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Art Fleury - I Luoghi del Potere

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Artist: Art Fleury

Album: I Luoghi del Potere

Label: Die Schachtel

Review date: Jul. 10, 2007

Through the magic of file sharing, bootleg reissues and music blogs, troves of bands once painfully obscure have been rescued from the deeps to be appreciated anew by listeners who were likely never previously even aware of the band's existence. Such plundering of underground past has unearthed some newly crowned classics as well as a bevy of mediocre efforts from bands perhaps best left packed in the proverbial vault. Prog and art of the fertile 1970s seems an especially marketable commodity, with forward-looking groups of all varieties being championed as overlooked mavericks and undiscovered purveyors of musical genius. Such laudatory praise is often given in overly generous helpings, but there's not a shortage of worthwhile music being dredged up by dedicated diggers and informal archivists, and while it's not always easy to casually tell the cubic zirconium from the real thing, there certainly exists gold in them thar hills for those patient enough to peruse.

Art Fleury may have arrived in 1976, but their debut album, I Luoghi del Potere (The Places of Power), wasn't released until 1980, by which time the band had changed names (from their initial AMG moniker) and developed a mindset that found them firmly cemented on the far left side of the political spectrum. The Italian trio's radical activism was a strong influence on its music, usually in abstract form; there's no blatant proselytization, no catchy slogans or directives for public action.

As they were also firm opponents of music as big business, it can be supposed that Art Fleury's protestation was embodied in their aesthetic. Written as a soundtrack to a nonexistent film, I Luoghi del Potere, even by contemporary standards, is a rather diverse affair, with its incorporation of sound collage, improvisation and near ambient atmospherics as equal parts to the band's rock-based composition.

The idea of I luoghi del Potere as soundtrack is one that governs much of the disc; it's opener, "Uno Spettro Si Aggira Per," is largely 12 minutes of mood-setting music, with scattered improv peppering its middle, and the rock ratio decidedly low. Much of I Luoghi del Potere follows suit, and while Art Fleury are often unwilling to sit still for too long, the album repeatedly returns to swells in momentum and/or tension, often resulting in piecemeal improv or another surprise turn. Were I Luoghi del Potere in fact accompanied by visuals, the resulting film would be one of consistently thwarted expectations and momentum building to a perplexing and often underwhelming end. Aficionados of horror soundtrack work will notice in Art Fleury's sound traces of Goblin and their spooky ilk, most notably in segments driven by Augusto Ferrari's keyboards, though the postmodern calisthenics latent in the trio's sound foils any conventional utilization of the usual hallmarks of the genre.

Though I Luoghi del Potere isn't likely a protest album, per se, Art Fleury's debut is a rebuff of the musical status quo, not simply in terms of the business side of things (the album was originally self-released), but in terms of the very nature of the music itself. The trio's fractured style and intentional upending of their more pacific sequences seem attempts to alarm, a musical analogy for a more widespread prescription for open eyes and alert minds.

So though I Luoghi del Potere can be frustrating in its multiplicity, an album full of Art Fleury's take on rock (as enjoyable as it might be) would certainly be a less startling, and therefore, less powerful affair. The days of Italy in the 1970s are certainly over, but, human nature being what it is, it's likely that the need for civil disobedience will never disappear. Art Fleury's debut is a subversive document, though perhaps sometimes only subtly so, and, almost 30 years later, I Luoghi del Potere remains an album worthy of unearthing. If not a forgotten classic, it’s at least a disc quite deserving of Die Schachtel's consistently stellar presentation and design.

By Adam Strohm

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