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Berserk!: Berserk!

Jeff Dayton-Johnson By

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Berserk!: Berserk! Bassist Lorenzo Feliciati is the driving force behind Naked Truth, whose Ouroboros (RareNoise, 2012), featuring trumpeter Graham Haynes, is an invigorating sonic slab of post-Miles Davis post-jazz-rock. Feliciati and vocalist Lorenzo Esposito Fornasari here convene a coterie of like-minded post-everything musicians to go Berserk!

The hybrid music they make takes Naked Truth as a starting point and stretches in some new directions, notably that of various forms of heavy metal. Their ecumenical enthusiasm obviates the need to define what "genre" they play. Nevertheless, particularly at All About Jazz, it's revealing to consider just what the Berserk! sound shares with jazz.

It's jazz-like in a general sense: Feliciati, Fornasari and their bandmates draw abundantly upon rhythmic complexity, driven by dance-derived grooves, as well as individual and group improvisation. But what's curious is just how jazz-like Berserk! is in a fairly specific sense. These musicians' fondness for conventional jazz sounds—like trombone and upright bass (provided by Gianlucca Petrella and Feliciati, respectively, on "Clairvoyance"), or Sandro Satta's John Zorn-like alto saxophone at the opening of "Latent Prints"—are enough to quicken the pulse of many an old jazzbo. More to the point, these are sound elements too infrequently incorporated into the music of post-rock instrumentation, and it's good to hear them here.

And then there's the metal dimension. This is suggested in part by the underground album art and the vaguely dark and violent song titles. And metal of a certain grindcore variety is certainly present in some of Fornasari's singing (e.g. "Not Dead," on which he sounds inspired by Mark "Barney" Greenway of Napalm Death). All the driving metal elements come together, notably including guitarist Eivind Aarset, in the thrilling climax of "Latent Prints," and it is fairly new to jazz and genuinely thrilling.

That said, the music on this record is pleasingly varied and often marked by a profound sensitivity. Fornasari's vocals, in addition to the metallic tinge, cover textures ranging from Leonard Cohen's vaguely menacing whisper, to the darkly elegant style of Secrets of the Beehive (Virgin, 1987)-era David Sylvian, to full-blown operatic exaggeration ("Dream Made of Water"). Moments of instrumental quiet—"Dream Made of Wind," for example—alternate with the moments of high volume (jazzbos, take note: it's the eternal yin-and-yang between the legacies of saxophonists Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young, springing up in the unlikeliest of places).

As with the Naked Truth album that preceded it, it's hard not to label this record "post-something": post-jazz, post-rock, post-Miles, occupying a space cleared by previous innovations. It's tempting also to see Berserk! as "pre-" something, so affirming and positive is its sound. Stay tuned.

Track Listing: Macabre Dance; Fetal Claustrophobia; Blow; Not Dead; Clairvoyance; First; Dream Made Of Wind; Wait Until Dark; Latent Prints; Dream Made of Water.

Personnel: Gianluca Petrella: trombone, effects (1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 10); Sandro Satta: alto saxophone (3, 9); Fabrizio Puglisi: piano, Arp Odyssey (6, 8, 9); Jamie Saft: keyboards (1, 2, 9); Eivind Aarset: guitars (3, 4, 7, 9, 10); Lorenzo Feliciati: electric and upright bass; Cristiano Calcagnile: drums, effects (4, 5); Pat Mastelotto: drums, electronic percussion (6, 8, 9); Simone Cavina: drums (1, 2); Lorenzo Esposito Fornasari: voice, guitars, organ, electronics.

Title: Berserk! | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: RareNoiseRecords


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