Daniele Montagner – Worlds featuring Manu Saladino & Diego Borotti – Album Review
Now…understand that, as always, I’ve done my best in behind the scenes here to dig into the information out there online and what’s been sent in to our site in a sincere effort to figure out what the truth might be and what I can tell ya. There’s never a shortage of interesting projects that tend to come my way…everything I listen to or read about, generally-speaking, has something unique about the sound or the situation. In the vast majority of those cases, what I hear in the music and the information I’ve found & gleaned then begins to form a narrative and a framework for the articles I end up writing. And as I’ve said many times here at our pages, there’s never a bad time to listen to, or promote your music…though I’m not sure I can recall an artist or band putting that to the test quite like this one does.
For you see…the roots of Daniele Montagner’s album Worlds…traces back to 1997…I’ve verified that through multiple sources, though I couldn’t tell ya how it ended up on my playlist today here in 2020. Fun fact for you avid readers of our site – I was seventeen years old in 1997…it would actually be about another two or three full years before I would go on to join my first online website as a music journalist at the now defunct Kludge Magazine just prior or post-millennium…and I suppose the rest is history. Feel free to look it up as I have…barring the possibility of a full-on glitch in the matrix that would somehow apply to Daniele Montagner and Daniele Montagner alone – this record does indeed date back to 1997. What you’ll love about Worlds is that it sure doesn’t sound as dated as it indeed may be.
Joined by Manu Saladino and Diego Borotti, Daniele Montagner takes us on a trip into the past, while also revealing just how far ahead the music of Worlds would have been way back when in comparison to so much of what’s out there. I’m trying to imagine slipping this record in somewhere between what was happening around that time…like, have a listen to this album and try to figure out where it would have fit between what Green Day or the Deftones were putting out at the time, nevermind the noise that Papa Roach was just getting set to launch unfortunately under the guise of ‘entertainment’ right around 1997 as well. In fact, you could make an argument that tons of great music got lost in the shuffle post-Cobain…the world was more than confused about what would take the top of the charts, and eventually before it descended into the dank darkness of a bleak reality in the Hard-Rock-based 2000s, there were all kinds of incredible artists and bands that fell right through the cracks of the mainstream. And maybe it’s fair to say that Daniele, Manu, and Diego were some of the victims around that confusing era of music trying to find stability at that time…think about it for a second – recognize that, the more ‘normal’ and straight-ahead your music was at this time, ironically the further it carried. Didn’t last worth a damn over time, and it all sounds horrifically dated now…but the recipe for success was about as uninspired as it could get as far as the mainstream was concerned. Then, like now, and like the future will prove as well I’m sure – shows that some of the best music out there, stuff you might STILL not even know, was deep in the underground…off the beaten path…in your cool cousin’s collection of tunes you had no idea even existed, or shown to you from the awesome misfit in your school that was two grades ahead of ya.
Anyhow. Honestly, I only know what I can see to be true and not much more. I don’t know for a certain fact that this record has been around for an astounding 23 potential years…in fact, to be fair, beyond a couple sites that have this Worlds album tagged to 1997, I can also find one label of 2019, and several write-ups out there from independent music people like myself who have ignored all of what I’ve said so far in their own articles. Usually I don’t even look at anyone else’s articles before writing my own…but c’mon now…heading back more than two decades was cause for me to look into Worlds a bit more than most albums that come along my way. And in the end, whether or not this information is useful, accurate, or complete disinformation altogether…you gotta admit, it makes for an interesting beginning.
What I can tell ya for a certain fact is that music like this isn’t likely to ever get old. Whether it was miles ahead of the game and released in ’97, or it was put out fresh last year – adventurous tunes like this are always going to hold up as the art they truly are over time. I mean…just listen to “Kaos” will ya? Consider this – Daniele, Manu, and Diego CHOSE to start out Worlds with “Kaos” – once you’ve heard it, you’ll recognize that they immediately went about taking chances with the music on Worlds that most artists/bands would never ever dare to take. Ambitious…innovative…challenging…and yep, chaotic – “Kaos” instantly blasts you out of your world and right into their Worlds of colliding and collaged sounds. From the crisp snaps of the snare, to the eerie mix of haunting voices that chant like spiritual beings in the background, to the sheer randomness that pumps the engine at the heart of this opening tune, up to & including the splashes in the water and the wild flute sounds – you go ahead & tell me the last time you took in a song that sounds anything CLOSE to this will ya? No worries, I’ll wait. And in reality, you know if you’ve listened to “Kaos,” that we’d all be waiting forever…nothing about this is typical, it’s insanely unique…to the point where that creativity shared between them will be this trio’s biggest draw, but also the biggest adversary when it comes to how the everyday music-listener absorbs their tunes.
“Spiral Dance” ultimately flows in a much smoother direction that “Kaos” does, with the avant-garde Jazz influence taking a more structurally defined hold than the opening track did…and I’d imagine that in terms of the average every day music listener out there, the additional accessibility is likely to be fully appreciated, if not a complete lifeline of sanity that’ll allow them to hang onto & continue listening. Hearing the saxophone slide into the mix early on is a serious treat…but much like Kruder & Dorfmeister, or projects like The Thievery Corporation or Peace Orchestra, you can’t help but relish the amount of creativity that continually comes out flowing through all aspects of the instrumentation combined. In terms of accessibility to the average set of ears out there, it’s night & day when it comes to the results of songs like “Kaos” and “Spiral Dance” – one has the potential & possibility of reaching them, the other has a battle ahead. “Kaos” is so artistically designed that it’s an audible challenge to the reality most people know when it comes to the music they listen to – whereas “Spiral Dance” upps the accessibility and gives the listeners a jazz-infused vibe that draws from mystery, beauty, and suspense in a much more tangible way they can latch onto. I’d be the last person to say that “Spiral Dance” comes out anywhere in the realm of ‘normal’ perhaps, but it’s definitely much more accessible overall for listeners out there. Personally I think it’s enchanting, inviting, brilliantly well-played, and without question one of the best cuts on this record…I might be partial to the adventurous nature & spirit that soars through this set-list of tunes, but there’s no arguing against a moment where everything is in its right place like you’ll find on “Spiral Dance.” Mystifying & mesmerizing…hypnotic at times…it’s a seriously cool cut on Worlds.
While “The Worlds” is somewhat of the bridge between songs like “Kaos” and “Spiral Dance,” most people out there will probably find themselves appreciating the ambitious & adventurous nature of sound at work throughout this record as it plays at the very least. Listening to the incredible low-end rhythms and the melody that guide us along through “ The Worlds” is one of my favorite experiences with the music of Montagner, Saladino, and Borotti…the tone, frequencies, and textures you’ll find are insightfully well played & highly creative at all times. Ultimately, you have to recognize that they go their own route as a trio, and that for better or for worse, it’s all designed in a sincere effort to create something that’s never been done before – and you can’t argue that “The Worlds” is anything other than that when it comes right down to it. Sometimes their ambitions create challenges for the listener that aren’t going to be expected & potentially too much for them – like, the vocal samples that tend to dominate this title-track are so far out there, that there’s all too good of a chance that the artistic tendencies of a tune like this will fly right over the people’s heads collectively. But you don’t tend to make music like this as an artist without fully knowing that before even playing the first note…so in my heart of hearts, I know I’m not telling this trio anything they don’t already know about the obstacles they create in between them & the everyday listener. What’s remarkable to me…is that when you listen really closely…like face pressed right up against the speakers…and you’re taking-in every sweet second of the sound below the surface of “The Worlds,” you realize that they could have easily chosen to take a much more typical route, had they wanted to. I very much dig & respect that they’ve gone the road less travelled…at the end of the day, it’s the courage it takes to blaze their own trail that comes out sounding relentlessly ambitious, impressive, and creative at all times. Sure it’s downright bizarre at certain moments, but the artistic appeal to be discovered on Worlds will lead to extremely loyal listeners in their future as well; anyone that can hang with the uniqueness of this album will likely be a fan for life.
Driven by the combination of flute sounds and a rambunctious percussion set off in the distance, “Saltarello” ends up having an interesting & somewhat majestic appeal. Almost like a marching tune of sorts, or a pre/post-war song from the history of our past…perhaps like how our ancestors celebrated battle times, or announced something special down at the center of the courtyard. Essentially, it sounds like a tribally-infused piece of our shared history coming back to greet us through the speakers – and “Saltarello” seems quite happy to have found us with its collection of bouncy elements enthusiastically moving & shifting around so playfully. I make no illusions when it comes to a song like “Saltarello” or the cut to follow called “Alkemy” – these are definitely tracks that challenge typical convention…and that’s always going to be a tougher sell to the masses out there. On the flipside of that coin however, are the people like myself, that pride themselves on knowing they’ve got that specific song to play at the specific moment it’s needed most…whatever that song or moment may be…tracks like “Saltarello” fit right into a niche category of their own and provide a feeling/experience/atmosphere you can always close your eyes and slip right into. This trio has chosen to make art with their music – and I respect that.
“Alkemy” was one of my favorites…and I suppose if anything proves I’m fully on-board with a record like Worlds, it’s the fact that I love a song like this one. Ultimately, its ingredients would likely be fairly sparse in comparison to most of the tracks on this album, but with its droning sitar-like sounds adding the buzz of an organic & eccentric electricity to the natural ambient sounds radiating through the background…I mean c’mon people, again, recognize uniqueness when you hear it & appreciate it for what it offers your ears. You likely won’t hear another song like “Alkemy” this year – heck, maybe not even again in your lifetime – and shouldn’t the very thought of that make you excited? Don’t go too overboard…”Alkemy” is more like…something akin to a meditative tune that you’d find playing in a monastery at the top of some mountain out there…you can be as excited as I was to hear it, but you know, keep it cool so that the other people around you can keep their transcendent state of mind goin.’ Also keep in mind, the very title of the album, Worlds, and how that plays a role here in this lineup of tunes and tracks like “Alkemy” – we are audibly experiencing Worlds of sound – a track like “Alkemy” is about as far removed from the sound of a song like “Saltarello” or “Flash Bach” afterwards. Each moment and track added to this lineup has its own distinct personality, charm, or allure to appreciate.
Opening with a spirited saxophone/flute combination on “Flash Bach,” the trio twists melodies in the wind and a healthy amount of oxygen required to fuel their instruments. While it’s also a song with fairly minimal ingredients, the sound you’ll find is maximized by the supercharged doses of charisma, character, and personality guiding each element. The question becomes, will people hear this song as multiple layers that combine & complement each other – or will they feel that each layer competes? And quite honestly, I’m not even sure about that aspect myself…sometimes the joy of these players playing together gives the sound an additional advantage that has their enthusiasm connecting right to us…and at others, I can imagine it’ll be tougher for people to separate the elements enough in their mind as they listen to appreciate what each layer brings to the song overall. For me, this was likely the toughest song to immediately latch onto…with several spins through the set-list, I began to appreciate “Flash Bach” a little bit more perhaps, but I’d still say it was the hardest song to get a full grip on. It might very well be the track you dig most…you never know when it comes to how people listen to music, but I’d highly suspect I’m not alone in feeling that this track pushed the avant-garde approach a lil’ further than most of us are probably comfortable with. Think of it like a visual maze of sound, whereby you’re not sure which way it’s going to twist or turn next on you…it takes commitment to follow through with it, it’s challenging, and can even be a bit exhausting in trying to keep up with it all.
Even the shortest song on the record, “Time Matrix,” still feels stuffed full of audio entertainment and creativity that can’t possibly be ignored. Probably my favorite cut on the record for the flute – I think you’ll find exceptional highlights from that instrument soaring all throughout this tune; but real credit to the drums & percussion that never let up as well. The addition of the saxophone was also spectacular – I love that it plays a severely supporting role here & shows up so sparingly, because it allows those moments to really shine through the rest and make the impact it should, even amongst the thick of such a riotous energy goin’ on. All of these tracks, certainly including “Time Matrix” really have me wishing I could see these three players playing LIVE – what a trip that would be! The pure joy of making music, celebrating imagination & uniqueness, and going with the moment are stamped all over the sound of a song like “Time Matrix” – this is the kind of vibe that gets you itching to bust out some dance moves. Not the typical ones either…the kind that would have the rest of the party staring straight at ya, wondering if you’re about to start speaking in tongues right afterwards…but just as Daniele, Manu, and Diego march to the rhythm of their own drums, shouldn’t we be inspired to do the same? Just sayin!’ I think this short cut turned out really well for the trio…I dig the way it fades in like we’re coming in to a song that’s already in full-bloom, and the amount of vibrantly expressive sound to be found within “Time Matrix” continues to be adventurous, curious, and passionate from the very beginning to its end.
“Raining” made for a particularly wonderful ending to this serious trip of a record. Reminding me a ton of my time spent listening to bands like Tortoise, you really have to appreciate the stunning level of uniqueness to be found over the course of Worlds and the adventurous spirit of all three players involved. Driven largely by its percussion rhythms and sweet sounds floating through the atmosphere, “Raining” has a real sparkle & shine to it that makes for one of the most endearing experiences you’ll find on this album. As much as a fan as I’ve been of tracks like “Alkemy,” “Time Matrix,” or “Spiral Dance” from earlier on in the record, I think the trio ends on a definitive highlight that may very well outshine the rest with “Raining” – this could very well be my favorite song. Listening to small & subtle switches in the direction, like the added serenity that creeps in around the 1:25-mark…I mean, c’mon – that’s incredible ain’t it? And what I genuinely love about moments like that, is that you can hear it’s such a gentle addition…just a tiny amount of warm glow that seemed to be like the final piece of the puzzle…and now the full picture of the vision for this sound has become clear. There’s been a literal cornucopia of staggering compositions and imaginative ideas from the moment Worlds first began – and I think the trio ended on the real highlight of the set to end the experience with one of the record’s most memorable & inviting songs – “Raining” was the finale an innovative & inventive set-list like this deserved.
As to the mystery of when this record first came out…whether it’s from the past or the present, is probably all beside the point anyhow – this trio is still ahead of the rest when it comes to embracing the spirit of freedom in pursuit of the art in their craft – Worlds is completely refreshing & highly unique.
Find music by Daniele Montagner at Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/artist/1aKIPQmzyF04e5jtdrVOOu
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