ANGUS McOG – Cirrus (Gare Du Nord Records)

CirrusWith his new album, Cirrus, Angus McOg (aka Italian folk singer Antonio Tavoni) paints with a brush stroke melodic beauty that could, perhaps, soundtrack the Degas painting, Rehearsal Of The Ballet Backstage. There’s piano taut tension, an introspective thought, an artistic blood pulse, sleight hesitation, an impressionistic blur — all of which rides on a razor wire of texture, colour, a bit of honest passion, an occasional backbeat, and a really nice (and sometimes explosive) folky traditional rock vibe.

The first song, ‘Cirrus’, is slow, expansive, and gentle, as Antonio’s sweet airy vocals slow dance, with piano and trumpet magic, through (to make another famous French person painting reference!) Starry Night. This is gossamer web music. [Actually, Van Gogh was Dutch – Ed.]

The next songs continue the gentle vibe. ‘Low’ drips with beauty and has an up-beat pulse with an ultra-melodic high-wire vocal that fronts a soulful piano, a rather nice electric guitar solo, and huge chorus. The immaculate pop-rock of The Sutherland Brothers and Quiver, circa Reach For The Sky comes to mind. Ditto for the (always melodic) Lilac Time and brother Nick Duffy’s band, We Are Muffy. Nice! Then ‘Currents’ implodes into a lovely acoustic sound that dapples with a graceful ballet danced vocal that soars into even more endless evening skies. This is pastoral folk music that weaves an age-woven and worn tapestry. But ‘Parts’ ups the percussion ante, adds a throbbing bass, (Thank you, Luca Torreggiani and Francesco Zaccanti!) and enters into a more urgent sound, almost like the vibe of a post-punk band like Joy Division or The Sound. Electric guitars chime and levitate the tension, as the tune churns with more aggressive waters and a sublime guitar trumpet bit, while that piano still sparkles with rock ‘n’ roll soul. The sound of Ireland’s (beloved) Waterboys comes to mind. Nice, several times over!

Then, ‘Chances’ exposes the heart of this music. There’s a bit of Dylan. There’s a bit of a Medieval chant. Perhaps, there’s a bit of jazz. But, truly (with even more piano to colour the stain glass mystery), the song explodes with passion as a tough electric guitar etches the final notes into an abrupt unanswered question with a forlorn trumpet resolution. (Thank you, also, Enrico Pasini!) Clever, clever, clever.

The perfect folk-pop continues with ‘Sirens’, as a piano dances under those Starry Skies, and Antonio’s vocals just touch the beauty of thread bare humanity, with an acoustic guitar that sings to our better hopes. Nice, too many times over!

And (to almost quote Agatha Christie and Genesis!), then there were two: And that “Backstage Rehearsal is over. The final songs stretch the initial taut tension and impressionistic blur that ride a razor wire into powerful extended work-outs. ‘Communist Party Party’ begins with a muted organ but then ignites over six minutes plus with an almost sainted folk-punk attitude, with a big bass and urgently strummed claustrophobic anxiety, as the tune pulses tough tendons, with a few jazzy bleats at the end. The Sound’s Adrian Borland (to mention that band again!) comes to mind. Big compliment, there! Truly, this is a universe away from the gentle touch of the initial song, ‘Cirrus’.

The final song, ‘Say My Name’, is the curtain-closing summation: It’s a wondrous nine-minute plus journey into dark sonic caverns. The vocals envelop the chaotic pulse of a ballet rehearsal that’s never quite ready, yet always manages a pop-rock perfect performance. Pathos. Tension. Mystery. All of the above. The beginning has deep folk smoke, with an Eastern flavour, to boot! Then a progressive rock piano sketches a spacey interlude, as voices ascend in weird prayerful harmony, and the music wanders all over the unknown universe. Thankfully, a final rest is found in the watercolour grooves of any old painting that stretches thoughtful ballet muscles and also longs to love every evening star in any painted sky of any folky and always really nice and always melodic musical dance rehearsal night.

Bill Golembeski

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