Calicanto - Isole Senza Mar
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Isole Senza Mar
Cierre edizioni/Felmay (

Filled with a mesmerizing combination of sophisticated woodwinds, Latinate percussion, and jovial Italian lutes, Calicanto's latest, Isole Senza Mar, is as much an oral history as a musical experience. Dedicated to the folklore and musical customs of the Veneto's Euganean hills, Isole Senza Mar features rollicking Italian folk that perfectly captures the beauty and musical tradition of the Veneto through both traditional Venetian chanteys, the observations of a few historical visitors, and original songs based on Calicanto's extensive interviews with the region's inhabitants.

Isole Senza Mar begins with the sound of waves lapping at the Veneto's shores, followed by lead singer Claudia Ferronato's recitation of extracts from P. B. Shelley's poetry about the Veneto. The music begins in earnest with a Gregorian chant, "Galli Cantu," by the monks of the Abbazia di Praglia, set only to Jew's harp and cittern accompaniment. The next song, "La pastora e il lupo," is a study in contrast - featuring all manner of lutes, shaker and conga percussion, upright bass, and reeded instruments to form an Italian dance rhythm. It is a morality tale of sorts, a common Northern Italian fable that warns of the dangers of overconfidence and conceit.

Beginning with a capella male vocals and percussion, "Batimarso" is grounded in the Venetian rites of spring, wherein each year to welcome the season and drive out the winter, the elders of the Euganean hills will walk through the streets using disparate, often dissonant, forms of percussion and singing in rhymes. Likewise, "I dodesi mesi de l'ano" is a traditional canto, steeped in the Italian celebration of the cycle of months. "I dodesi mesi de l'ano" features exhuberant vocals by Ferronato over an ever-changing melody that switches back and forth between Italian dance, folk, and pop with ease. "Bonaman," begins with the recording of an older Italian gentleman, Gaetano Baratella, telling the story of begging at Christmastime. This is Calicanto's tribute to the elders of the Veneto who helped them piece together these stories.

The instrumental "Asuvivr" is another musical walk through the hills featuring playful organetti, bagpipes and horns, while "Ave Maris Stella" is sung by the monks of the Abbazia di Praglia, this time a nocturnal chant for the vesper hours. The final track, "Nocturno Euganeo," is a cittern- and mandola-infused duet featuring a shaker rhythm and clarinet flourishes. Lyrically, "Nocturno Euganeo" is the story of the band's friend, the late Aldo Pettenella, who provided them with much of their material for Isole Senza Mar. The bonus track, "Voaria a Compostela," is a lute-and-fiddle tribute to the city of Santiago de Compostela featuring the Galician group Milladoiro.

Accompanying the CD is a rather thick hard-cover booklet containing the liner notes and lyrics, as well as an illustrated history and ecological synopsis of the Euganean hills. The images and anecdotes elucidate the meaning and historical context of each song in the collection. Isole Senza Mar is full of rollicking Italian melodies laced with folklore and stories of natural phenomena; an enjoyable and educational listen. - Tracy M. Rogers

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