Wednesday, November 19, 2008

CD of the Day - "DFA.: Kaleidoscope"

CD of the Day
D.F.A.: "Kaleidoscope" (MoonJune) 2007

Digitally remastered first two albums “Lavori In Corso” (1996) and “Duty Free Area” (1999) with three live bonus tracks. Double cd box set.
Featuring: Alberto Bonomi (Hammond organ, analog & digital synthesizers, mellotron, el. piano, flute, back vocals), Alberto De Grandis (drums, lead vocals), Silvio Minella (guitar), Luca Baldassari (electric bass) with guests Alberto Piras & Giorgia Gallo (vocals)
Liner notes by Glenn Astarita (rock and jazz journalist; contributor to DownBeat Magazine,,, and RadioDirectX)
With two critically-acclaimed albums - now reissued as one double-CD package with bonus live material - under their belts, DFA (Duty Free Area) have proven themselves one of Italy's leading lights in the new generation of progressive rock bands that appeared in the wake of the genre's 1990s revival. With fifteen years of experience and live appearances across the globe, they are now ready to confirm their status with their highly anticipated third studio effort.

Formed in Verona during 1991 around Alberto De Grandis, drummer, occasional vocalist and main composer, and bassist Luca Baldassari, DFA was initially an instrumental keyboard-led trio, a formula that evolved over the years, first with the arrival of guitarist Silvio Minella in 1993, and two years later with the introduction of vocal parts in the compositions, following the release of a demo tape entitled Trip On Metro.

Later in 1995, Alberto Bonomi replaced the original keyboard player and DFA found its definitive shape. Bonomi was soon to become an essential creative force in the band alongside De Grandis, co-writing most of the material with him. The new quartet made its live debut in January 1996, and soon afterwards embarked on the recording of their first proper album.

Alberto Piras, the frontman of fellow Italian proggers Deus Ex Machina, had heard the demo tape, and offered to produce the album for his own label, Scolopendra. By 1996 Lavori In Corso ("works in progress") was ready, and was soon greeted by many favourable reviews. A staff writer for the respected US new music publication Exposé called the album "an absolute masterpiece of complex progressive rock". The high level of musicianship and the attention to detail in the compositions and arrangements - which drew comparisons with luminaries such as Gentle Giant, National Health, Gong, Banco or Weather Report - helped to make Lavori In Corso a natural candidate for a lot of "Best Of '97" lists among fans of the genre.

During the following months, DFA's profile as a live band increased, supporting the likes of Italian veterans Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso and Le Orme. Meanwhile, work started on new material, and by June 1999 the quartet was finally back in the studio to record the eagerly-awaited follow-up to Lavori In Corso, which saw the light of day the following October on Italian Mellow Records - its title, Duty Free Area, finally revealing what the three letters stood for. "We liked the idea of an area free from all constraints", explained Bonomi, "where we can play what we feel".

With their second work, DFA broadened their musical palette with new sounds, especially in the keyboard department (occasionally bringing to mind Ozric Tentacles), and further perfected their craftmanship, both as composers and players. Critics unanimously acclaimed Duty Free Area as a major progression from the already excellent Lavori In Corso, particularly in terms of melodic accessibility and overall coherence of the often fiendishly complex epic compositions masterminded by De Grandis and Bonomi.

Another significant improvement on Lavori In Corso was to be found in the vocals, arguably not DFA's forte. A larger percentage of the music was instrumental (showcasing the breathtaking interplay between Minella's guitar and Bonomi's keyboards), the one track sung by De Grandis (with backing by Bonomi) was ideally suited to his range, and the other two pieces with vocals used guests - Alberto Piras and female singer Giorgia Gallo. All in all, Duty Free Area could be called a success in all departments : little could be improved upon.

DFA's watershed appearance at NEARfest in June 2000 was documented on a best-selling live CD, brining together the best of both albums and proving that the band was able to "pull it off" on stage like the best of them ! Invitations to other foreign festivals and venues duly followed, in France, Mexico, Belgium and Italy. Meanwhile, DFA started work on their next album, aiming at breaking away from existing musical categories (such as progrock, jazz-rock, etc.) and further establishing the unique DFA identity. This long process is now over, and the band is about to start recording with a view to releasing the album in January 2007, following it up with festival appearances and concerts worldwide.

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