The opening birdsong could give the impression that a peaceful, pastoral work is about to unfold.
Sulla Bolla Di Sapone is not like that. It really isn’t. No sooner have the aforementioned birdies lulled us into a chilled state than the Fem guys are hurtling through Rick Wakeman-meets-Emerson blasts, classic prog guitar and a touch of mad Euro-pop. Think Journey To The Centre Of The Earth’s Italian cousin jamming with The Flower Kings. Initially there’s a sense that this might be one of those records that goes wrong when the band start singing, yet the spread of confidently executed tones largely quash such fears, and from all the kinetic activity arise some rather lovely tunes. Il Giardino Delle Consuetudini confirms that Fem know their way round a gratifying, intelligent riff or two, and the sweeter likes of Consapevolezza are adorable – and thoughtfully composed too. Elsewhere, organic, evenly paced order is maintained in the ’70s prog-rock guitar of Nella Citta, while Il Mondo Bianco Opaco provides a moment of downbeat, instrumental calm. The real achievement, though? Across 14 dizzying displays of prog wizardry, Fem have created a record that rocks. Polly Glass