Diaframma - Siberia
My thanks go to Bernardo for this. I was scouring YouTube (as is my wont) when I came across a video by Italian outfit Diaframma. The music sounded pretty good and so I checked out a torrent of their most highly regarded album, Siberia, their debut and found it good enough to want to buy. The problem was that trying to get hold of this in the UK was impossible. No websites could be found which sold it. In the end, Bernardo came to the rescue and sent me a copy direct from Italy.
Now, I have to confess that, up until the purchase of this album, the only Italian music I had in my collection consisted of CD's by Vivaldi, Antonioni and a number of famous arias from operas by Puccini, Verdi and Mascagni, among others. That was pretty much the limit of my knowledge of Italian music. Of course I had heard of PFM, an Italian prog rock outfit in the early seventies, but beyond that, nothing. Bernardo informed me that the majority of Italian popular music consisted of Britney clones and male pretty boy crooners and was nothing to write home about. Bernardo prefers his music British and American - oddly he never mentioned Diaframma.
So what we have here is nothing short of post-punk from 1984. The album I possess has a total of eighteen tracks on it, some of them live and some instrumental bonus tracks, and also comes with a DVD with the band live at a convert in Groningen, Holland. It would appear that Diaframma have a wider audience than just Italy, but only on the European continent. Mind you, the British are not known for their tolerance of music which is in a language they cannot understand, but that's their loss.
As you would expect, the songs consist of the sort of trademarks which you would have thought you would find on a post-punk album. Twin rhythm guitars, atmospheric synthesisers, thumping drums and deep-voiced vocals along the lines of Ian Curtis. I suppose if Ian Curtis had been Italian, then he would have probably sounded like Federico Fiumani does on this album. Yet, the music comes with a distinct twist which is unique to the band. For a start, there is some use of other instruments, notably a saxophone, which is relatively rare in the genre. In one sense the music is much closer to the coldwave/darkwave which was generally eschewed by British bands, but more widely adopted on the continent.
Of course, I cannot understand a word of it, but that has never been something which has affected my enjoyment of music anyway. The musical structures fit the vocals very well and if you were one of those people who thought that the Italian language would not fit so well to rock music, well this album should dispel such notions. But if you need to know there are websites with the lyrics on them, and even a couple of songs, most notably the title track, have had them translated into English for the curious. But it doesn't take much to figure it out from whatever words of Italian you can identify - the words speak of loneliness, isolation and alienation. "Siberia" itself expands on that with mention of the cold and the ice and seems clearly, judging by the cover, to echo the often held western impression of Siberia as a place where political exiles were sent to rot in labour camps.
The highlights are the title track, "Siberia" of which there is also a live version, "Impronte", "Amsterdam" and "Memoria". At times the music can be quite effective and the drummer, Gianni Cicchi, has managed to lay down some powerful and effective rhythms which enhance the overall feel of the music. The guitar work is also highly evocative and fits the mood perfectly. Overall, this is an enjoyable listen and well worth seeking out. But if you are expecting some startling originality then you are unlikely to find it here.
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