub plot is developing, just when you think your sure you have the measure of Antolini she throws an unexpected curveball that leaves you constantly teetering and reeling on the back foot. Likewise trying to bracket or pigeonhole this collection into a neat and safe category is rendered almost nigh impossible such is the multitude of generic sub species and cross pollination coming to fruition within with the range finder spectrum being tweaked and twisted to register everything and anything from sheer sophistication to the disquietingly surreal as she engages in elements as far ranging as hybridised charleston motifs (as on the wilfully scatty and ridiculously infectious ’pop goes to Saint Peter’ – a tail feather yanking hyper active cutie that sounds like it was bitten by a particularly potent funky bug) to smoked 50’s torch dialects (as on the sepia tinged spectral beauty of the ethereal noir traced ’clear my eyes’ with its fading mirage like nods to Komeda – a trick repeated to greater effect on the soft psyche dipped dream-scaping ’morbidalga’ replete as it is with dissipating hypnotics).
Amid all this Antolini joyously skips through an enchanted paradise of kooky time signatures and childlike fancies liberally laced and melodically fluent in music hall and operatic mechanics delicately tipped in all manner of mind bending hallucinogens – case in point the opening salvo ’new manner’ which aside tailgating the warped slipstream of Mirror Mirror’s recent offering manages to shoehorn between the grooves a curious fusing of Brechtian poise and a fading 40’s styled noir crested glamour. Elsewhere you’ll find Goth-ique rumba the order of the day on the Addams Family meets the Munsters styled skewif stew that is ’a new room for a quiet life’ accompanied by arresting Mexicana brass fanfares while the interlude like ’modern lover’ assumes a momentary willowy passage into library lounge a la Raymond Scott’s ’soothing sounds’ collection. Then there’s the Nancy Sinatra spliced with Nico spectral dreaminess of the ghostly 60’s obsessed ’secret cassette’ while the sets best moment is left to the parting shot the macabre ’taiga’ which aside leaving you feeling strangely unsettled and yet quietly euphoric at times manages to nod ever so gently in the general direction of White Noise’s ’an electric storm’. in a word – essential.
Key tracks –
Clear my eyes
Here’s a video featuring a live recording of ‘morbid alga’……
from March 2009