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Carpani, Alex: Microcosm

I could describe what the latest release, Microcosm, from Alex Carpani is all about, but instead I’ll let the man himself have that honour…

"Microcosm is a concept album about a world in miniature, opposed to macrocosm. Human beings can be viewed as an epitome of the universe, small-scale models of the universe, with all its variety and contradiction. When you think of microcosm, picture your home town inside a snow globe: the teeny tiny city is a microcosm of the one you live in. It is that place in miniature. 
All this is represented here with a series of slices of life, possible real-life experiences through the 12 songs of the album."

…so, that this album opens with a cover is maybe something of a surprise. That the song chosen, while fitting the concept, is King Crimson’s “Starless”, is possibly an even less expected move. But instead of being an immediate step too far, the updated but still instantly recognisable Crimson classic instantly reveals the class on show. Admittedly, I have to say that when I read the guest list - Carpani wrote everything here and also provides most of the vocals, synths, mellotron, synth-bass, drums loops and electronics - I feared that I already knew exactly where we were headed. Hugely talented though they are, the names David Jackson (Van der Graaf Generator), Theo Travis (Steven Wilson, The Tangent, Robert Fripp) and David Cross (King Crimson) do seem to pop up with ever increasing frequency on albums that all revolve around the sound that the aforementioned Mr Fripp is renown for. That Microcosm instead uses their skills in a much more glistening pop framework is quite the pleasant surprise. Think This Oceanic Feeling and Lonely Robot jamming with The Police and throw in some hues of an admittedly Crimson nature and you won’t be far from the likes of “The Mountain Of Salt” or “What Once Was”.

With “Prime Numbers” adding up to a much more Latin flavoured but still jagged concoction and “The Outer World” being shimmering, if melancholy and sax infused pop, the breadth covered is impressive - and that’s without even mentioning the Jon Davison (Yes) fronted “Kiss And Fly”, which adds a straight forwardness to a Crimson inflected mix to great effect.

With the variety on show, the excellent musicianship that abounds at every turn and Alex Carpani’s undoubted ability to pen a memorable song or twelve, Microcosm surprises on many levels - thankfully all of which are intriguing and impressive.

Track Listing
1. Starless

2. Kiss And Fly 

3. God Bless Amerika

4. The Mountain Of Salt 

5. We Can't Go Home Tonight 

6. Footprints In The Hearts 

7. Prime Numbers 

8. What Once Was 

9. When The Tears Roll Down

10. The Outer World 

11. Redemption

12. Microcosm

Added: October 24th 2022
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Alex Carpani online
Hits: 796
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Carpani, Alex: Microcosm
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2022-10-24 22:51:44
My Score:

Italian/composer and multi-instrumentalist Alex Carpani has been plying his trade for decades. Early on in his career he focused on new age/electronic music and in 2007 he started to go in a more rock direction, including forays into progressive rock. He has released a number of albums since, including his 2018 release titled Aerostation which earned a four star review, my first exposure to Carpani’s music. He is back with a new album titled Microcosm and it continues his growth as a progressive rock artist and musician. The album features an excellent cast of musicians:

Alex Carpani (vocals, synths, Mellotron, synth bass, drum loops, electronics)
David Jackson (sax and flute)
Theo Travis (sax)
David Cross (violin)
Jon Davison (vocals)
Bruno Farinelli (drums)
Andrea Torresani (bass)
Davide Rinaldi (guitar)
Emiliano Fantuzzi (guitar)

An impressive guest list, with Jackson appearing on no less than seven tracks! And as you might expect he does bring a bit of that King Crimson creativity to the proceedings. Cross and Travis appear on one and two tracks respectively, adding their expert craftsmanship.

The disc begins with a reimagining of the King Crimson classic “Starless”, a mood laden track shifting between varying colors of dreamy spaciness and classy art rock. Carpani’s vocals are wonderfully relaxed, and his electric guitar is slow and emotive, well placed within the musical flow. With ”Kiss And Fly”, featuring the vocals Jon Davison, the guitar riffs are a little heavier and as the verse invokes a feeling of dreaminess, the chorus takes those rounded corners and applies heavier elements. I hear a little classic Yes in “God Bless Amerika”, going from an intro piano keyboard to spacey soundscapes and Carpani’s biting lead guitar. “The Mountain Of Salt” is perhaps the catchiest tune with its addictive guitar riffs and Jackson’s subtle yet superb sax work. “We Can’t Go Home Tonight” starts soft with a gently rooted melody on piano supplemented with saxophone from Travis, playfully intertwined with Carpani’s lush lead vocals before thrusting into mid tempo progressive rock, about as tasty as you can get. “Footprints In The Hearts” features winding synths and tasty sax and a cool, almost jarring guitar riff, seemingly at odds with the song’s smoothly flowing melodies.

That is only half the album, there are six more tracks which I enjoyed immensely, making Microcosm one of my favourite discs of the year so far. Highly recommended!

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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