Ballo delle Castagne – "Kalachakra"
(Hau Ruck! SPQR/Black Widow 2011, HR! SPQR XXI)
From Aural Innovations #42 (May 2011)
Ballo delle Castagne, as the sound of their name might suggest, is an Italian band; a four piece outfit that formed originally as a two piece in 2008. Kalachakra, based loosely on a Werner Herzog documentary on Buddhism called The Wheel of Time, is the second album in a planned trilogy that began with 2009’s 108.
This band is truly all over the place musically, exploring many of the kinds of music we love here at Aural Innovations. The opening cut, Passioni Diaboliche for example is a blast of vintage progressive rock with both male and female vocals. But then Ballo delle Castagne turn things on their heads with Tutte Le Anime Saranno Pesate, a moody, sometimes experimental space rock excursion reminiscent of early Ash Ra Temple. Following that is I Giorni Della Memoria Terrena, a beautiful march-like piece with liquid guitar and lush harmonies and melodies that reminded me a bit of The Far East Family Band. The 7-minute title track takes us into a blend of 70’s style hard rock with Eastern psychedelia that builds to a grand progressive finish! La Terra Trema on the other hand is an edgy rocker built on a funky rhythm with a great jam featuring some Deep Purple like organ playing that builds to yet another dazzling progressive finish with powerful keyboard arpeggios and heavy guitars blasting away. Superb stuff! La Foresta Dei Suicidi is a haunting piano laced piece with eerie female vocals and a lush symphonic element that weaves its way through it. Omega continues to haunt, with a dark soundscape buoying both strange chant-like and spoken word vocals before it morphs into a terrific heavy jam. And finally we come to Ballo Delle Castagne (yes, the title of the song as well as the name of the band), a strange excursion into experimental territory once again, this time reminding one of early Tangerine Dream or Harmonia with its throbbing rhythm and spacey Moog, but again, like so many pieces on the album, it transforms into something completely different, a spacey, mesmerizing Krautrock finish that closes out the album.
The band’s name means, roughly, The Ballet of the Chestnuts, and is a reference to an ancient, decadent Sabbath/orgy held in the Papal Palace of Pope Alexander VI (1431-1503) where guests danced and crawled around on the floor with 50 naked courtesans in the glow of lamps holding lighted candles, plucking chestnuts with their mouths that had been strewn around on the floor. I mention this because it might give you insight into the sound of Ballo delle Castagne: part spiritual, part mystical, part decadent, part sexual; music equally at home in the light of flickering candles in ancient halls or in the dazzling lights of a modern rock concert. Kalachakra is a terrific album and is highly recommended!
For more info, visit: http://www.myspace.com/ballocastagne
Reviewed by Jeff Fitzgerald