Italian trio Guano Padano, Alessandro Stafana on guitar, Danilo Gallo on bass and Zeno de Rossi on drums, released their “Guano Padano” debut album in 2009. It featured a shimmering display of Ennio Morricone infused soundtracks to exotic landscapes and sultry, mysterious characters. That album featured the likes of Captain Beefheart band member Gary Lucas on guitar, and the mighty Alessandro Alessandroni (the original Morricone whistler) on whistle duties. This latest offering features Italian culture loving Mike Patton on vocal on the villainous “Prairie Fire”, an ominous, siren soaked journey through the underworld. This collection then, has lost none of those early references from their former release, and if anything has built upon them to come up with a further collection of evocative stories from a far-flung territory.
The album “2” opens with ‘Last Night’ which brings to mind the distant vision of a heat haze blurred traveller, with tantalizing piano lines broken occasionally by cascading castanets. ‘Zebulon’ breaks loose the surf guitar, tremolo arm and chiming bells, as the pace increases over rolling drums. ‘One Man Bank’ slows the pace but never loses the atmosphere, whilst ‘Gran Bazaar’ becomes more reminiscent of Dick Dale or Man or Astroman? in its surf guitar fury.
The tempo and disposition is given a long shot of bourbon on ‘Gumbo’ as the listener lights a cheroot, tips their hat over their eyes, and settles in. ‘Bellavista’ brings a country flavoured edge to the music, bringing finger picking banjo and fiddle into the soup. Just when the listener has begun to think they have understood Guano Padano and their vignettes of sound, ‘Lynch’ brings a mixture of jazz and neo-classical influences, with a hint of the surreal, reminding the poor naive victim of a David Lynch film set piece. Even slices of oriental music cut through tunes such as “Miss Chan”.
The extensive ‘Un Occhio Verso Tokio’ is virtually the soundtrack to a short piece of film in itself, with scenes of poignancy, introspection and joy, all within its eight minute duration. The album closes with the laconic ‘Sleep Walk,’ drifting over soaring lines of steel guitar, and dramatic passages of distortion, percussion and organ.
The band themselves appear relaxed and comfortable with every style of music on display here, and at no time does the sound appear contrived or paradoxical. There is humour in the music as well as a sense of investigation and experimentation. The tunes are not merely a tribute to a genre of film soundtrack music that is loved by many a purist. The assortment of instruments being used to create this music is astonishing, and is testament to the skill of the individuals concerned.
It would be virtually impossible to write comprehensively about this band without mentioning these spaghetti western references, but the amalgamation of instrumentation and styles works perfectly well to the degree that one could almost believe that Guano Padano have fashioned their own musical sub genre.