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Review: Unimother 27 – ‘Chrysalis’ (released May 2019)

I first became familiar with the music of Italy’s Unimother 27 when their debut CD arrived in my mailbox back in late 2006. And while I say ‘they’, it is really mostly only one person, the multi-instrumentalist Piero Ranelli. On that first album, Ranalli explored musical territory that lay at the crossroads between psychedelic rock, Krautrock and experimental music. And through the years, over the course of now seven albums, he’s continued his explorations, often moving towards the more psychedelic rock-oriented corner of the musical triad, but always with a very adventurous streak. Ranalli has forged his own unique sound and now continues that with his latest album, Chrysalis.

Chrysalis reminded somewhat of that first debut album, getting back to the more experimental side of things, especially on the minimalist psych blues epic Metamorphosis, which stretches out to nearly 20-minutes, the first composed track of this length that he’s done since that first album. But that track closes the album, and there is much to enjoy here long before we get there, starting with the opulent and dreamy Miseries Are Lost in the Immense Desert of Wisdom. I hear a touch of Nektar in this track as soaring, melodic guitar solos and distinctively trippy, echoing vocals float over a lush backdrop of fingerpicked guitars, punchy drums and keyboards. It’s almost the opposite of what’s to come at the end, but it’s a fantastic kick off for the album!

Progressing through Chrysalis we get Smell of the Holy, a 10-minute instrumental which starts off as a deeply droning blues raga before morphing halfway through into a kind of rock n’ roll march. The Prisoner is a dark and heavy piece, with multiple guitar tracks weaving in, around and through each other in a dazzling display of virtuosity. Flow of Universal Becoming has a cool, funky swagger to it, punctuated by a rich, melodic chorus as Ranalli sings, “We are always the same as before” even as he sings about things everchanging in the verses.

And finally, we reach the aforementioned Metamorphosis. This is the most stripped back of all the tracks on the album, starting out with a lengthy passage of wickedly crazy, acid blues guitar contrasted against some very simple, almost new age synth tones until a slow drumbeat kicks in, the synths get weird and Ranalli launches into a spoken word piece with oodles of delay. Oh, did I say it gets really heavy again? Well it does, with some fierce metallic guitar riffing. It reminds me somewhat of the early experimental sounds of Ranalli's fellow Italian artist Jacula and their album In Cauda Semper Stat Venenum, but with synths replacing organ, trading the gothic feel for a more spaced out excursion. At any rate, it all makes for an intensely hypnotic, transcendentally hallucinogenic epic.

This can pretty much sum up the whole album, in fact. It’s full of contrasts, between light and shadow, lush and complex versus spartan and basic, crushingly heavy to soft and dream-like. It’s a landscape of the imagination where almost anything can happen, and pretty much does!

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To listen to Ranalli’s other works, check out:

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