- Killer Opener
So, it’s been a little while since my first encounter with the amazing Argentine/Genoese group known as Aparecidos when I briefly reviewed their sophomore album for my Bite-size Prog article series. As I’ve been able to listen to this album many times over since then, I must say that Palito Bombon Helado is record which has aged very well; it has most definitely become increasingly enjoyable with every listen. And if that’s not a good enough reason to go out and pick it up, just remember, the title itself is sweet enough to give anyone the diabetes.
The first track, “Tanto Gonfio Saremo” blows my mind more and more with each listen as it encapsulates what’s to follow on the album and what I like so much about this band in its playful mix of folk and jazz with some light prog influences and overall distinctly South American vibe. The piece kicks it off with a quick waltz and quickly introduces the first melody, doubled by Manuel Merialdo’s glockenspiel, which relies heavily on an extremely pleasing sense of syncopation. The middle section nicely adds tension with the heavily syncopated classical guitar on rhythm and various unison instruments on the melody, including Tommaso Rolando’s bass which gives a nice and subtle touch. The percussion on “Tanto Gonfio Saremo” is varied, featuring everything from Latin style hand percussion to rock drumming, providing for some nice contrasts in heaviness from time to time. The song’s conclusion, which features group voices singing along with the main melody followed by a slightly ominous outro, couldn’t be better executed. “Tanto Gonfio Saremo” certainly is a fine piece to kickoff an great album.
While all the tracks on Palito Bombon Helado were good, there were a few that really stood out among the rest. “Camino a Dos Rius” presents a fantastic folk/classical-inspired guitar intro mixed with Mattia Tommasini’s violin, resulting in an immediate attention grabber. Suddenly, the rhythm section propels an odd meter beat that causes a distinct shift in mood, featuring a wood block that makes me grin from ear to ear. As the atmosphere eventually calms down for the subdued middle section, the violin once again takes a prominent role as we are gifted with a wonderful collaborative sense of harmonic movement just before some upbeat bass-lines groove in. The classical guitars jump in for support and take us to a fierce groove in seven that just about carries us to the end of what turns out to be a great piece.
Potentially the biggest surprise on the album was Saracinesaca, a very quirky track that takes you from one style to the next and leaves you thinking, “Wow, I didn’t imagine it was going to go through all that” (in a good way). It’s funny, this piece doesn’t really have a particular melody that leaped out to me personally, but its head-nodding, infectious use of rhythm, urgent sense of arrangement that grows as the piece develops (particularly when you hit the two minute mark), and clever way that the whole band constantly weaves in and out of the music, creates a dramatic and enjoyable soundscape.
I couldn’t get away without mentioning the closing song, “Peperina en el Semáforo,” a piece that I would describe as finding that nice blend between the melodic, rhythmic, and instrumental nuances that make Aparecidos a fun band. The track starts us off with some great tuned-percussion that really draws you in before bringing in the main melody on the acoustic guitar. The build on this one starts off pretty slow, but eventually we see hints of percussion, followed by the violin introducing a melody just prior to everything coming together as both classical guitars gorgeously meld distinct parts between the weaving movements of Tommasini’s violin. The entrance of the bass on the main melody is a wonderful moment, giving the piece some real body while simultaneously keeping the song intimate by not spreading the parts out too much. As the middle section approaches the feel continues to grow with the entrance of the drum kit, walking bass-lines, frantic guitar strumming, and light textures on the electric guitar. With an eventual revisiting of the main themes of the piece, “Peperina en el Semáforo” turns out to be a fine closer to a solid album.
I think these Argentine/Italian boys have a little here for many of us prog fans as they roll out catchy tunes with hints of tango, cumbia, Andean, and a slew of other Latin styles. The weird thing is the fact that these guys seem to fit so well with their record label, the amazing Altrock, while sounding absolutely nothing close to the majority of bands it hosts (which are by and large very RIO oriented). At the same time, I can’t help but feel like Aparecidos are pushing boundaries in their sphere as well, albeit in very subtle ways. While this is may not be an album that will get you rocking, I must recommend it for its excessive pleasantness and enjoyable atmosphere that maintains a high level of fun without losing any of the depth that it delivers due to the way it masterfully incorporates strong cultural sensibilities.
Check out Palito Bombon Helado on Bandcamp for a limited time!