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Not the most conventional of avant-prog acts, Italians NICHELODEON have been a collective, a rather large one incorporating dozens more musicians/singers from all over the globe, since their formation in 1997. Following in the footsteps of their prog forefathers PFM, GOBLIN et al, their music incorporates a chamber rock element, if not an operatic one in the case of their project leader/composer, 7-octave singer Claudio Milano.
Together with electric guitarist Francesco Zago, fellow YUGEN pianist Maurizio Fasoli and jazz synth-man Riccardo Di Paola, NICHELODEON finally unleashed their debut album, the live and theatrical CINEMANEMICO (2008) {*6}; tracks and vision lifted from several years past and varying Milano backing combos. A soundtrack in the sense that rhythm-less (er… no drum and bass), create an avant-garde atmosphere and insane tension of a sedate live setting, tracks such as `Malamore E La Luna’, `Fame’ and La Torre Piu Alta’, are the ones that hit the veins immediately.
A few months after its release, Di Paola was replaced by (soon-to-be guest) Luca Olivieri, while the main nucleus of Claudio’s incumbent ensemble (musicians Francesco Chiapperini, Andrea Illuminati, Andrea Murada, Lorenzo Sempio, Luca Pissavini and Max Pierini) worked on IL GIOCO DEL SILENZIO (2010) {*7} – “The Game Of Silence”. As close to “Red”-era KING CRIMSON or avant-gardists HENRY COW, their wired-to-the-moon/witch’s-sacrifice approach was an experience to behold. Probably better outlaid live (as in Enrico Maria Brocchetta’s video featuring actress Manuela Tadini), revised tracks from their debut graced this operatic/chamber-rock work of art. Complementing `Fame’, `Malamore…’, `Amanti In Guerra’ and `Cio Che Rimane’, touches of insanity came with `Fiaba’, `Claustrofillia’ and `Apnea’.
On the back of a live 30-minute “No” EP (Murada was now absent), NICHELODEON masterminded their most profound work: the double-set, BATH SALTS (2013) {*7}. As par for the course, previous revolving-door alumni were now on an expansive guest list, their studio berths taken this time by musicians/co-composers Raoul Moretti, Pierangelo Pandiscia and Vincenzo Zitello. The whole project was funded by; Claudio’s somewhat lurid video on one of the “Finale” pieces (`Ninna Nanna’) was particularly poignant to the theme of body beautiful/body bad. Over 100 minutes exploring the possibilities of relaying music from the outer shadows of the cosmos (or thereabouts), Milano excelled on `Terra’, while there was room for covers of PETER HAMMILL’s `This Side Of The Looking Glass’ and Weill-Brecht’s `Surabaya Johnny’; he was also soon to cover `Venus In Furs’ (The VELVET UNDERGROUND).
Whether combined with his previous efforts or released separately with off-shoot, InSonar, Milano took his minimalism to new levels on the latter’s “L’Enfant et Le Menure”. Building up the ensemble to new heights, the man and 62 contributors (British/US-based NIK TURNER, Trey Gunn, ELLIOTT SHARP, Ralph Carney, among them), the pleasure certainly comes with a bit of pain at first, but as with NICHELODEON’s fourth set proper, UKIYOE – MONDI FLUTTUANTI (with InSonar) {*8}, one/the listener could go the extra mile at one’s own pace. If Claudio was to succeed as an international entity, the puzzling aspects of his multi-dimensional/anti-conventional CDs must be addressed; this one, incidentally, was shared with a soundtrack (“Quickworks & Deadworks”) by Francesco Paolo Paladino. But in a modern context of performance art, his growing legion of fans “get it”, and why not with classic(al) pieces such as `Fi(J)uru d’Acqua’ and the 19-minute suite `MA(r)LE’.
© MC Strong/MCS Apr2015

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