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Monni, Lorenzo: Grey Swans of Extremistan

Italian composer/multi-instrumentalist Lorenzo Monni manages something special on his third LP, Grey Swans of Extremistan; a very cohesive album full of diverse tracks. There's a lot of experimentation too, which makes this a fascinating album worth investigating—each listen reveals new layers.

At 24, Monni has accomplished a lot. Besides having three solo albums under his belt, he's involved in the duos Dunkelblau and Superio. In addition, he's a student of electronic engineering. With an emphasis on emotion, technicality and surprises (you never know quite where the album is going), it's clear that Monni really emphasizes craft over commerciality on Grey Swans.

The album opens with the haunting "Cascade." Guitar arpeggios that seem to stem from Alejandro González Iñárritu films (21 Grams, Babel) form the backdrop of ominous progressive jazz (and odd sound effects). This unique mixture forms the basis of the album, and Monni takes listeners on symphonic voyages at every turn.

"Contrary Winds" emphasizes a bit of post-rock with hypnotic guitar lines over electronic mischief (which, to be fair, can get a bit annoying). And the synthesis of angelic mellowness and demonic heaviness on "Doggeral Of The Deep" is only the first time an similarity to Tubular Bells is felt (it's felt even more with the last couple tracks).

The playfulness of "The Mysterious Cyclist of Cyclette" (it's almost danceable) is the perfect antithesis to the somber nostalgic vibe of "Amarcord." "The Art of Being Amazed" stays true to its name by essentially being a showcase of Monni to play some fast stuff, while "Mosquitoes Will Defeat FBI" is the most alien and avant-garde. The album closes with the foreboding, atmospheric "Zeitgeber" and "Once Upon A Time in Extremistan." The two really feel like companion pieces, ending the album with a catastrophic tone.

Grey Swans of Extremistan is a brave album. It's sometimes slow and often dissonant, but that's what makes it appealing. The title implies some political commentary, and since life is a mixture of beauty and ugliness, Monni creates appropriately. No matter how you feel about it, you can't deny its ambition.

Track Listing
1. Cascade
2. Contrary Winds
3. Doggerel Of The Deep
4. The Mysterious Cyclist Of Cyclette
5. Amarcord
6. The Art Of Being Amazed
7. Mosquitos Will Defeat FBI
8. Zeitgeber
9. Once Upon A Time In Extremistan

Added: February 22nd 2011
Reviewer: Jordan Blum
Related Link: Artist Website
Hits: 1737
Language: english

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