Galliano Sommavilla – Breathe

 Galliano Sommavilla – Breathe

Galliano Sommavilla – Breathe – Album Review


You know…I’m not always the most observant dude in the universe, but from scanning the titles of this new Galliano Sommavilla record, I feel like I might be picking up on a theme here…

Every so often out there in the scene you run into characters like Galliano that make you wonder whether or not they have any full concept of just how amazing they really are, or how strong their connection to music really is.  And that’s fair…no matter what level of skill a musician may rise to over time; sometimes we just need that confirmation from outside sources to reinforce what we know, deep down inside.  Because if Galliano’s got ears that work like mine do, or yours do – and everything in his music indicates they’re both still functioning spectacularly well – then he’s gotta know he’s got something uniquely special that most don’t.  And if he can’t hear it, then dammit, he can feel it.  Or both.  My point is, you can’t listen to this dude’s tunes and draw to any other conclusion other than this is an artist that has his own authentic inside track into the soul of sound itself – that’s what I’m saying.

And here’s all the proof you’ll need.  Every once in a while, I’ll get these requests behind the scenes to hit harder…you know…like, as in, if something is truly crap, to call it such, and be free to do so.  But here’s the thing…I always have, and I always will; in fact, you can scan back not even ten reviews from this one posted here in what I’ve written recently, and I can fully guarantee ya there’s at least one write-up in there where that had to happen.  I call things as I hear them, for better or for worse…that’s just who I am and how I’ve always done my thing; it’s the sheer fact that I’ve never had a derogatory word to utter against Sommavilla’s music that should tell you & everyone out there everything ya need to know.  So here I am again…pulling no punches, sparing no quarter, and tellin’ ya this dude is 100% the real deal.

While I could definitely point out the fact that Breathe as a whole, is much different than the majority of the music I’ve experienced from Galliano Sommavilla so far – that’s almost somewhat expected when it comes to this guy.  Incapable of sitting still for too long, Sommavilla is what you’d call a constant creator with a massive range of interests when it comes to the art of making music, where it can take him, and how he can challenge himself as an artist.  You might have already read in the past about projects he’s taken on, like recording & writing a brand-new song for 365 days straight…which he’s already achieved – or perhaps you read about the more recent series he’s got goin’ on with giant cuts in the One Song set he’s been putting out this year, where he goes full-on unscripted & lets his music do the talkin’ for huge lengths of time.  It’s more than commendable how much Galliano has contributed to the scene at-large, and from what I can tell, he’s got zero plans of slowing down any time soon.  I wouldn’t be either if I had the talent this guy has…while there’s always undeniable effort involved, he seems to be able to create incredible music at will…and once Galliano has his mind set on a goal, he makes sure to achieve it in-full.

The last couple times I’ve personally reviewed his music have been completely within the solo-piano realm – and as much as I genuinely LOVE everything I’ve heard in those songs…well…hey…variety is the spice of life, ain’t it?  It was great to hear yet another dimension of what Sommavilla can do and his hear his music expand in brilliant directions as “Breathe Now” started the new record.  A digitalized infusion of all kinds of atmospheric & bold, dreamy vibes – “Breathe Now” instantly reveals Galliano’s signature professionalism and impeccable attention to detail.  A track that flows fluidly and soars seamlessly into place – when the color explodes, around the forty-second mark – I mean, that’s where the magic is y’all; and it’s undeniable when you hear it.  Taking what was already a highly enticing sound, and giving it the additional energy & instrumentation it gets, shifts it quickly from being another great instrumental tune, into the world of spectacular sound and stunning sensory vibes you’d find in projects as tight as Four Tet or DJ Shadow’s records – the depth in the mix and layering, along with Galliano’s insightfully innovative structures, all stack up to an immediately engaging opening on “Breathe Now” that beckons you to listen further.  With all the smooth sound on display, you’ll likely find you’re more than ready to comply.

“Breathe Once More” would easily be right up there with the most accessible instrumentals you’ll ever stumble upon out there in the independent music-scene.  There’s lots I love about this song without question…and if you’re into uplifting sound & refreshing vibes, I suspect you’ll have no problem joining me in loving what Galliano’s come up with on this second cut from Breathe.  With the range of styles & sounds this guy has explored in this song, and in his music overall – quite honestly, I couldn’t even tell ya what the man listens to, assuming he even gets time to jam a couple records between all the songs he writes – but like, listen to just how widespread this one sonic adventure is on its own, and you’ll get just how many influences this dude has picked up over time.  To me, what makes a song like “Breathe Once More” so outright stunning is definitely right there for everyone to hear in the musicianship – like when you hear the off-the-charts amazingness of the guitar-solos on “Breathe Once More” you’ll realize that’s more than worth the price of admission right then & there – but listen to the shape-shifting masterpiece he’s created as this song morphs & transitions along the way will ya?  It’s got a whole colorful collage of just about everything…you’ll hear bending notes that could slide right into the Country genre…you’ll hear colorful atmospheric sound that is right there with adventurous Ambient…you’ll hear space-like sprawling guitar tones that absolutely echo the Smashing Pumpkins at their finest & most dreamy…and at the end of the day, “Breathe Once More” is all & none of these things combined.  Ever flexing a hybrid approach, this second cut roams brilliantly through a series of spellbinding moments – like, how about the moves made around the 2:30 mark for example…when Galliano switches between parts, he gets the most out of him music, revealing the strength of each parts definition individually, and somehow finding these incredible ways of stringing it all together into one composition that contains the sweetest of fireworks.  It’s almost kind of funny in the sense that…there’s not a doubt in my mind that the most simple moment he’s got in this entire track in that main piano hook is easily going to be the most memorable for people out there.  Which is kinda fair, it’s perfection; but lord help ya if you can’t somehow recognize the rest of the awesomeness goin’ on around it…because as subtle as it may seem, this is non-stop entertainment & music that really moves from point-A to point-B with heart, passion, and tremendous ideas in the mix.

Then there are tracks like “Live And Breathe,” that delve right into a completely different style of sound and generate a ton of interest in the switch.  You go from the sunshine demeanor of “Breathe Once More” into the more serious sounds of “Live And Breathe,” which borrows more from genres like Post Punk & Jazz than you’d find in the previous two cuts combined.  Again, what you’ll find makes Breathe an exceptional listen from its beginning to end is the fact that you’ll never struggle to go right along with Galliano wherever he’s willing to go.  At times, “Live And Breathe” will sound like it’s straight outta the lounge, and at others, expands so gorgeously, immaculately, and brilliantly, that you’d be inclined to put the atmospheric vibes created right up there with Massive Attack, Peace Orchestra, or again, Four Tet.  I love it right from the drop though…you can hear that noticeable shift in sound instantly, and Galliano slips further towards the shadows of something like The Cure or Massive Attack until the clouds seem to part and the piano comes in for a moment of reprieve & melodically-inclined mystery.  There’s drama, there’s depth, there’s real craft in the composition that makes songs like “Live And Breathe” as moving & compelling as they are entertaining…you can’t help but be enchanted & enticed into material like this.

He’s got real options when it comes to what he’s created throughout this record and where it could take him.  “Just Breathe” is an exemplary example of a tune that would make for a fantastic soundtrack pairing, or perhaps get its own cinematic treatment for a music-video with a full storyline.  You can hear the additional weight in the mood & the aura of a song like this…and I felt like the added seriousness of this audible scenario became every bit as engaging as a completely detailed story with chapters is.  Ultimately, a couple things can be true; I can recognize that with its more gradual pace and a much larger & noticeable use of space, that there’s bound to be a few listeners out there that will shift in their seats back & forth as they’re sitting through the build-up, or looking for something more akin to the energy that flows in the first three songs.  But for the rest of us out there…those that get right into moments as mesmerizing as this becomes, and appreciate the incredible contributions being made by the rhythm section’s bass-lines and remarkable percussion, the outright amazing background elements added in, or the main heart of the melody that fuels the slow-burning core of this cut – I think you’ll probably draw to the same conclusion that I did, and go back & forth between this potentially even being your favorite from the full lineup on Breathe.  At 6:15 in length, it’s definitely a journey for most listeners and their attention spans – but when you hear stuff like the saxophone come in to light it up for a moment, or the intensity between the drums, bass, and the Midnight Cowboy-esque harmonica floating through the mix, you can’t help but marvel at just how much is packed into this song, yet how chill it all still seems for the most part.  There’s a major amount of stuff goin’ on throughout “Just Breathe” – and it all seems to happen naturally; it’s got an authentically grounded, real, and down-to-earth approach to its melody that actually had me pretty much right on the edge of my seat in listening.  It’s quite the accomplishment when you hear how subtle yet powerful & effective this song truly is – “Just Breathe” seems to present a remarkable confidence that has Galliano at the helm in full control.

Alright!  Time to hit’em with everything I got.  You ready for this Mr. Sommavilla?

What’s up with the organ?

You see?  No matter how hard I try, it’s still not really criticism, now is it?  I’ve just never understood the fascination with it is all…and I’m not even saying he has one, it’s just the sound you hear open up “Breathe Freely” before it quickly fades outta view and the rest of the song, which is unquestionably awesome, takes over.  Like, I’d tell you that organ was somewhat of a polarizing instrument if I didn’t find it showing up time & again in so many different tunes, you dig?  So it’s quite obviously an instrument & sound that people connect with, I’m just sayin’ it’s odd to hear it show up in as many places as it tends to throughout the scene from Hip-Hop to Heavy frickin’ Metal – everyone seems to be able to find time for that organ to show up in the mix at some point in their career I suppose.  Anyhow.  Like I’ve been getting at, pointing this out serves more for all of y’alls comic relief than it does any kind of valid observation or anything that can really be picked on.  So Galliano wants to take us to church to start this out – it lasts like, twenty-seconds in total at max, and then we move right on to one seriously meaty groove and impeccably atmospheric journey.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing to pick on here besides what appeals to your own personal taste and whether or not the organ is like bagpipes to you like it is to me…other than that brief moment in time, which admittedly, really sets the stage for the style/sound/production of the music to follow…I mean, the rest that comes at ya on “Breathe Freely” just instantly hits the mark and slides right into your ears with the slickest combination of alluring & ethereal vibes.  The contrast between the light surface & airy sound, up against the low-end of the stoic & rhythmic bass-lines, along with the crisp snap of the drums & endless imagination in all the surrounding elements combined…you’ll find that “Breathe Freely” hits its targets of being mesmerizing, hypnotic, and memorable; it’s tracks like these that genuinely sound like their own unique adventure.

I appreciate the careful poise and professional composition on display throughout “Breathe Out” probably a bit more than I like the song itself.  I’m not opposed to it, I’m not even really arguing that its inclusion on this record isn’t warranted…but there was something intangible about “Breathe Out” that seemed to not quite fully live up to the high standards in the ideas we’ve already heard along the way.  I think it likely comes down to the selection of the lead-instrument here…which…on the one hand, isn’t a typical lead…likely a synth-brass of some sort…so there’s an appeal to the uniqueness, but at the same time, it’s not exactly the smoothest sound on your ears either.  Like when you hear the saxophone come sliding into the later moments of “Breathe Out,” your ears instantly recognize that cohesion to the background they’ve been craving as it fits right into the mix, complements the vibe, and suits the song.  The main lead has its moments – and I could even fully understand someone else hearing it and coming to a different conclusion than I have – but for me, this was one of the very rare times where I felt like Sommavilla might have been able to create a bit more serenity in the sound than it currently offers.  It could very well be that the main lead is just a notch or two above where it should sit in the mix – it’s a supremely bold sound, whatever it is & whatever’s causing it – and short breaks that we get in spots around the 2:45 kind of offer us a brief glimpse of what “Breathe Out” could have been potentially.  The end speaks to this as well as the lead dials back a bit and the saxophone enters the song to give it a superb finale; right around the four-minute mark, I felt like Galliano started to lock right into something much closer to what he’d been seeking out all along in this song.  Now we’re entering terrain blissfully similar to Lemon Jelly – and while we only get another minute or so in this mode, it’s well worth it.  Again, if you’re listening to it from a structural/songwriting/composition type-angle, you’ve gotta admire how Sommavilla makes a story unfold through the music he makes, and that certainly extends to “Breathe Out” – this almost starts out like the opening you’d find in a theatre-play or musical, but slowly through the clever course it takes, becomes a verifiable Electro-chill masterpiece by the time it’s all over.

I also firmly believe that, when it’s right, it’s right – simple as that.  It’s always something we can hear.  It’s not that a more challenging design or concept like “Breathe Out” is necessarily lacking anything at all – it just doesn’t have what your ears instantly recognizes works in a song with inspired energy like the title-track of this album has.  Mind you…most songs don’t really…”Breathe” is something truly special with its unique combination of sound-selection and quick-moving composition…with the fantastic mix it has in its production and uplifting aura, this is a moment on the record that can’t help but stand out.  Whatever that…that bendy sound is Galliano…it’s amazing.  It might just be a guitar pitch-shifted or something altogether different like an erhu…I honestly couldn’t tell ya, but it’s massively addictive, it’s a HUGE hook despite its subtlety – and how Sommavilla doesn’t end up overusing it in this song is so far beyond me.  Instead, of course he doles it out in these perfect audio-morsels that give us just enough to keep us coming back because we start craving whatever that is (See 1:05/1:20) freakin’ fortnightly!  “Breathe” has vibrant bass-lines, a colorful collage of radiant instrumentation & sound-selection that genuinely keeps the ears engaged…it’s definitely got the personality, charm, charisma, and character – I’d have to imagine that this title-track is bound to end up being the favorite for many ears out there.  No arguments or complaints from me against that choice – “Breathe” is a justifiable highlight for sure.

When you use contrast effectively, you do it like this guy does.  Sure he’s already proven that he can do it by juxtaposing the light & the dark in the music he makes – but contrast can be so much more as well, which he proves on “Breathe Again.”  A lot of it can be about timing & pace and the relationship that each layer & dimension of the music brings to the overall movement in a composition…like how say, the hi-hats & quick beat of “Breathe Again” is moving at a marathon’s pace, while everything else on the surface guiding the melody seems to almost be standing still by comparison.  It’s supremely cool to experience decisions like this…and given that Sommavilla’s always got incredible ideas in the mix for ya, of course, the uniqueness to be found in “Breathe Again” comes surging atcha from multiple angles.  But like…c’mon now folks…if you’re not hearing a Portishead level of awesomeness around the 3:30 mark when “Breathe Again” starts to head confidently towards its finale, then you’re missing just how much of an impact this song makes on an artistic & sensory level altogether.  To start, the jazzy bass-line grooves and the way this track morphs into this spellbinding final ninety-seconds is an award-worthy achievement of its own for its slick transition – but as IF Galliano still somehow needed to add even MORE incredible sound into “Breathe Again,” he fits in what’s gotta be the best guitar solo you’ll find on the record at the end of this cut.  Not ONLY does it exist and have him absolutely thriving in stunning tone – but he’s got it stocked right to the very end – as in, he’s even the victim of the ol’ fade out here!  Maybe he never even stopped playing…like, maybe he’s still playing this song right NOW – we’ll never know because of the magic of the ol’ fade-out, now will we?  Smart use of the voices that enter in on the wind of some of these tunes…again, I have no idea how Galliano does what Galliano does more than half the time – I don’t know the secrets of the sauce, I just know what my ears tell me is really damn tasty.  And if you can get to the 3:30 mark of “Breathe Again,” hear that intense switch, and how Sommavilla raises the stakes so incredibly in the last minute & a half of this song, and not feel like you just came out of listening to what’s absolutely one of the best transitions you’ll hear in ANY song, like EVER, then I’m not so sure we can sit at the same table for lunch and talk tunes anymore; that’s an epic moment, 100%.

This guy.  For real.  Every time I think he’s gone and outdone himself already with something he’s made on an album, he somehow still finds a way to pack in even more shine to the gold he’s hangin’ onto.  Case in-point, the final track “Breathe In.”  The only thing I ever wrestled with in my mind about this song, was whether or not that, Galliano Sommavilla, had saved his best for last on purpose, or if it just came about naturally…I wondered about that just out of curiosity, but I was always pretty sure I was hearing either the best, or at least one of the top three cuts you’ll find on Breathe right at the end here.  “Breathe In” displays a radiant sincerity and emotional texture to it that no other song on this record quite has…the guitars are nothing short of remarkable, the keyboard melody is perfectly sweet, the beat is expertly delicate & equally crisp…the production & mix are beyond compare for their crystal clarity.  “Breathe In” sounds impressively organic to me…when you hear the melody-line that Sommavilla brings to this song at the heart of it all around the 2:30 mark, it should take your damn breath away and make you need to “Breathe In” just to make sure you can keep listening!  Heading back towards that Four Tet style of digital-meets-analog sound (which might always be digital, just really smart choices…I dunno) – this cut wasn’t just a great ending to what’s been an AMAZING album to listen to from start to finish – but I really felt like the powerfully emotional melody Galliano discovers on this last cut created a verifiable highlight in his entire catalog – that’s how damn good it is folks, I’m tellin’ ya.  It’s how damn good HE is, all-around, full-stop.  I’m fascinated by Galliano Sommavilla – I think he’s a cut above the rest out there in the scene, inspiring on just about every level I can think of, clearly at the top of his game, & thriving in the brilliant versatility and creative freedom found from start to finish throughout Breathe.

Find out more about Galliano Sommavilla at his official homepage here:

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