AltrOck’s finest: Ske – 1000 Autunni

Ske - 1000 AutunniGreat timing, isn’t it? Spring has just started and here I am writing review about an album entitled ‘1000 Autumns’. Well, you know how it is, when inspiration comes you just go with the flow. My mood today is cloudy and grey, but with a hidden promise of sunshine and this is exactly what you’ll find on this release.


Actually, rainy mood is not the only reason I’ve picket this album. As you might already noticed, I’ve committed few of my last articles to review albums from my currently favourite label Soleil Zeuhl. I’ve spent most of 2013 going through Soleil Zeuhl catalogue and found within an overwhelming wealth of inspiriting music. But now, since I’m up-to-date with SZ releases, I’ve moved on to explore another promising, ambitious label: the AltrOck from Italy.

AltrOck is a fairly new company, it officially launched in 2005. It looks like it started as many other labels: a band wanted to release it’s music independently. As can be read on AltrOck’s website, it was founded by Marcello Marinone and Francesco Zago who also happen to be the founding members of the prominent RIO band – Yugen. Not surprisingly, Yugen’s debut album ‘Labirinto d’acqua’ was also a debut of AltrOck label.

It’s actually quite common nowadays that bands take on the whole production of their music. Such outputs are often refereed to as ‘self-released’. These ad hoc mini labels rarely become something more than initially intended. Surprisingly AltrOck didn’t follow that path and after two years on the market it started releasing other band’s work. Today with almost 50 excellent positions in their catalogue, they are becoming a significant voice in the experimental progressive music scene. In terms of geographical extent, they represent a wide variety of countries including some little known to me like Belarus or Estonia.

Quick glance at my discong account tells me that the day I started going systematically through their catalogue, I already owned six of their albums (including some under their recent, even more experimental sub-label Fading Records; I really don’t differentiate them) and a seventh one was already on my wantlist. As I progress my wantlist fills with more must-haves (but it also has to be mentioned that there are much more misses compared to Soleil Zeuhl, where most of the ‘stuff’ was a jackpot).

From the little set I already own, I’ve chosen one that I find especially important and worth recommending:

Ske – 1000 Autunni

Paolo ‘Ske’ Botta is another important member of Yugen. As far as I appreciate the band, I can’t convince myself to the very difficult and rough kind or RIO they represent. But Paolo’s solo project is a totally different story.

In some sense, it doesn’t feel like an Italian record. In my experience most of the things that come from Italy sound ingenious as much as… cheesy. This is not a complaint, it’s just my way of describing this special feature of their music. I don’t know how to express this more aptly. What I mean is that Italians like to develop melodies or motifs that, on their own, would sound silly, cheesy even, but somehow they manage to combine them in a compositions that are remarkably well balanced and enjoyable albeit little funny at times.

Well, in 1000 Autunni you won’t feel any cheesiness whatsoever. The ingenious compositional properties are still there, but the components themselves are also highly sophisticated and polished, much like these preferred by Scandinavians. Mr Botta is a master of keyboards and so they become the central point of he’s music. But he’s skills go far beyond simple proficiency. He is also a renowned instrument’s collector and an expert at utilizing their various characteristics to build unprecedented sonic textures. In some sense, the album feels like a tour-de-force of he’s gear and remarkable talents. Throughout the album, we are being treated with such an abundance and variety of landscapes it’s really hard to comprehend.

If you’d ask me to describe it in terms of established landmarks, I would say it lays somewhere on the border of eclectic prog and avant-garde. It’s definitely not an easy listen, but not that tedious either; frequently changing, engaging and challenging but definitely leaving enough space to take a deep breath and contemplate each scene for a while, try to solve the elusive mystery or just make yourself wonder for a while. Indeed, you’ll find a lot of mystery there, a lot of reflexive moments, sometimes even nostalgic. But then there are moments of a sudden discovery and joy of experiencing the world, which make up for everything else you may encounter in life. In fact, I’d say that there’s a whole spectrum of human emotions in there and it’s only up to the listener which will he choose to notice.

As befits to any self-respecting collector, Ske gives a detailed listing of all the instruments used in each of the 12 tracks. The lists are impressive, but even more are the many names of collaborating musicians. Besides friend from Yugen, Paolo recruited many members of two other bands signed to AltrOck: Ciccada and Camembert. Both of these are young and promising outfits. Actually, before even getting familiar with Ske, I already owned their albums and considered them a revelation. The surely give Paolo’s music justice; it really couldn’t get any better than this.

The 56-minute recording is released as a CD in standard jewel-case supplemented with 12-page booklet full of misty images and intriguing artwork.

Autumn or not, this is a perfect treat for upcoming days. While we wait for the nice weather to establish itself for good, the cold and the wet will still be haunting us from time to time. I’ll be spending such evenings with ‘1000 Autunni’ , and if you consider yourself a receptive person, you should try it too.

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