It was a rare opportunity: I managed to take two weeks off from work and spend time with family, doing one week in Mexico with my in-laws and another week in Daytona with my brother. Normally that means nothing but classic rock and sunny beach tunes to keep my mind relaxed, but thanks to another Sea of Tranquility video I started getting caught up in 70s Italian Prog. There was one band that I couldn’t readily find streaming (turns out you can find here on Spotify), and so here we are with another impulse buy, Tilt, the debut by Arti + Mestieri, which loosely translates to “Arts and Crafts”. We’re going in blind (or deaf) here, so let’s do this…
A six-piece at the time of Tilt, the band was formed by drummer Furio Chirico whose works as evidenced on opening track “Gravità 9,81” is plenty supple without sacrificing any power. You also get the standard guitar bass and keyboards (if there’s something that can be called a “standard” of Italian prog to my ears it’s the dramatic use of keyboards), but the sound is additionally filled out by violin and saxophone, giving the songs a heavy fusion feel in addition to the more progressive elements. The music is largely instrumental, but when there are vocals they’re predictably strong. “Strips” features Giovanni Vigliar on violin and vocals, and his voices has an ethereal quality to it that fits in with the more pastoral elements of the music.
The emphasis for much of Tilt lies in the “prog” more than the “rock” category, so song construction is paramount since any guitar pyrotechnics are few and far between. Fortunately the way the band works their contributions into the arrangements work like gangbusters: “Positive/Negativo” has everyone – including guitarist Luigi “Gigi” Venegoni – busting out some wicked solos and building harmonies and melodies both in tandem with and against each other. The middle section has shades of both Gentle Giant and Frank Zappa, and the way it flows into the more reflective “In Cammino” with Arturo Vitale’s sax prominent is a nice touch.
Side 2 is largely taken up with the 13-minute “Articolazioni” and it’s about what you would expect from a mid-70s Italian prog epic. Honestly, despite the great playing it’s probably the least impactful track on Tilt; the band really excels on the shorter, more immediate numbers. And I get the desire to through little interludes and more experimental pieces on your album, but whoever came up with the closing minutes that make up the title track really shouldn’t have bothered. I guess it kind of sounds like a pinball machine tilting? It’s really just a collage of bleeps and bloops, so if that’s your thing you’ll love it. Otherwise, I could have ended the album just fine without it.
Arti + Mestieri. Arts and Craft. Definitely enough to dig, so we’ll check out some more.