Kaleidoscope is a 2-CD re-release of this phenomenal Italian band's first two releases, Lavori in Corso and Duty Free Area (the band's true non-abbreviated name), along with three bonus tracks. In some ways, this is as needed a revisitation as the splendid National Health re-issue of 1990, National Health Complete (by the unusual East Side Digital label). Right from its inception, D.F.A. demonstrated a bravura standing with Gentle Giant, PFM, Caravan, Mahavishnu Orchestra, the 1st Shadowfax LP, and other hoary elders. It continues to do so.
Each member of this quartet is a virtuoso, and, frankly, the glaring absence of the ensemble as headliners at what should be damn near every prog music fest available speaks loudly to the oft lamentable mentality of the critics, promoters, and too often the audience of this estimable and evolutionary genre. That said, fellow countrymen PFM may well be one of the combo's better comparatives. Though D.F.A. tends to mind-blowing, interlocking, enneagrammatic tapestries of complex and shifting compositions, they also know how to chill out in expansive counterpointing via keyboard-dominated largo passages. PFM's World Became the World is more than once remembered, though D.F.A. tends more frequently to density.
The interaction between these human tornados will have you swearing there are at least seven of them, not four, and the heady time signatures may well provoke a sprint to the nearest door or window just to ensure a cyclone isn't moving through the area. Each song represents an era when audients had to sit down and really listen to what they were hearing in order to fully absorb the soma, the psychochemical effect of the artistry, properly. Cuts like Pantera illustrate why superior musics are much the same as an addictive drug, save that there are no downsides, and cogently argue in favor of Schopenhauer's dictum: art is the true reason for existence.
Ah yes, Schpoenhauer and philosophy. Being probably the most vocal negativist in the progrock realm, I have to note that the tendency of the style's brick-thick business dimension to blunder through one disaster after another while leaving truly superior groups to fate (Saga, IZZ, this ensemble, etc.) has practically murdered what was once an arena-filling sound, leaving it to the not very trustworthy whims of chance, the reward of which we see all too well. Read an issue of Progression or Expose, or, worse, travel over to the laughable Gnosis website (does that abomination even still exist?), to peruse just how critics mirror the oleaginous biz element, then contemplate where the genre's ills really lay. This is why ensembles like DFA tend to languish.
On the other hand, consider this: if there is to be an a chance at an interregnum or rebirth—and I must aver that I gravely doubt such will arise—how likely is it that even the progenitor artists would assign this combo to tour with them? I mean, Yes might well find itself blown off the stage (hence, their recent hilarious decision to tour with Peter "I'm in You" Frampton). Dream Theater would be sweating to keep up, and even the jam bands (Widespread Panic, Government Mule, Disco Biscuits, and so on) might quail, daunted at the overarching dexterities of such as Monsieurs Minelli, De Grandis, Baldassari, and Bonomi. No, I very strongly suspect that if there is to be any hope at all for some semblance of past glories and market viability in progrock, groups like D.F.A. will have to organize with kindred (Porcupine Tree, Marillion, etc.) and form their own artist-run conglomerate enterprise. Until then, the MoonJune label is holding down the fort. Aesthetes, then, will do as they must: develop a well-chosen collection and stage their very own, private, in-the-living-room Listenapaloozas. Start with these guys.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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