Armonite recently dropped their new album, And the Stars Above, on the Cleopatra label. Hailing from Italy, Armonite is made up of Jacopo Bigi (acoustic and electric violin) and Paolo Fosso (piano and keyboards).
Guest musicians include Colin Edwin and Alberto Fiorani (bass); Giacomo Lampugnani and Gianmarco Straniero (double bass); Corrado Bertonazzi, Emiliano Cava, and Jasper Barendregt (drums); Maria Chiara Montagnari (voice); Marcello Rosa (cello); and the talents of Quartetto Indaco.
Even though they are classically trained, composer Fosso and violinist Bigi don’t think of themselves as classical musicians. As teenagers they played in local bands. Later, in college, they played in a band called Armonite, which released an album in 1999, played a few live shows, and dissolved.
In 2015, Fosso and Bigi resurrected the name when they formed a new band. When ready to record, they hired Colin Edwin (bassist of Porcupine Tree) and Barendregt (a Dutch drummer). The finished album, called The Sun Is New Each Day, dropped in June 2015 and received extensive praise.
Armonite’s sound is tagged instrumental prog rock, which is apt but fails to adequately describe their unique style, one that merges ambient aromas, classical motifs, tints of jazz, and sophisticated prog rock.
The new album comprises 12 tracks, along with two bonus tracks. “The March of the Stars” opens the new record. The bravura intro features sparkling keyboards and children’s voices seguing into a rousing classical prog rock number.
Highlights on this release includes “District Red,” which is best described as classical-tinged prog rock with Muse-style fuzz bass. Startling layers of strident violins ride over a throbbing, fuzzy bassline and galloping rhythm. The harmonics are intense and dense, imbuing the tune with passionate mechanical tension. “Plaza de Espana” is a gorgeous, flowing tune with sparkling piano tones and delicious strings that take on discordant timbres.
“Blue Curacao” combines potent synths, bright violins, and Jovian drumming into a Latin jazz-flavored prog rock piece. A wailing guitar contrasts with the higher-pitched animal-like howling of the violin, giving the music a proximate feel of organic consternation.
And the Stars Above is heady stuff. Like a musical kaleidoscope, it transports prog rock into a universe where classical elements assume curling amplification and exaggerated delicacy, as if Liberace, Mozart, and Canada’s Rush got together for a jam session.