Berserk! – Berserk! (2013)

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Lorenzo Feliciati more often than not finds himself making collaborative kind of music instead of solo projects. A virtuoso at both electric and acoustic bass, Feliciati needs no help, but recognizes that sometimes, getting together with other creative musicians results in an especially creative outcome. That’s an outcome we’ve seen from both of the Naked Truth albums he did with keyboardist Roy Powell and drummer Pat Mastelotto (and, originally, trumpet player Cuong Vu), and again with guitarist Joel Harrison for last year’s Holy Abyss release. So when a mutual admiration club developed between Feliciati and fellow Italian Lorenzo Esposito Fornasari, the idea to make a record together was an idea the bassist was well comfortable in doing. This get-together has a name, too, one that reflects the schizoid nature of the music itself: Berserk.

In Fornasari, who will henceforth go by his convenient nickname LEF, he got a multi-instrumentalist and sonic sculptor with the vision and know-how to take idea kernels into fully-realized songs, and put them all together with a soundtrack-like flow. And it didn’t seem as if the two went into their project with any forethought as to what kind of music would ultimately form, it’s the product of a process, not an ends onto itself. Helping to round out their sound on various tracks are Mastelotto, Gianluca Petrella on trombone and effects, Eivind Aarset on guitars, Fabrizio Puglisi on piano and Arp Odyssey, Jamie Saft on keyboards, Sandro Satta on alto sax, Cristiano Calcagnile on drums and effects and Simone Cavina also on drums.

Sure, it’s an overused cliché, but this is music that truly defies categorization. The growling vocals and menacing stance on tracks such as “Macabre Dance” suggest metal-prog, but that same song also features a jazzy cymbal ride and wide expanses of ambient passages. Songs progress in a way that more resemble operas than rock songs, even when they share many of same sonic properties of rock. “Fetal Claustrophobia” begins meekly enough with an acoustic piano, launches into a King Crimson styled sinister jungle beat accompanied by demonic vocal, then breaks down into avant-jazz led by Petrella. The brief dirge “Blow” dispenses with electronic instruments altogether, save for foreboding background textures, with only Feliciati on acoustic bass and Satta on sax lurking about. That leads right into another one of LEF’s death metal moods over a faux-reggae beat, “Not Dead,” where his vocals mimic Captain Beefheart on downers, except for those moments when he’s growling and screaming. And yet, room is made for a trombone solo.

LEF doesn’t always sing like a psycho, though; in fact, he is sounding rather pleasing like Tim Bowness of No-Man on the melodic, multi-layered “Wait Until Dark” and the creepy, atmospheric “Dream Made of Water,” at least he gets guttural as the song crescendos. But trying to pin down a tendency he — or anyone else — sticks with is nearly futile. That’s the real merit of Berserk!; it is full of suggestions of so many forms of modern music, but never conforms to any of them. Feliciati will jump headfirst into those kinds of projects every time, and in LEF he found once again the right partner in crime.

Berserk! will go on sale May 6, by Rare Noise Records.

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S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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