Franco Battiato and the machines: the avant-garde period of the 70s

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In the early 1970s, Franco Battiato was a globetrotting young author with a passion for filming and sound experimentation in the round. Today it is known for the ability to give the sacred aura, magical and unique to every text, but the road to success left a path completely opposite, full of tacking between genres and eclectic interpretations of the music. The roots in pop and Italian songwriting, not denied him to explore beyond the walls of the boot, which, indeed, lived on a progressive substantive replicas no longer had confidence in promoting future. The “esoteric pop”, as was called to Battiato, was nothing but the discovery and gradual infatuation towards the German cosmic music, avant-garde and everything that was upsetting the European and global electronics.

His encounter with the pioneer movement, Karlheinz Stockhausen, was curious and probably represents one of the most illuminating of his career. It seems that from the recording session in Cologne, invited by the German concrete music legend, Battiato learned the metric and the solfeggio, he seized the secrets of the most advanced and complex grammar of music, captivated them implement mechanics within tracks, more than it ever did in the previous years. The lesson of Stockhausen was, therefore, a critical step to shaping his personality and his talent. He finished very soon to embark on a path of true Epiphany of that turmoil, with a series of albums that defined the early period, “experimental Battiato”.

Starting from Fetus, dated 1971, the Sicilian master opened the roads of pure sound contamination, gripping VCS3 and dozens of first-hand analog synthesizers, seeking a spiritual connection, even more than style, with a world that was scoring cerebrally. The psychedelic LP events phenomenology is a symptom of the journey to a border area where the pop is passed to make way for what modernism could lead to knowledge, without fear of being extreme and rundown. Fetus, which has become a cult only decades later, was greeted with skepticism, because of difficult collocation and complex which sprang from the pressure derived from sensations oblique, all from interpreting setting aside logic and rule. Was an antithesis to the trip, but there were already several items that were plaintiffs in the years to come.

Decadence and dark mold prog continue in Pollution, a year later, which further amplifies the gap towards a spiral of experiments aimed at destabilizing the listener. Cinematic atmospheres and the constant sound of the occult ostentation allow you to get in touch with a new phase of minimalism, almost in half with lyrical, as in songs such as Geo symbol. The warning “do you ever wonder what function you?” as sample e-closing speech reiterated before-as a suite of over 30 minutes, is a message that Babu delivers himself before the listener. There is no truth, there is no clear answer from having to find but continued dialogue with something abstract, intangible, how nice.

Keystone was also important, in 1973, Sulle Corde di Aries, alteration and interweaving song/soundscape, in a sequence free to overturn its own balance and style. Important peaks are touched, composition and interpretation, which push Battiato to be perceived with an image increasingly elusive and cursed, so admired. Sufism, mysticism and the storm of a relentless interest toward the Eastern culture, in this part of his life, represented an incentive for the creation of a physical music alive, almost disturbing, inside which were pulsating ideas and hidden knowledge. There is Aria di Rivoluzione, one that gets letter of intent by simultaneously compass of his thoughts, trying to make sense of the times characterized by a clear social, wish to escape raging. You can see by now, very clearly, the dawn of a pen sensitive to contemporary issues, to man, to his way of being in the world, which will separate more.

With Clicks, dated 1974, closes a cycle of accelerations chaotic flavor than you thought. Ambient drifts and recording tapes of stockhauseniana matrix, the progressive advance on that planet, rich dystopian had led to concrete realization of a fairy-like language. I Cancelli della Memoria is an ode almost unconscious to Brian Eno, who after two albums had finished his experience with Roxy Music, just a year before, to give life to the ambient. The elegance and carefree, together, make the bucolic atmosphere, magnetic and hedonistic traits of Propiedad Prohibida, cerebral trip manifest constant. And then No U Turn, where glimpses of a more mature and wise Battiato are divided the scene with an unusual harmony Chorale to invoke the form ballad, which represent the points of encounter with the future, what soon will be history, L’era del Cinghiale Bianco.

With the fourth and final musical deviation toward the cult avant-garde electronics, will close for the master scoring parenthesis, a swirl of instincts “grasped” that will affect its path. Within a very short time, catapulted into a dimension that could deny his conception of art for retaliation, proved a natural fermentation of his inner growth. Brand electronics cathartic and inquiring, in the soul of the songs of the Sicilian singer becomes a pipe dream in the middle of the desert, a way of being in the world for Italian music.

The step that led him to open the knowledge to unlimited boundaries and become even more aware, stubbornly, to establish a firmament. A kick that opened the doors to European tours in England and France, alongside names like Tangerine Dream and Ash Ra Temple, were legends of an era when the concept of electronic sound went into the future. 

The music of Battiato avant-garde, defined as “the middle way between the beginning and the end of everything” , remains story to reunite and savor with surprise, as in a book read over and over again, getting lost-as in a necessary stage-in the adventures that characterize the prologue to the legend.

A tribute to three of these releases has been published, in San Francisco, from exclusive reprint Superior Viaduct (you can find it here). One issue that will give new life to Fetus, Pollution and Sulle Corde di Aries for the first time ever in the US. 

Franco Battiato’s music at Amazon

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