Restored 26 June 2017, originally published 15 June 2017
Jazz seems to be an underrepresented genre in the netlabel world, so I was excited to run across this release on the Many Feet Under website. While I would not exactly describe this this EP by Antonio Raia as traditional, straight-forward jazz, it certainly has strong jazz features. Stories of a Vain Diary mixes experimental electronic elements with free jazz blowing and fantastic drumming. It’s a heady mix.
When I use the term “free jazz” please don’t be alarmed. Some people are turned off by that description, thinking they will just hear chaotic noise that is more a test of stamina for the listener than an enjoyable piece of music. This music is far from that. Raia brings subtlety to the production and instrumentation, resulting in genuinely interesting tunes.
We start off with “Flux” (credited to Antonio Raia & Roy Cleveland) as its electronic wind sound and a heartbeat rhythm pulls us in. As the noises build there are hints of “no wave” sax and jazz drum in the mix. It builds and releases tension several times over its 4+ minutes.
“Rough Wind in Bondage” is the highlight track for me. This one is credited to Raia and Fabrizio Elvetico. The mood picks up where “Flux” left off, but quickly elevates to something more disorderly with a scream/shout vocal and that free jazz blowing mentioned above. This piece is propelled by powerful drumming, but the musicians never overpower each other. It sounds like Albert Ayler playing with 8 Bold Souls. And yes, it’s that good.
There’s a bit of a noir feel to “Birth of Trumpet” (this time Raia & Eks). This is probably the most experimental of the tracks, with the jazz elements and the electronics providing equal contributions. In your headphones, the drumming swings from side to side, adding color and odd rhythms.
The final cut is called “Sasha”. It’s the gentle comedown from the short trip we’ve been on. It begins almost like the sound of an orchestra tuning up, then slowly introduces individual elements into the song. It’s more about the individual noises than the mix. Clean sax plays gently, electronic waves roll, creepier sounds inject themselves, all while treated effects and vocals add dashes of color.
This EP is released on the Many Feet Under Homemade Label, which is headquartered in Campania, Italy. While they have only been around a little over two years (as of this writing), I count over 70 releases on their site. They have two sections on their site: MFU Concrete offers low-cost digital or physical CD options to some releases, while MFU Home Made Label offers free downloads. With their current pace of releases, they are worth frequent visits.
Antonia Raia – “Birth of Trumpet”
Stories of a Vain Diary Download site