Claudio Rocchi - "Il Risveglio" (Suoni Di Frontiera)
Popular music presents unparalleled opportunities to express narcissism, and there’s no better way to get down to that dirty business than to adopt the guise of guitar-slinging singer-songwriter. Claudio Rocchi, who was active in Italy’s early prog scene, was never the worst such offender; he often sang about something beside himself, and he had some ambitious ideas about what to do with songs that were well worth hearing. Even so, Suoni De Frontiera from 1975 represented not just a drastic change in direction – imagine if Roy Harper or Tim Buckley decided to make a Cluster record – but an altogether rarer fish: a solo album that abnegates the self.
In the mid-’70s, Rocchi, like many folk of his time, spent some time in the East pursuing spiritual enlightenment. He later spent much of the ’80s sequestered from music and ensconced in a Hare Krishna community. But in between his pilgrimage and retirement, he delved into electronics and experimentation. Heard without reference to his earlier work, this album doesn’t sound particularly Italian, and it certainly doesn’t sound like the work of a guy who could fill up an LP side with strumming and singing.
The predominant ingredients on these 17 generally short tracks are the VCS3 synthesizer, various outboard effects, and the malleable sound of analog tape itself. Certain tunes – “Oh Lyra,” “Taratella” – sound remarkably like Harmonia, the grand krautrock summit of Michael Rother and Cluster. But if Harmonia was a collaborative advance, this looks more like a retreat. Rocchi abandoned the stage for a home studio where he could run his guitar through enough effects to mask its identity. And he nearly stopped singing. There are vocals on Suoni Di Frontiera, but they’re processed syllables (“Il Risveglio”) and chopped up radio broadcasts (“Frammento”).
If a singer’s voice is his vehicle for self-expression, what happens when he erases or erodes that vehicle? On Suoni Di Frontiera, Rocchi made it clear that the music, not the musician, was the point.