Gems of the Italian Cinema

Gems of the Italian Cinema

Various Artists

Amsterdamned

Italian cinematic scores and the pioneering work of Ennio Morricone are revered and subsequently pillaged by artists as diverse as Mike Patton, Portishead, Wu-Tang Clan, and John Zorn for their genre-defiance, shimmering orchestration, and melancholy ambience. This collection focuses on three lesser-known composers — Piero Umiliani, Gianni Ferrio, and Piero Piccioni — and their expansive soundtrack music to various Italian cinema of the late ’60s and early ’70s.

While none of these composers are as technical or emotive as Morricone, they still manage to weave a lush sonic wallpaper by fusing Italian traditions with American influence over crescendo-ing washes of sound. The reserved pieces of Umiliani sizzle with wet saxophone or classical guitar, only to be lost in waves of string-laden orchestral fervor. Cocktail jazz percussion keeps the atmosphere tense as the occasional flute, xylophone, or organ solos in nerve-wracking minor keys.

Ferrio, on the other hand, thunders through American popular music with the blistering, yet vehemently constrained, funk workout “Amanda Blues,” and creates a sudsy string supernova with his two “Soliloquio” pieces. The lone Piccioni track “Camille 2000,” uses subtle strings as a teaser for a horny heavy-funk bombast that would be apropos as cinematic squall for any of today’s Eastside gangsta rap missives. Gems of the Italian Cinema is the ideal record for make-outs, murders, or discovering the lesser-known masters of a luxuriant genre.

Triple X Records, P.O. Box 862529, Los Angeles, CA 90086; http://www.triple-x.com

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