Karmamoi is a musical project by Alex Massari (guitar and backing vocals) and Daniele Giovannoni (drums, keyboards, backing vocals and composer) and rooted in 2008. The circle was closed with the arrival of Fabio Tempesta and Alessandro Cefalì on bass. In January 2011 the band officially launched its first album at Rising Love, one of the most popular stages of the Rome music scene. In 2012 a new EP arrived entitled Entre Chien Et Loup and one year later Karmakoi launched their second album entitled Odd Trip. Karmamoi played on April 16th at The Borderline in London, as opening act for the historic British prog rock group Curved Air. Then they suffered from several changes in the line-up and finally Karmamoi became a prog trio. Late 2016 their new album Silence Between Sounds came out, in a true prog style. In 2018 the band (now reduced to the duo Massari and Giovannoni) were working on its new album The Day Is Gone when they witnessed the horror of the Grenfell Tower on television and this had a huge impact on the members. After reading the heartbreaking story about the Syrian brothers Mohammed and Omar (they fled from Syria, had a safe home in London but Mohammed died in the Grenfell Tower disaster) the band decided to pay tribute with a concept album, featuring guest musicians singer Sara Rinaldi, Colin Edwin on bass (Porcupine Tree) and Geoff Leigh on flute (Steven Wilson). He shines in the track Take Me Home with a swirling solo.
To be honest, during my first listening session I couldn't get into the music, and the female vocals from singer Sara Rinaldi didn't appeal to me. Then I decided to focus on the concept, and to read more about the dark subject. Gradually I started to appreciate the music and also concluded that the often melancholic and a bit fragile female vocals match with the emotional music.
Many tracks on this album alternate between atmospheric, dreamy and slow rhythms, coloured by the voice of Sara Rinaldi. I consider this mellow and dark music (reminding me of early Roger Waters solo) as a musical translation of the feelings of emptiness, sorrow, depression and grief after the Grenfell Tower disaster, for the brothers it was from one hell to another! The bombastic outbursts with moving guitar work sound like desperate cries, this adds a more dynamic dimension to the music. The first song (the title track) is a good example. It starts dreamy featuring twanging guitar, melancholic female vocals and piano, halfway through there's a bit of wailing flute. In the final part a powerful guitar solo with howling runs, in a bombastic outburst, very compelling, expressing the huge fear and despair in the inferno. And also, in the instrumental track Getaway there's an intro with dreamy piano and atmospheric sounds, then a slow rhythm and gradually a more bombastic climate with moving, powerful electric guitar. Next the music returns to atmospheric but gradually culminates in a sumptuous outburst delivering a powerful electric guitar solo with again howling runs, this is topped with a subtle choir sound (I asked the band about this: it is a blend of Sara her voice and ethnic vox samples).
Some songs feature more dynamics and more tension, like in the alternating Portrait Of A Man with wonderful work on guitar (strong echoes from David Gilmour) and keyboards. And in Your Name. First a tight and catchy beat with powerful vocals and fiery electric guitar, gradually turning into more bombastic with lush keyboards. Halfway dreamy and atmospheric with fragile piano runs, soft bass and sensitive electric guitar and emotional female vocals. And finally another wonderful, often howling guitar solo , what a compelling music (Pink Floyd but also Camel come to my mind).
My highlight is Mother´s Dirge, a long and captivating composition, close to 11 minutes. First a catchy beat, a raw guitar solo, then dreamy with twanging guitar and melancholic vocals. The music turns into a slow rhythm and more bombastic, with a sensitive electric guitar solo and a wonderful choir sound. Next dreamy with piano and vocals, suddenly a bombastic eruption with an ominous atmosphere and impressive words: “80 eyes have seen their end, that cruel damned night the fire swelled, 80 mouths have cried unheard, that cruel damned night the fire swelled, 80 hands have raised uncatched, that cruel damned night the fire swelled, 80 feets have run to death, that cruel damned night the fire swelled”. To me it evokes a tension and excitement that reminds me of The Wall by Pink Floyd. This part is followed by a slow rhythm and propulsive guitar riffs, embellished with a flashy synthesizer solo. Then melancholic vocals, and in the end a sensitive electric guitar solo, accompnied by a dynamic rhythm-section. This epic track is Karmakoi in its full splendor!
The final composition is the short and instrumental Lost Voices, very atmospheric (including ambulances sirens), close to ambient electronic, strongly contrasting with the dynamic previous composition. To me it sounds like a requiem, as a tribute to the victims.
An album to discover, wonderfully arranged and tastefully coloured.
**** Erik Neuteboom (edited by Dave Smith)
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