The Italian “band” Ataraxia is still a gem to discover for many of us. In the circles of progressive music there is also a kind of mainstream prog that's got all the attention of the press. The main goal of progVisions has always been to cross borders and inform our readers that there is a “new world” full of interesting music out there to discover. Just open your mind to discover the world of Ataraxia. To understand better what Ataraxia is I will give you the brief band biography that I found on the pressbook CD of this wonderful release.
“ATARAXIA is an ensemble that, since many years, works in the balance between avant-garde and tradition writing music, setting up performances and giving concerts consisting of several art forms like theatre, poetry, painting and dance in castles, squares, parks, concert halls, and theatres all over Europe and Latin America. We define ourselves 'craftsmen of the sound' because of the wild, unusual mix of sacred and profane, early and contemporary, neoclassic and experimental music we create. We feel like 'traveling minstrels' inspired by the inner and geographical voyages we make in places that still preserve the charge of centuries and the mystery of history. Walking along old paths and listening to the call of the stone we become a 'living crossroad' between the Mediterranean and Celtic cultures. We make researches and write music about European legends and Greek and Latin myths. Our lyrics are written in several ancient and contemporary languages, we try to give a musical shape to the treasures and revelations hidden inside each language. Contemplation, dream experiences, twilight and elegiac atmospheres, ritual movements and our memories float in the mysterious garden of Psyche and Desire where enveloping textures of notes meet the echo of both acoustic and contemporary instruments. Four minstrels paint whimsical musical landscapes opening passages on far-off dimensions able to stir up emotions and memories. We walk along a path that has its origins in a very far time. The Ancient Spirits are still speaking. ATARAXIA's best performances take place in natural or architectural fascinating environments where magic flows as it happened in the primordial drama.”
Francesca Nicoli - vocals; Vittorio Vandelli - guitars; Giovanni Pagliari - keyboards and harmonizing; Riccardo Spaggiari - percussion
photos by Livio Bedeschi;
Preface, chapters, interview and journey across Ataraxia’s discography by Ferruccio Filippi;
Verses and prose about the albums concepts and under the photos by Francesca Nicoli.
The slipcase of the “Arcana Eco (Obscura I)” packaging exists of a book (164 pages!) and a digipack which includes a CD with 4 exclusive songs and 3 new versions. This is not only the ultimate gift to the fans of Ataraxia, but also a great starting point for new fans and adventurous listeners who are at the point of discovering this wonderful band.
The book includes besides the lyrics of the album, Ataraxia's discography and an interview with the band six chapters that give meaning to the six stages or phases that are the themes of their music and albums; stone, water, passages, dream, contemplation, and light. In those six chapters Ferruccio Filippi gives his reflections of the albums of Ataraxia and tries to reveal the secret of the music of Ataraxia. Reading those chapters is like a journey through the wonderful world called Ataraxia. The book tells the history of Ataraxia's music and is beautifully decorated by the photography of Livio Bedeschi.
The CD includes 3 new versions (revisited, rearranged and often played with different instruments) of earlier compositions. “Nossa Senhora dos Anjos” (from the live album “Os Cavaleiros do Templo”), my favorite, is an elevated Ave Maria sung in Portuguese. “In it, a merciful pure spirit is asked to relieve people of suffering and take pity on them.” This track is a marvel of breathtaking beauty. Somehow it reminds me of the solo works of Lisa Gerard (Dead Can Dance). The track is very orchestral but the classical guitar gives a nice contrast. “De pourpre et d’argent” (from the album “Saphir”), “originally was a majestic neo-classical aria that we have turned into a baroque divertissement in which, on a lively pad of strings, several voices play tag. A sort of homage to the period of “Concerto No. 6”.” The keyboard strings and the way of singing gives the piece a baroque character. And“Astimelusa” (from the album “La malédiction d’Ondine”) “is a song inspired by the classical Greece and the Aegean Sea, with lyrics by Sappho translated and sung into Italian, crystalline guitars, cymbals and bells. An ode to Aphrodite to be always a generous bestower of inspiration and beauty.” In this piece the classical guitar (in the style of Madredeus) plays together with beautiful melodic keyboard strings. On top of that Francesca Nicoli is singing the delicate vocal lines. All decorated with chiming bells.
The other four works are especially composed for “Arcana Eco”. The opener of the CD is called "Cobalt" and is my favorite new song. It is “a sad, epic ballad in which the enveloping pads of keyboards, the trumpets and the acoustic guitars stand out. An ancient goddess feels too far from the worldly needs and leaves, flying over total oceans, spaces and planets, deep-sleep dimensions, dark icy lands and an abyssal nothingness.” The atmosphere of this track is orchestral and spacey. You can float away to other worlds on these beautiful melodies. “Mirsilo” the second new track “whose lyrics are an English translation of a poem by Sappho, reminds the 80s’wave, with electric guitars, timpani and keyboard pads. It’s the description of a magic, contemplative moment in which a young man sees a priestess close to a sanctuary of holy apple trees who is stretching her arms towards the altar while singing a ritual melody.” This piece is very diverse, delicate vocal lines are combined with heavy electric guitars. Next one is “Fire in the woods" and is “A pagan rite to celebrate the fire, held during one night in a forest, turns into a fire that sets the many souls imprisoned in the tree trunks free. Burying the ritual lamps will be useless, and the ancient shadows, once free from the bark of the trees, will intertwine to create strong and untamed spirits…” The guitars are played with a lot of passion and temperament in this flamenco piece. The last piece is called “The island of docteur Moreau” and it is inspired by a novel of H.G. Wells. “A survivor of a shipwreck lands on an island apparently immersed into a heavenly atmosphere. Both animals and nature seem to live in harmony, but when the sun sets, strange sounds, howling, barking and breaths resound in the distance… ” In this experimental piece you hear a sensual narrating voice combined with strange moaning, howling and barking sounds. Imagine that you are walking in the Amazonian rainforest ...
[“excerpts” by Francesca Nicoli and are taken from Ferruccio Filippi's interview with the band]
If you are already an Ataraxia fan, this is the ultimate gift for yourself! A must buy for fans. But if you are in the phase of discovering Ataraxia's music the book can be a window for you to discover Ataraxia's wonderful world. Not only the CD includes some beauties but the book itself is from a beautiful quality that nowadays is seldom seen. Most of the music has a neo classical style. But to be honest, I don't think you can put Ataraxia's music in one box. It is so much more. “Arcana Eco” is a beautifully produced product. As you can imagine, I have bought this release myself.