Friday, 22 April 2011

OfeliaDorme - All Harm Ends Here

About a week ago I got an email from Francesca of OfeliaDorme, titled "Anna Calvi's half Italian... Ofeliadorme completely italian :-)" - aside from being probably my weirdest message from my inbox, it opened my eyes to an exciting little album. Ofeliadorme hail from Bologna, Italy, and the immediate impression one gets from Italian music is that, whilst they have a reputation for some fine classical and operas - when it comes to modern pop/rock, there's few famous exports. Lacuna Coil are probably the only example I can think of. Which when you think of it, given the beautifully romantic and poetic nature of the language, is a little bit strange.

But back to Ofeliadorme - and at first glance it's slightly obvious why I was emailed with regard to Anna Calvi's review I did a month or two ago. The sounds are immediately theatrical: opener 'Paranoid Park' is a beautiful opener, sounding somewhat like Florence + the Machine with its chimes and bleak, poignant opening that from the get-go instils a sense of fear and ominosity; whilst 'Ian' is a breathtaking opus of dizzying guitars and attention-grabbing vocals that both give a little bit of a nod to Anna Calvi, and in that the likes of PJ Harvey, Kate Bush and Nick Cave.

'Grow!' is a slow and lingering track, sounding a little bit trip-hop (the band themselves refer to Portishead as an influence), and gives vocalist Francesca Bono room to enchant - suddenly blowing up around the 3rd minute into a stadium-rock anthem that sounds a lot like "My List" by The Killers. Bono (no, not that Bono) continues to purr on 'Burning', a post-blues ballad that sounds somewhere inbetween The Bends-era Radiohead and PJ Harvey's Stories... album; not too bad sounds to find yourselves in.

Speaking of Radiohead, 'The King is Dead' is an unintentional reference to their most recent, divisive, album - this track sounding like what it could have been with a little less self-indulgence and aimless execution. Michele Postpichl's drums sound excellent here with a slightly muted effect, giving chance for moody riffs and twilight chimes to shine. It's probably my favourite track. After a heavy period of musing and reflection, 'I Like My Drums' is a welcome adrenaline boost by comparison. It's a bit of an odd title because the guitarist really shines here (a duty shared between Bono and Gianluca Moda - particularly around the 1:35 mark where a there's fast rattling of the acoustic guitar)

'Leaves of Grass' welcomes some folk influences that sound a bit like U2 in the 80s (which doesn't help with the Bono confusion earlier); a short 1:37 burst of unusual riffs. 'Naked Evil' sounds much more conventional by the band's standards and it at first seems a little boring, but after the 3rd minute it introduces stirring strings and lyrics of finding "you at the edge of the world" that are pretty cute.

'The Wizard, The Witch and the Crow' introduces an electronic drumbeat with birdsong and bongo effects that give the track a call-to-arms effect and almost pagan ritualisation with its heavy rhythms and foreground riff that is the sonic equivalent of heat waves. 'River' is slightly boring by comparison, sounding like a Florence + the Machine b-side, that almost redeems itself by the end with a tense, moody and (dare I say it?) sexy (dare I? It's weird calling something sexy by someone you've emailed) climax. The final track 'Eve' begins with "she set her house on fire" which is a bit of a wakeup call. Francesca sounds her most raw here, a fine echoing lament over some capable and restrained guitars that deserves full attention.

After Bono finishes on Bono there's a brief and quiet clashing of drums. I think this is a pretty effective metaphor for the band's sounds and the general feel of the album - it's tentative, it's overall pretty quiet, but it's also full of so much emotion and theatricism that it's the perfect example of minimalism in rock music. There are plenty of nice tunes on display but it's the overall attention to detail that makes Ofeliadorme my second favourite thing to come out of Italy after pizza.

Rating: 9/10
Highlights: Eve, The King is Dead, Burning, Grow!
Avoid: n/a

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