Free and legal MP3: Red Morris (pyrotechnic old-school instrumental)

The classic-rock familiarity of his sleek and fiery guitar tone is “Lady Rose”‘s fearless center and ongoing inspiration.

Red Morris

“Lady Rose” – Red Morris

Dramatic, and dramatically old-school, “Lady Rose” is an electric-guitar-driven instrumental, with castanets. I love castanets. I also love little time-signature tricks such as what you’ll hear in the opening melody, the alternating 6/4 and 4/4 measures that give the guitar line an asymmetrical bit of juice. And if that particular trick soon disappears, as Maurizio Parisi pretty soon dives too far into his pyrotechnics to worry about changing time signatures, oh well. The castanets stick around, so you should too.

Parisi, using the performing name of Red Morris, is a guitarist from Brescia, in northern Italy. He claims the likes of Santana, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and Cream as inspirations. What I think I’m enjoying most of all is the sonic space in which he enfolds us, a steadfast march that develops as a kind of theme and variations: first we hear the grounding melody, then Parisi goes increasingly to town with his fingers and hands. The classic-rock familiarity of his sleek and fiery guitar tone is “Lady Rose”‘s fearless center and ongoing inspiration. Electric guitars may be going the way of the dodo bird in popular music but that’s just about trends and fads, not truth; there’s no reason to be finished with the electric guitar any more than we should ever be finished with the piano or the violin.

“Lady Rose” is the title track of Red Morris’s debut album, released back in September. MP3 via Insomnia Radio.

Free and legal MP3: Fabryka (adroit mix of dream and drive, from Italy)

Not often do you hear inventive bass-playing and inventive drumming intertwining so smartly while still allowing a coherent song to be built on top.

Fabryka

“The Unheard”- Fabryka

Check out the rhythm section on this one: not often do you hear inventive bass-playing and inventive drumming intertwining so smartly while still allowing a coherent song to be built on top. And what a coherent and engaging song it turns out to be—astutely arranged and structurally sound, “The Unheard” is a marvelous slice of 21st-century rock’n’roll, coming to us from the seemingly unlikely source of Bari, Italy, down there at the top of the heel of Italy’s “boot.”

I like how busy and determined this is even while cloaking itself in a bit of shoegazey mist. There’s that rhythmic pulse at the bottom driving things, but it’s that ongoing, canny employment of both electric guitars and synthesizers that ultimately gives the ear a lot to chew on—so much, in fact, that what appears to be the song’s chorus (first heard at 1:31) feels like a dreamy breather between purposeful building blocks. Both the guitars and the synths each get a motif-like theme to express—the former a hard-charging, syncopated riff (first heard at 0:55), the latter a chimy noodle (1:21) that shares a similar sense of syncopation. The more I listen, the more I am impressed with the song’s construction, and the more I think I hear something genuinely timeless in its mix of drive and dream. Give good credit to singer Tiziana Felle, whose voice can penetrate or levitate, depending on the need.

“The Unheard” is a song from the band’s new EP, Sparkles, which comes out in Italy next week. This will be the band’s third release, following an EP in 2012 and a full-length album, Echo, in 2013.

Free and legal MP3: Hollowblue (brisk, noir-ish, and dadaesque)

“First Avenue” – Hollowblue

First come the blurred piano chords and crazed cello bleats. Next we hear the speaking voice of hard-bitten, semi-anarchic American novelist Dan Fante delivering the hard-bitten, semi-anarchic lyrics that he wrote for this song by the Italian band Hollowblue (however that collaboration came about). The words make sense yet the sentences don’t (“Drag your laundry down First Avenue”? “Spend some time in your drugstore mind”?), but with his voiceover-announcer-from-hell intonation, he sells it to you anyway. “I’ve got a pair of socks I like better than you”—well, okay, sure, if you say so, Dan. (And he does, twice.)

Turns out the jittery, slippery, loopy opening section is over before you can quite absorb it; at 0:27, the band fully takes over, the lyrics now reintroduced over a brisk, noir-ish Continental beat, sung in heavily accented English by the engaging front man Gianluca Maria Sorace. While Sorace’s breezy earnestness and reedy tenor brings Fante’s nutty non-narrative to a more grounded and inclusive place, in my mind it’s cellist Ellie Young who provides the heart of this likable dadaesque melodrama. First we heard those wild, horn-like blurts accompanying Fante. She returns at 0:48 with strong, gypsy-ish bowing and then uses a muscular 25-second solo in the center of the song (1:40) to make a strong argument for the cello as a rock instrument, and it’s less maybe about the solo itself than how great the song sounds when Sorace returns in full force afterward.

“First Avenue” is the lead track from Hollowblue’s CD Stars Are Crashing (In My Backyard), which was released in Europe last year on Midfinger Records, an Italian label. MP3 via the band’s site.