(New Album Review) Il Sogno del Marinaio- Canto Secondo

Il Sogno del Marinaio (“The Sailor’s Dream”) are Mike Watt on bass guitar, Andrea Belfi on drums, and Stefano Pilia on vocals and lead guitar. Due to time constraints, they were not completely satisfied with their first album, La Busta Gialla, and so it was on Canto Secondo that they were able to spend more time together working off of one another’s ideas. Canto Secondo, from what I can tell, is a loose concept album set in the American west.

I was excited to check this album out, knowing how Mike Watt has a long-standing interest in experimental music. My expectation, having not looked into Il Sogno del Marinaio before today, was that this would be something really rambunctious that would bring to mind Stormy Six, Art Bears, Etron Fou Leloublan, or any of those other singularly fascinating 70’s Rock In Opposition groups fast slipping into obscurity. Well, this record is a little bit like all that, but it has a charming difference–  it’s much more American, and in a good way. The band make their share of frantic prog-rock jams, but they borrow some influence from American folk-blues, maybe some other stuff that’s less clear. “Skinny Cat”, in which manic, scurrying drums and squawking guitars give way to a solemn march, best sums up the tone of this album. Canto Secondo sees Il Sogno del Marinaio making avant prog painted in subdued, earthy tones– very cool.

This could be the soundtrack to a bleak, existential spaghetti western. The lyrics, narrated by Pilia and Watt’s gravelly voices, mostly tell the story of a lone traveler moving through a landscape of forests and mountains. There isn’t a clear narrative, but one can tell that this is an album about a specific place, and it really takes you a dream-like journey at times, particularly on “Mountain Top” and “Us in their Land”. This is a very good album, and I’d recommend this group, along with Guapo, to any experimental music fan who’s curious about modern prog.

To my Portland readers: Il Sogno del Marinaio will be appearing on September 18th at the Doug Fir Lounge. I’m going to try and make that show, and I hope that I see you there!

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