What is memory? The modern world tends to treat memory as truth, but memory is rarely faultless. Memory is a creative process that embellishes the past, or conveniently edits it. The brilliant Italian roots band Novalia understands memory, and they state that their musical philosophy is akin to archeology; they unearth ancient melodies and affix them to contemporary technology. Arkeo is a major achievement in the new Neapolitan movement. In re-collecting the past, Novalia offer a vision of the future.
Arkeo is an album so seductive and beautifully produced that you may believe you're undergoing a fever dream. With songs averaging six minutes, Novalia construct languid soundscapes where disparate musical styles collide in surprising fashion. The heartbreaking traditional ballad of betrayal "La Ballata della Cecilia" floats in on gorgeous guitar and vocal harmonizing before erupting into deep percussive drum 'n' bass. Novalia's groundbreaking vision deftly situates bouzouki, bagpipes, Arabian instruments and samplers amongst trip-hop and thunderous funk rhythms. While the upbeat songs on Arkeo implore you to dance, Novalia shine brightest in their quieter moments. Even on slow songs such as "Les Enfants de Giza," the groove is hypnotic, and weaving accordion lines are utilized to great effect. The closing masterpiece "Cantigas," based on a 13th century introspective Spanish song, embeds choirs distantly into the mix while woodwinds, electric feedback, and percussion meld into an aural portrait of longing and solitude. Arkeo is a career-defining album that may prove to be as timeless as the Mediterranean influences that Novalia enhances. - Lee Blackstone
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