Warmly melodic vocals and strings, chamber music arrangements - a deeply personal mix of folk and Italian songwriting. At the root of this debut album by Gabriele Muscolino (Visage Music, 2021) was the idea of recording in a traditionally rustic room. 10 original tracks were cut almost exclusively in an old wooden parlour.
We are at the farmhouse in Costalovara, now the site of a beekeeping museum. Outside it is still cold, despite the spring sunshine. The wind sways the grasses and treetops, the pond begins to thaw, dried corn cobs hang from wooden beams. Indoors, in the par- lour, musicians and sound engineers do their best to warm themselves at a small stove. The acoustic line-up (bouzouki, violin, cello, backing vocals and accordion) accompany the lead vocals - yet there is something else in this place. Something Edenic. Nature, the stone walls, the thatched roof and the pinewood room: this space colours the songs. From the very start, the musicians feel the touch of this “invisible conductor”, as Gabriele dubbed this force that grants the album its special sound - creaks and background noise included.
The lyrics are amplified by the room’s atmosphere; whether they relay stories, dialogues, dreams or confessions, they touch something deep within the listener. The mood varies: sometimes narrated, sometimes surreal and lyrical, other times satirical. Muscolino’s voice and its melodic ingenuity benefit strongly as the beautiful melodies come one after another and draw the listener under their spell. The bouzouki sets the groove upon which the album’s sound can develop: we have a violin (played by Lorenzo Barzon), a cello (Luca Pasqual) and the edgy-yet-sensitive backing vocals of Angelika Pedron. This core line-up weaves its way between the folkish and the more sophisticated, freeing expressive space for the accordions of Martin Tourish (from the Irish cult band Altan) and Matteo Facchin. Tourish’s work on the ballads “Il ragazzo che saliva sugli alberi” and “Mi lascerò cadere” is a real seal of musical style and sensibility. Overall, the end product is a shimmering album made up of 10 songs, multifaceted yet bound together. Its stories stir our hearts and the songs themselves form an audible dialogue between the instruments and the subterranean forces of emotion. An album best enjoyed loudly and in one sitting.