Giancarlo Erra is a man that knows what he likes. Throughout Nosound’s 10 year journey he has been the definition of the steady hand, both on the tiller and the fretboard. For fifth album Scintilla, Kscope would have us believe that the Italian progster has pursued a direct and dramatic new tack – boiling down the Nosound formula of space-y, melancholic meanderings and paeans to the like of No-Man, to an exciting blend of its raw constituent parts.
Less of a fresh start, more a masterful culmination.
However, past form indicates that’s not exactly Erra’s way. The skill of his craft lies in his ability to steadily chip away and refine his block of musical marble, inching ever closer to the sound in his head. In this respect, Scintilla represents less of a fresh start, more a masterful culmination of a process that began with solo demos in 2002.
Opener Short Story may only weigh in at a paltry two minutes 25 seconds then, but there’s an arching dynamic constructed within that small window that evidences a clarity of mind wholly unfamiliar to many progressive types. The left turn of Last Lunch offers more room for exploration, with an ascending vocal line in the chorus creating a bizarre ear worm and alternating instrumental breaks that deftly eschew show-boating.
The Perfect Wife represents one of the boldest brushstrokes, amping up Pink Floyd tricks to new levels of heavyocity. Frequent collaborator Marianne De Chastelaine is given free rein and here her Gilmour-esque slide-style cello lines are cleverly weaved into the song’s rotating chord sequences, as Erra and guest vocalist Vincent Cavanagh do an excellent Gilmour/Wright impression on their crescendoing layered vocal lines. Elsewhere, Sogno E Incendio, a track that features some of the record’s most hypnotic guitar playing, recalls early Muse’s quieter moments and proves a fine showcase for fellow Italian rocker Andrew Chimenti’s warbling groan.
The aforementioned No-Man influence is, inevitably, present throughout, but this is a band that had Tim Bowness guest on their second record Lightdark, eight years back, so perhaps its time that we consider that particular debt paid. More apparent is the atmospheric impact of Steven Wilson’s latter solo work, particularly in the quiet catharsis of closer Scintilla. The title track’s combination of De Chastelaine’s baleful cello giving way to a bright piano arpeggio after a build of some four minutes provides one of the album’s most uplifting moments.
Erra has always seemed a quiet scholarly type, but Scintilla is proof his apprenticeship is over.
Welcome to the era of Erra.