Ronin, essentially the brainchild of Bruno Dorella, formed in 1999 with the idea of fusing Balkan and Mediterranean folk, whilst at the same time being infused with the essence of Ennio Morricone soundtrack composition and guitar isolationism. Since then their music has been used to soundtrack a range of film and television projects, and they have toured extensively through Italy and the rest of Europe.
“Fenice” is their fourth full length album release and provides abundant evidence as to why the music of Ronin lends itself to the soundtrack format. The first piece ‘Spade’ is built upon elaborate lines that form the backbone to luscious landscapes of sound that bring to mind the dusty sets of some of the greatest Morricone films, whilst the second, ‘Beneveto,’ swings with excitement and joy and lifts the listener temporarily away from placid contemplation. ‘Selce’ brings the journeying listener back to the scorched horizon of ‘Spade’ and the Western motif, whilst ‘Jambiya’ displays many twists and turns of mood and pace, based largely on the sharp use of instrumentation and well crafted songwriting. The title track ‘Fenice’ slows the mood back down to create a space of perfect calm and relaxation.
Essentially, now Bruno Dorella on guitar, Nicola Ratti guitar, Chet Martino bass and Paolo Mongardi on drums, the album features a number of special guests notably the vocalist Emma Tricca who performs vocal duties on a breathtaking cover version of ‘It Was a Very Good Year,’ written by Ervin Drake and made famous by Frank Sinatra, and delivered in a surrealist expressionless manner which perfectly encapsulates the sentiment behind the lyrics.
As we near the end of “Fenice,” ‘Gentleman Only’ brings the atmosphere back to that of a festive swing, and features a recurrent theme which has the privilege of fusing itself to the listener’s brain. ‘Nord’ abruptly brings the mood back down to a virtual drone of other worldly mysticism before turning the corner into what could be described as the soundtrack to a mid 1970’s science fiction television serial. The album closes with ‘Conjure Men’ which is at once uplifting and evocative and features the horn section of Gabrielli, Raffaele Kohler and Luciano Macchia to bring the album to a stately and dignified close.
Listening to “Fenice” from start to finish there is a definite sense that the willing participant is being taken on a journey, and throughout that journey a number of stories and sideshows are on offer. Second guitarist Nicola Ratti, who specialises in other projects in ambient drone brings that essence to “Fenice” and colours each piece with a meditative and enigmatic tone. A collection of disparate tunes that can effectively tell a story and maintain the listeners’ attention is a feat of true craftsmanship, and Bruno Dorella and Ronin on “Fenice” display that craft with abundance.