A buddy of mine was the other day lamenting the fact that the Italian prog scene never really received its due beyond Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM). After all, what about Pichio dal Pazzo, Il Balletto di Bronzo, Latte e Miele, Le Orme, and so on? What prominence did any of them gain beyond prog-cult status? He's right. For some reason, the great geological boot in the Mediterranean never was able to export its progrock sons and daughters to the acclaim they very much deserved. Perhaps D.F.A. will inherit what those estimables missed; God knows they deserve it. A combination of Focus, Canterbury, non-dogmatic Magma, jazzrock fusion, and all the best of the 70s, not the least of which is incredibly complex interplay at all levels—even the volume mix, which secrets levels of composition—this group is apparently also entering rebirth, crediting itself as the new D.F.A.
I'm not familiar with the old, this being my first exposure, but it must've been a daunting genesis point, as 4th is an event along the lines of One Shot and some of the best fusion outfits of the last decade. A mere quartet, they sound to be twice as populated. Alberto Bonomi assails an organ (and various keyboards) that becomes an astonishing cross between Thijs van Leer, Jon Lord, and the Miles-era ivory ticklers while drummer Alberto de Grandis is an extraordinarily fluid percussionist, so much so that he transforms the skins from the rhythm unit function they normally occupy into true-est instrumentality. Silvio Minelli's guitars shade somewhat off the Canterbury school with broader applications in Phil Miller and others, and bassist Luca Baldassari oft reminds me of Hugh Hopper circa Soft Machine.
The compositions on 4th are long, none under 6:00 (see below), and ultra-complicated, not so much interlocking as freely playing off the elongated thoughts of the rest of the combo and then anticipating a path to the clouds…or burrowing subterraneanly. More than one hint of Gentle Giant waltzes in only to be replaced by a myriad of stylistic shifts. Each cut is a stunner, not unlike an M.C. Escher print (D.F.A. penned a tribute to the graphic master, found on their equally breathtaking live LP [here]), and furious in its craftwork. Thus we resurrect Bentham and Mills, bringing a split utilitarianism to the affair: 4th will either stoke you up with its fiery energy or mellow you out after a hard day in the coal mines, its infinitely absorbing patterns blissing the ears and mind, sending one to nirvana on a day pass.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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