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Review: Giovanni Mastrangelo: Albert Camus

(a review by Gianpaolo Maria Ruotolo)

In its tenth release, the Italian label RadioSpia publishes an object of great curiosity and value that, also acknowledging the undoubted value of all its previous ones, is in many ways a highlight of this young and very innovative music company.

The track, written by the bass player Giovanni Mastrangelo with Marco Maffei and Lucio Pentrella to pay homage to Albert Camus, is both artistically and technically certainly a big score: difficult to be reduced to a musical genre (anyone cares about genres, anyhoo?), it swings between the oriental taste of its main theme, an elegant and mature rock mood, and some contemporary jazz tinged improvisations. To make some comparisons one could try and mention some John Zorn’s Masada or some rather extreme compositions by Marc Ribot trio.

But while in the formers is the guitar to take the lead, here we find some fretless bass (there are actually three of them) that unravels the keynote theme, with other musicians (acoustic and electric guitars and piano by Lucio Pentrella and sax by Paolo Gaudiano) playing repartee with the bassist, guiding us towards the Camus’ “invincible summer” while moving between different tempo changes, which alternate a regular four quarters with various odd times all masterfully managed by drummer Antonio Cicoria (who here plays some analog synths too).

Haunting is also Marco Maffei’s production, whose craftmanship, in the two channels of the stereo mix, recreates around the listener a unique 7.1 surround sound that’s never just a technical showcase, but operates indeed as a booster for the musicians’ work.

(Gianpaolo Maria Ruotolo - Apr, 2017)


Review: Sis Felix: Motionless Thinking

(a review by Andrea Chimenti)

The 80s certainly belong to the past, such a seminal past that "has been", but still continues its flowering nowadays, proving that nothing is lost, but rather that ideas and thoughts may evolve into a seamless, always growing condition in which you can feel the past, the present and the future.

Today I listened to a band with its roots in those years: the Sis Felix. The first listening amazed me, the second one pursuaded me.
I can rarely find this wonder and persuasion in the pop scene. The group headed by Roberto Pellicano, instead, has just released two songs that can bring you back to the best 80's sensations and are able to be very contemporary, at the same time.

This is the Strength inside "Motionless Thinking" and "Sorrow", two songs skillfully written, in which Marco Maffei’s production (RadioSpia) stands out: he has imprinted these two songs with such an international sound so rare in our country.

Professional bias led my first listening to vocals and I especially applaude Roberto Pellicano for that: exciting.
Congratulations guys, with your musical knowledge you’ll get a good future: full speed ahead!
(Andrea Chimenti - Feb 12nd, 2016)


Review: Videoclip “The Alpha States & Andrea Chimenti:
Ashes to Ashes”

(a librarian's review)

Is it possible to insufflate life into the dead heart of an ancient engine, reanimating it for a short miracle of time, not letting death be forgotten in the process, but rather demanding it to stay in the background as an alert sentry sharing in such resurrection? Who would ever expect oxygen to be forced into inert lungs gone sclerotic so that illusion of breath may be recreated, without usurping them from the disease dwelling there? How can you draw water from a tap dried out by time, without its patina of rusty thirst being lifted up? How would you inoculate sound into the empty riverbeds of a stone ghost, held together by mere absence and random echoes, a solitary net woven with recesses someone would call “a place” so long ago, without dissolving the silent fog of forgetfulness? Is it really possible, in about six minutes and half, to switch on a lifeless body again, so long as death never moves away? It is, indeed.

Watch the full videoclip

By means of a knowing juggling with well balanced wakes of images built-up as speeches, picture sections as phrases and shot particles as monosyllables. Of course, it’s possible to joust between life and death, through black and white hues saturation grinding old writing desks, the use of which is none but guarding dreadful hallways only made of light and dark. It may be possible, by measuring out blinding gray and pearly-like whiteness of sea reverberations, massive battlements and towers cathedrals, solids and voids in a turned to stone hamlet, only inhabited by itself, just as walls with crosses in place of eyes and crosses with eyes full of compassion being mocked by the Nothing around and the secret life swarming beneath. Possible, through the greedy and swift assault carried out by luscious colour, dense with fake brightness, invading worn out roofs, oceans of weed running wild, walls weeping salty coral flakes of plaster; a cruel colour lashing exposed vein-like branches slithering up along the partitions, turning the moss covering sink rims into acid green.

Possible, by flooding as much the bare and neat surfaces of Piranesian architectures with bright slate as the irregular ones along narrow neglected paths with liquid flare.
But this imaginary whole of wincing chromatism knows its own way towards respectful composition, letting only the seagulls heir the voices as well as the insects retrace the steps of this non-place.
In the end, colour must withdraw, resuming its credible dress, to faraway corners of real world apart. It leaves just one shade behind, the only one to be returned to ashes. (Miriam Ravazzone – librarian)


Review: "Live Unplugged & Yuri Recital"

Live unplugged & Yuri recital: words burning between the Earth and the Sky

In a quiet night under a starry sky in the silence of an Apulian countryside, while summer breeze gently moving green fronds and lanterns among branches, so far from the fatuous pressure of show-biz, Andrea Chimenti presented his YURI RECITAL for the first time; there were no special effects, just his passion, as intense as a flame burning between the Earth and the Sky.
I feel it’s always exciting to attend the launch of a brand new artistic project, but Andrea Chimenti's LIVE UNPLUGGED & YURI RECITAL created a very particular energy able to reach the remote corners of human soul. 
It was neither a reading nor a live concert: it was a swirling and intense journey into Chimenti's imaginative and narrative universe.
Andrea is a very inspired artist, a gentle warrior who tries to fight against the cultural and musical flattening of these days, so cruel and defenceless. He faces a peaceful and silent, but also strong and unstoppable struggle which lasts for 12 albums.
Live Unplugged & Yuri Recital, recensione di Valerio Carangella
As the songs seemed not to be able to contain all the inspiration coming from his mind, Andrea dreamed up the wider novel form to tell the story of Yuri, connecting a whole young generation feeling plundered, confused, muted, forgetful but still alive, after all.
It is a poetic reflection in the shape of a contemporary fairy tale that blows your mind… then it strikes the heart, going through the deepest layers of the human soul. Passing through a sad and angry present, which does not seem to foresee a future, this story arrives to the essence of matters, for the clear purpose of looking for hope and, maybe, finding it in that feeling of “resilience” which leads us to new horizons.
Chimenti, just like a good enchanter, takes us on a journey through the pages of his Yuri novel, by his deep intense voice also playing the guitar and the piano. Moreover, he played 4 songs together with some musicians belonging to the crew of Radiospia Records (Madame Butterfly & Mr. Bear, Roberto Pellicano, Giovanni Mastrangelo, Lucio Pentrella, Alessandro Lo Storto) that helped him to trace the emotional contours of this show. 
In an alchemy of sounds and atmospheres made possible by the creator of the event, Marco Maffei, a sound professional/artist endowed with a careful artistic sensitivity, fostered by the splendid venue Tenuta Fujanera and captured within melodies causing flower storms and words flowing like rose petals on water, it is easy to be touched and lost like castaways in  Andrea Chimenti’s poetic ocean. 
(Valerio Carangella, journalist)


"The Alpha States & Andrea Chimenti - Ashes to Ashes" - 

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This is not the third journey for Major Tom. This is not an irreverent beginning of a new musical adventure: this is pure Passion.
Passion for Bowie, passion for a swinging rhythm which turns drums into dark sounds opening to a hammering guitar.
Passion for Andrea Chimenti’s deep voice, for the ability to celebrate the Master after 24 years.

Easy to call it a “cover song”, hard to do better. This is not a business operation, but a clear attempt to show that a heart of ambitious artistic dimensions beats in the Apulian region.
Many have tried, and many have also reached goals difficult to overcome. This “Ashes to Ashes” gives the opportunity to introduce a passionate reality: a super-band (mostly unknown to the musical masses), marking an identity behind its main vocals.
Andrea Chimenti is in bright, Bowie has kept his own identity and has not been copied, but beloved with passion: the passion of someone who is used to play his own instincts with the courage of the humble and the strength of the honest . Long life to Major Tom! (Mario De Vivo, music critic)


In the eighties, people made many unsavory things: somebody revolted his jacket sleeves and the legs of his trousers, already dangerously short; there were people who played keyboards holding them as guitars, and somebody else played the bass only with his thumb and insisted in drowning drum snares in reverb.
Despite this, we’ve also heard great music: David Bowie’s 1980 album “Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)” included a song called “Ashes to Ashes”, a sort of sequel to “Space Oddity”, that today has become the second single of The Alpha States, the Italian collective of musicians/producers led by Marco Maffei, who, besides playing keyboards and synths, takes care of the artistic production, and that for the occasion features Andrea Chimenti, once the voice of Moda, historic florentine band of the Italian new wave scene of the ‘80s.
If Bowie’s original was a new romantic fetish, The Alpha States version is very new, but very little romantic, and does not pay any reverence to the original, although Moda’s second record was also produced, among others, by Mick Ronson, David Bowie’s guitarist. The song opens with Chimenti’s voice reciting the hypnotically eerie nursery rhyme with which Bowie only closes it (“My mother said, to get things done, you’d better not mess with Major Tom”); from here a darkened in crescendo trip starts, in which we hear the pieces layered one on another between three voices, a fretless bass that pays an elegant homage to Mick Karn, the late bassist of Japan, a shoegazing wall of guitars, and drums and sounds and noises that are as claustrophobic as bright, in a contrast between full and empty that is also evoked by the picture on the cover.
And if, at the end, after the nursery rhyme that opened our sonic adventure cyclically closes it and fades away, you go and listen to Bowie’s original, it looks almost as a lighthearted re-reading of a song that has been chewed, digested and transformed by The Alpha States to remind us that Major Tom lost in space was just one of us. (Gianpaolo M. Ruotolo, music critic)


<<My mama said to get things done, you'd better not mess with Major Tom>>, Bowie severely repeated to himself in his chart-smashing classic. The message probably was a warning not to fall into self-celebration. As to say <<You can look back to your glorious past, but please do it carefully…in any case, don't looking back is better>>. 
I believe The Alpha States and their precious guest Andrea Chimenti got it while making this 21st century remake of "Ashes to Ashes", and the result is a passionate and respectful homage done with a skilful forward-thinking kick as well.
I dug the way the track flows, the piano/guitar/synthesizers elegant embroidery is supported by an outstanding rhythm section full of Japan flavours with bass part inevitably reminding me of the sadly gone Mick Karn, to whom this track is openly dedicated (Karn himself was supposed to be in this project before discovering his disease).
The Alpha States & Andrea ChimentiI also noticed the "floydian" use of sound effects, creating an imaginary environment with ordinary noises like alarm sirens and slamming car doors. But above all, vocals are brilliant: Andrea comes in with his well-known pathos and warmth, right in opposition to Vincenzo Mascolo (one of The Alpha States vocal guests) crystal-clear feature, and I think that's a successful symbiosis, never lacking emotion, never losing the necessary tension. Everything seems floating in a sort of suspended animation until an abrupt explosion, bringing us all down to earth at a high test speed and then finally heading slowly towards a new state of calm, searching for a concept of circularity, as to me both musical and symbolic. The key words are "now" and "then": Major Tom is well, he's happy, so there's nothing to be frightened for. (Eugenio "Eugene" Valente - music artist)


A new release by The Alpha States & Andrea Chimenti is dedicated to Mick Karn. Produced by Marco Maffei for RadioSpia records, this version of David Bowie's Ashes to Ashes was put together in expectation of Mick's unique input. Mick was, for the tragic reason we all know, prevented from playing on the recording and so its completion has been a labour of love for producer and artists alike.
We can well imagine the trepidation felt by Giovanni Mastrangelo when he agreed to step in on bass. Giovanni reports feeling  deeply moved during the recording, such was his love of Mick and his desire to create a bassline that was beautiful and respectful of Mick's memory. With the celebrated Andrea Chimenti on one of the main vocals producer Marco felt very strongly that he should finish the song to honour Mick, saying: I hope this song will be a respectful way to remember the genius of Mr. Karn. I felt his energy in each production step, so I like to think "He" is inside this song. Thanks to Andrea Chimenti, too, we wanted to express admiration for Bowie and love for Mick, going forward... (Penelope Harrison Jones - artist - Team Mick Karn)
Note: TMK is a group of over 800 of Mick's fans, friends and family. Together they work to safeguard Mick's legacy as he was taken so suddenly from the world. Mick's inspiration is everywhere and we are deeply touched by this loving gesture. Keep Karn and Carry On (www.facebook.com/groups/teammickkarn)


In my opinion, it is hard to perform a new version of a David Bowie song, which is pure art. It is difficult to rearrange one of his most complex and important masterpieces, which deals with one of the spatial characters in the Bowie's production: The Major Tom. Yes, it is very arduous, almost impossible, but in the case of The Alpha States & Andrea Chimenti, I must change my mind.
Their "Ashes to Ashes" starts in a fascinating, dark  and palpable way. I am feeling gently lulled, literally dragged from a piano, driving me up to the Ground Control... I sink into a combination of sounds, and everything seems the same.
The Alpha States & Andrea Chimenti have been able to eradicate, reshape and perform the same emotions that Bowie gives me, in an new elegant and vibrant sound. I am feeling a similar thrill. In the second part, an explosion shakes me from anaesthetic perception of the song (like in "alpha state") and it is a nice surprise.
Confined to high skies ... I can reach a neverending emotion.
(Teresa Laquintana, dark wave artist)


Review: "
Madame Butterfly and Mr. Bear - What a Wonderful" (Song) 

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Madame Butterfly & Mr. Bear, as well as their brazen "sweet & romantic" folk-pop-rock music, definitely represent a positive anomaly in the contemporary Italian indie scene.
They embody an elegant acoustic vibration as light as the flight of a butterfly and as comforting as a Viking bearskin, which flies over a kind of less reassuring sounds such as rock / experimental / metal, with nonchalance". A modulated signature of "moving romantic folk", never worried to be vintage while honoring the traditional "good country music" (from Simon & Garfunkel through Neil Young and Harry Nilsson towards a certain Leonard Cohen's repertoire) with original ballads. This is what marks the musical identity of MB & MB, mostly. Madame Butterfly and Mr. Bear at the Mastering.it Studios
The band was born from a fateful meeting, in 2010, between two musicians with many different experiences: Vincenzo "Mr. Bear" Mascolo (hyperactive composer, frontman of Screaming Flowers, Bedford, The Frikk) and Valery "Madame Butterfly" Mai (soprano with appearances in polyphonic choirs, lover of Anglophone pop-music, student in Jazz at Conservatory). Their name shows a sort of (random?) collision between two sounds as far as distant planets, which gave life to an interesting musical project offering a repertoire suitable for an audience who looks for melodic and folkie American atmospheres enhanced by a European sensibility.
MB & MB have played live in many concerts and contests, thanks to their original repertoire, perceived with classy compositions and with their two voices, who can harmonize really well.
Madame Butterfly and Mr. Bear at the MasteringSometimes, the duo has also integrated a band, hosting various components to make the mix of their two voices with Vincenzo's guitar more dense. Among the guests, we find the violinst Emanuela Lyoi, who played an important part in the song What a Wonderful, produced by the label "RadioSpia Records". This song was released on dec. 8th 2013, after winning the national contest "Win a Hit at Mastering.it" , which saw a difficult selection made by expert artists: Andrea Chimenti, Valentino Corvino, Goivanna Russo, Mario Longo and Mara Campobasso. I am sure that "What a Wonderful" will conquer all, especially those who are in search of the perfect music to escape from everyday life, taking refugee in a dreamlike dimension that feels like warm hugs. (Valentina Scuccimarra, music critic)


Reviews: "The Alpha States - Solitude Standing" (EP, 3 songs) 


The vegetative state their name could figure has nothing to do with the creative contents of this single.
With Suzanne Vega in their hearts and electronics in their feelings, The Alpha States involve us in the solitude needed to re-interpret this cover which keeps the right Pop-Folk taste in its atmospheres and then joins to Minimalist Electronics of the '90s. If Solitude Standing is able to emotionally involve whether nostalgic or not, Violeentiak is a real strike to your brain that shakes you up and leads you to madness. They're sitting all together in the Dark in the Warm. (Mario De Vivo, music critic)


In this universe, "Solitude Standing" is the title-song of the album which turned Suzanne Vega into a worldwide pop-star, more than twenty-five years ago. In another parallel and possible universe, The Alpha States released their "Solitude Standing" BEFORE Suzanne Vega.
Before Suzanne’s whispered vocals, Mara De Mutiis’s deepest tunes already existed. Furthermore, before flowing into the calm version which named the Vega 1987 album, The Alpha States had already branded its obsessive rhythmic vibrations and merged the lyrics anxieties: "I've come to set a twisted thing straight".
Yes, this is my feeling, listening to the EP "The Alpha States - Solitude Standing" released by RadioSpia Records, an independent Label descending from a Radio-format, which hosted cultural interviews and live performances in Puglia, Italy, in 1998 and 2010. The Puglia based Mara De Mutiis (vocals on “Solutude Standing” tracks), Gianrico Colonna (Violentiaak co-author and guitarist on “Trip Remix”) and Marco Maffei (soundman and art manager on the whole project) for this release turned from Violent Bop Generator into The Alpha States.
The Alpha States - Solitude StandingThe revealing sign is the second track, "Violeentiaak": from this "strike to your brain", as one music critic already defined it, we can realize the aim put on the project, mostly by the engineer and sound designer Marco Maffei. "Violeentiaak" is a sabbath, it has an intro recalling Massive Attack and a Portishead-like evolving: a crescendo without acme, planned to stun and lead into a trance state.
The trance itself seems to be an inspiration, as I suspected while reading the project name. Yes, that’s so, because the tracks push you to a new level, beyond the "vegetative state": with alpha waves of the brain you can create the most sublime things, you can enter an extrasensory world in which you feel no pain and regenerate your body and mind.
The theme is body and music. "In our technological and metropolitan culture the years of techno and digital music have awakened an ancient vital resource: the ability to transcend our bodies and access, through music and dance, to the dimension of the unknown, of the elsewhere and finally to the trance", wrote Gianfranco Salvatore, ethnomusicologist, professor at University of Lecce (Techno-trance. Una rivoluzione musicale di fine millennio, Castelvecchi, 1998). The Alpha States do not sound integrated into the back catalog with which, in 2012, Suzanne Vega celebrated the "Solitude Standing" jubilee (with some concerts in Italy, too). Instead, they look more like a pretext reflecting to that, with their whole heap of vibrations and frequencies.
If it’s so, I suggest that you listen to the EP in this order: start from "Violeentiaak" (track 2), then "Solitude Standing (Trip Remix)" (track 3), after that "Solitude Standing" (track 1) and, after altering your responsive state, conclude away from this EP, listening to the original S.Vega 1987 song. Maybe this last track will sound like a The Alpha States cover song. 
(Giovanni Dello Iacovo, journalist)


Review: "The Charmin' Elf - She'll wear my ring" (Song)


If you take the soul of the traditional and epic Chieftains, add the popular one of Dubliners and the fresh and current one of Lunasa, with the originality of their sound, you will get... The Charmin'Elf. Several years have passed since their first album titled "Mattino", which boded for a second chapter .
Finally, in November 2012, they released the new single "She'll wear my Ring" for a new label (RadioSpia): a ballad written by Giovanni Mastrangelo. It is intense and can affect your mood, it shines of immediacy and ease of impact .
The melanconic charm of its chorus pervades the listener's heart, thanks to the low whistle played by Massimo La Zazzera in one of his last recordings (maybe the last one). The Charmin' Elf have grown and have became mature, giving us their passion and curiosity.
One of the main credit is the suggestive and simple arrangement wanted by Marco Maffei, who engineered the song and decided to move the band away from the Irish-folk style, into a new contamination with other musical genres.
Infact, I denote a folkie matrix with digressions through a baroque phrasing, especially for the strings played by Emanuel
a Lioy (violin and cello).
The other musicians, Nicola Cicerale on guitar, Giovanni Mastrangelo on bass and bouzouki , Aldo Grillo on percussions let "She'll wear my Ring" spread feelings of honesty, candor, pride and elegance, above all thanks to the the exquisite voice of Mara Campobasso (also playing a diatonic harp, called in Gaelic "cláirsach" ). Her voice reminds the Altan singer and violinist Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, but her originality and tunes are so strong that any comparison vanishes.
The winter is over, this ballad and its sounds are warming up the Spring with reflections of changing: the right season to listen and appreciate it. Waiting for the new album. 
(Samuele Romano, music critic)

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