Valerian Swing - Nights

by Bill Golembeski Rating:9 Release Date:2017-05-12

I really like Valerian Swing’s new album Nights. It’s highly arranged, complex, melodic, dynamic rock music. I was a bit worried, though. Their website claims they are “three Italian lunatics playing mathy, violent, anthemic and largely instrumental tunes.” I love instrumental rock music. A good anthem is always welcome. And violence is in the ear of the beholder.

But the “mathy” part was the worry. You see, I nearly failed just about every math class I have ever taken. Not only that, but I was once asked to substitute teach in a high school math class. I was told to teach the students how to factor polynomials. Well, I didn’t have a clue about polynomials, except I had a vague idea that they were the people who discovered America before Christopher Columbus. Suffice it to say I was never asked to sub in a math class again, or a history class for that matter.  

But no need to worry: This may be loosely labeled as “math rock” because, sure, the music is at times quite angular and the rhythmic patterns are all over the place. It’s just that the term “math rock” may incite the masses to duck, cover, and prepare for the heavy sonic onslaught. That just isn’t true for this record. If anything, the music really recalls the instrumental work of such great Italian progressive rock bands as Premiata Forneria Marconi (known as PFM to the rest of the world), il Balletto di Bronzo, and Raccomandata Ricevuta Ritorno (sadly never known to the rest of the world as iBdi and RRR respectively). But you have to love those Italian prog band names!

Anyway, I will grant you that Valerian Swing does not have the flutes, heavy Hammond organ, and forceful Italian language vocals; but truly, this music is a modern and very clever take on the progressive bands from the 70’s. And, as old prog head, it’s a joy to hear. Mr. Radue (aka Jazz Guy) claims to hear a bit of the rockier side of Tangerine Dream in a song like “Three Keys.” I think he’s right, but I will never publically own up to actually owning a Tangerine Dream album. My preference is for songs like “A Leaf” which starts slowly, cascades into a driving rhythm, before exploding into, and I hate to say it, progressive rock grandeur in all its glory. And there is so much light and dark in this music. Let’s face it: King Crimson, one of the original “math rock” giants, blew the speakers wide open with “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic (Parts I &II) but managed to quell the sonic boom with a song like “Book of Saturday.” Valerian Swing manages the same feat. Listen to the wonderful “Two Ships” which is bit of a wild ride with Stefano Villani’s almost Fripp-like guitar driving a hard rock edge until it is relieved by (the new guy) Francesco Giovanetti’s quiet synth part with vocals (by Stefano), and this, in turn, gives way to the major guitar riff theme. And did I mention the absolute beauty of David Ferretti’s percussion?  There’s no mere time keeping here. The guy is a brilliant drummer. 

Now, I have to admit to yet another non-drug related flashback. The song “Four Horses” pulses with an ELP (known to the rest of the world as Emerson, Lake, and Palmer) rhythm with a Wishbone Ash Mark II (with Laurie Wisefield) guitar workout. Odd? Yeah, but flashbacks usually are a bit odd! The same is true for “Six Feet.” I hear the same intense major guitar rock of Wishbone’s “F.U.B.B.” from There’s the Rub. And it’s all sort of funky in a wonderfully dramatic flashback way. This is exciting and very human rock music. And I love the song “Seven Cliffs” which is just joyous Italian rock, almost like “Celebration” from the before-mentioned PFM.

The record ends with “Eight Dawns.” The song hovers over everything that has gone before and works as a lofty exit to an album made by three Italian lunatics playing mathy, violent, anthemic, largely instrumental music.” Sure. But these three lunatics have made a thoroughly enjoyable album. It may be math rock, and I’m still horrid in mathematics, but this record is thing of beauty with a lot of magic in its grooves.

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