Almamegretta - Vulgus
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Almamegretta
Vulgus
Sanacore Records (www.almamegretta.net)

We're getting so used to hearing about the world shrinking. The Internet brings people into contact with one another from all around the world, and information, images, and music are available 24/7, 365 days a year. With the click of a mouse, we've been able to encapsulate the space-time continuum; and remarkably, all these post-modernisms and technological mannerisms have become so familiar that the future is beginning to look a little boring. Which brings me to Almamegretta, because while Almamegretta are one of the most important Italian bands in existence, very few Americans have ever heard of the group.

Almamegretta are dub masters and sonic sculptors, with at least eight full albums to their credit. The group has worked with Bill Laswell and with Massive Attack, both of whom were seeking the spacious, ethno-technological dub kick that the Almamegretta collective could concoct. While there are now many Italian bands currently mining the combination of Italian folk music with electronica, Almamegretta were experimenting with such fusions for years. Soaring through Almamegretta's unique soundscapes on many albums was the voice of Raiz, whose dark raspiness suited the band's work; when Raiz left the band in 2003, Almamegretta seemed to be at a loss.

The new record, Vulgus, is a marked return to form. Raiz rejoins the band on the seriously smooth cut "Guarda Annanz'," and it is a highlight of the album. Continuing on from 2003's Sciuoglie e Cane, Almamegretta bring in more guest singers on Vulgus and the songs are simply more developed and more carefully constructed. Several songs are even in English ("Just Say Who," "What Have You Done"), and the group includes nods to American blues and r & b (as on "Primmavera Nova") and post-rock ("Black Wave"). The Jamaican artist Horace Andy also lends his vocals, reinforcing the album's strong return to dub stylings.

Elvis Costello once acerbically said that "writing about music is like dancing about architecture," which actually always struck me as a good idea. Why not dance to architecture? Every song on Vulgus has something sonically inventive going on, and Almamegretta have clearly found their mojo again by incorporating all varieties of musical inspiration, cutting and dicing and dubbing this collection. Vulgus has the goods to be a massive summer album, providing that Almamegretta finds new audiences beyond Italy and Europe. A world so close should not be keeping Almamegretta confined to its cult status. - Lee Blackstone

CD available from cdRoots

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