AMN Reviews: Accordo dei Contrari – UR- (2021; Cuneiform Records)

I first began exploring Italian progressive rock, a genre that previously I had not even known of its existence, around 1990. Soon after, as many of the classic albums (and quite af few worthwhile obscurities) were released on CD for the first time, a second wave of Italian prog began to emerge. But after a few years, I lost track of the goings-on in this arena. While I certainly found much to like in the output of some of these groups (e.g., Deus Ex Machina and Eris Pluvia to name just two), the sheer volume became overwhelming.

Enter Accordo dei Contrari. This instrumental outfit, led by keyboardist Giovanni Parmeggiani, brings to bear many of the hallmarks that you might expect from a prog band – longish tracks, complex rhythms, and compositions that draw from rock, classical, and jazz. What Parmeggiani and company do quite well – better than most – is blend these influences to produce music that sounds both familiar and novel at the same time.

Case in point, at just before the 5-minute mark of Tergeste, the opening track, Parmeggiani and drummer Cristian Franchi are following one another in an elaborate pattern while guitarist Marco Marzo Maracas solos. Then, Maracas joins the other two, which gives Parmeggiani the opportunity to add a countering run of notes to the mix. The effect is exhilarating. On other tracks, Stefano Radaelli and Alessandro Bonetti offer up dueling sax and violin, with an intentional nod to Mahavishnu Orchestra. Guests appear on wordless vocals, bass, and second guitar.

The result is a cluster of prog themes and chops that are at times, anthemic, fragile, dense, dark, and outside. Despite drawing on 50 years of history, Accordo dei Contrari manages to exhibit an “it” factor that elevates UR- to the level of standout release. Well done.