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Album review: Mesmerising-Davide Moscato - The Clutters Storyteller (2020)

Album review:  Mesmerising-Davide Moscato - The Clutters Storyteller (2020)

Born in May 1977 but brought up with the music of 70’s English rock acts, Davide Moscato comes from the Cantautori tradition, a self-taught pianist and singer-songwriter. Performing his own songs, he worked in piano bars throughout the late 1990s and travelled the world.
His first solo album was recorded for the independent Italian label Seahorse Recordings in 2012. THE GOLDEN DAWN OF THE TRAMP was a collection of alt-rock songs that included some material written when he was at school. The single DON’T GET WRONG YOUR LOVE received decent radio airplay partly thanks to its inclusion on the Sferica Cubica Press Office ‘Music? No Control!’ collection, but ultimately wasn’t successful.
MENTAL MAZE, another album for Seahorse Recordings released in 2017 was a concept album about mental blockage. A single cut of the track CROSSING THE INFINITY was Moscato’s second inclusion on a Sferica Cubica playlist and was released on iTunes in December 2015, winning the Alternative Rock category of the January 2016 US Akademia Music Awards. FROM THE ASHES, which also appeared on MENTAL MAZE, won the same prize in the November 2016 Akademia awards and the video of the song, with images of New York taken by Moscato while touring MENTAL MAZE in 2016, won a LJDN Radio award in 2019. Moscato and his band The Flies reached the semi-finals of the Sanremo Rock festival in May 2017 with the songs SPINNING MILL and CROSSING THE INFINITY.
Recording THE CLUTTERS STORYTELLER commenced in 2018 under the artistic direction of Fabio Zuffanti and with a band largely made up from Zuffanti alumni, Martin Grice on flute and sax, Paolo Tixi and drums, Simone Amodeo on guitars, Giovanni Pastorino on keyboards, Zuffanti providing bass, and Moscato adding occasional piano and synth. The idea of mixing cantautori with prog is certainly not new: Lucio Battisti employed members of Quelli, soon to become Premiata Forneria Marconi, for his 1971 album AMORE E NON AMORE which was deemed too experimental by his record company; Fabrizio D’André also worked with PFM; and in 2017, Zuffanti teamed up with Mox Christadoro for the album CHRISTADORO, recording classic Italian pop songs in a progressive style, similar to the way Yes covered Simon and Garfunkel’s AMERICA in 1972.
Given the pedigree of the whole team, it’s hardly surprising that the result is really satisfying, with excellent writing and great playing. It’s possible to detect Zuffanti's influence throughout but Moscato’s songwriting and Zuffanti’s production values are well-matched, resulting in an album filled with drama. It reminds me of the Zuffanti-supervised THE ARCHINAUTS by ISProject from 2017, which had a very similar cast of musicians. Moscato sings in English and with a vocal range from tenor to falsetto I think his voice would have been very suited to Höstsonaten's RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER.
The album starts with FEEL… …MY DREAM, two tracks which are in essence a continuous piece of music. This is very accessible hyper-melodic modern prog, well structured with nicely varied instrumentation. The accompanying video, which treats the two tracks as one, is a dramatic and atmospheric piece, filmed in the castle at Brescia.
There’s a theme of life and death running through the album – there’s a dedication to ‘all road traffic victims’ at the back of the CD booklet – which is explored within each of the songs. BALLAD OF A CREEPY NIGHT is fairly explicit, relating the story of the theft of a bag containing a severed head, but musically it alternates soft rock with Zuffanti-sprinkled prog magic; SLAVE OF YOUR SHELL is riddled with metaphor but comes across as upbeat pop-rock; UNDERGROUND is about being buried underground, and it too is melodic. It’s very proggy and squeezes in a lot of variation in six and a half minutes, including lots of flute, sitar and short, expressive guitar solos.
THE VORTEX features a great deal of Mellotron and Grice’s flute and sax. It’s darker than the preceding tracks, telling a tale of getting lost at sea and cannibalism; FALSE REALITY is sedate acoustic piano, flute and orchestration, where Moscato uses his upper vocal range, singing with great feeling about lacking and yearning for love, though love is painful; IN A DIFFERENT DIMENSION acts as a short, dramatic coda to FALSE REALITY. THE MAN WHO’S SLEEPING is a more up-tempo, straightforward rock track with a nice fluid synth solo. THE LAST TIME YOU CALLED MY NAME begins in cantautori style with vocals over piano and subtle flute and keyboard wash before the full band are introduced around two minutes into the song. There’s more Mellotron and the flute lines are more obvious. A blues influenced guitar solo gives way to a long keyboard run before the last lines of vocals, and the song ends at six minutes when there’s a long pause before a brief burst of ambient noise, like a short hidden track.
Most of the songs are single-length, but the arrangements are clever and the longer tracks are allowed to develop. It’s not prog in the conventional sense, but it’s not a simple singer-songwriter album either. It’s the enjoyable result of a successful partnership between Moscato and Zuffanti.
Postscript: The CD artwork is highly effective. It’s instantly recognisable as being by Massimo Pasca who illustrated L'ORA DI TUTTI by MUFFX.

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