Alex Carpani - Microcosm

(CD 2022, 59:05, Independent Artist Records)

The tracks:
  1- Starless(4:49)
  2- Kiss and Fly(4:31)
  3- God Bless Amerika(4:09)
  4- The Mountain Of Salt(4:19)
  5- We Can't Go Home Tonight(5:29)
  6- Footprints In The Hearts(4:22)
  7- Prime Numbers(5:25)
  8- What Once Was(4:33)
  9- When The Tears Roll Down(5:42)
10- The Outer World(4:30)
11- Redemption(5:46)
12- Microcosm(5:30)

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Alex Carpani is a composer, producer, singer and keyboardist from Switzerland. Although originally trained in composition of music for films, he has also dedicated the last 15 years to progressive rock compositions, producing 6 albums including the latest release Microcosm and co-founding the band Aerostation.

This collection consists of 11 original compositions as well as opening up with a cover of the King Crimson classic, Starless. It also features a host of eye-catching talent in the guise of Theo Travis, David Cross, David Jackson and Jon Davidson.

As intimated by the title, the concept of Microcosm is the world in miniature, a manifesto set out in the bravura opening treatment of the aforementioned Crimson track which brilliantly rearranges all the multiple elements of the original into a 5 minute excursion which wouldn't be out of place in a festival of electronica. It's a perfect illustration of the concept of how looking at something in a condensed form can reveal universal insights and also, dare I say it, hugely entertaining, definitely one for Mr Fripp's slinky-groover faction. A brave opening, indeed.

Kiss And Fly is a sharp contrast, urgent and angular in its changes, a restless piece to which Jon Davidson's incantational vocal is eminently suited. God Bless Amerika humorously introduces some Keith Emerson organ work which I thought was a nice touch (see what I did there). Through multiple plays of this album I've always been impressed by the density of composition achieved in developing the concept. Every time something new reveals itself. Every time I stop in a different place and select a new highlight. Today it happens to be the emotionally intense vocal and saxophone duetting in We Can't Go home Tonight, but another day it could be the visceral jazz-rock of Prime Numbers. As you might expect from someone with such a great body of work, there is no sense of playing to a particular genre or audience. When The Tears Fall Down has more than the title as a nodding reference to Tears for Fears which is only a good thing in my book. For my money, the last 15 minutes are a bit of a 'bonus track' section given the inventiveness and variety of what has gone before and the final section seems slightly out of keeping. Nonetheless it's a minor criticism having feasted on the main course to complain about the coffee and mints!

With such talent and experience on display it is clear that Carpani can and certainly does turn his hand to almost anything. He has set himself a complex challenge in the construction of these pieces. It is often the case that imposing a discipline in this way can provide a strong creative impulse and that is certainly the way here. That the results are not only aesthetically satisfying, but also hugely entertaining is a great credit.

**** Andrew Cottrell

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