Think of Italian guitarist Marco Cappelli’s new album as a mixture of Dick Dale and John Zorn, or perhaps a far-out musical crossbreeding of the Ventures with a mind-blowing, avant-garde jazz education…
|DOWNBEAT MAGAZINE Editors’ Picks September 2012
|BY HILARY BROWN
Marco Cappelli’s Italian Surf Academy, The American Dream (Mode Records)
Whether you’re touring the seaside cobblestone streets of Calabria via Vespa scooter or surfing the swells of Manhattan Beach, balance is crucial. And in this heady amalgam of 1950s and ’60s American surf rock, psychedelia and folkloric Italian melodies, Cappelli and his Italian Surf Academy have embraced that concept wholeheartedly. Throughout the 10 tracks on The American Dream, Cappelli alternates between Mediterranean-inspired ax lines and trem-heavy West Coast tones, while occasionally shredding a track down to its core with painstaking distorted noise. Cappelli is often catalogued in the same file as Nels Cline and Marc Ribot, and that comparison is not far off. (He’ll hit the stage with Ribot’s Ceramic Dog outfit at the Brooklyn venue Littlefield on Oct. 26.) Bassist Luca Lo Bianco and drummer Francesco Cusa—who are both in the group Naked Musicians—provide a steady rhythmic wave for Cappelli to ride smoothly to shore, but on the reggae-influenced, highly syncopated “Cinque Bambole” and the free-jazz-on-acid spine-chiller “Blood On Black Lace,” they churn up a few contrapuntal rip currents, which Cappelli navigates with ease. All the songs here are from Italian composers, except for a straight-shooting version of Johnny Rivers’ 1966 hit “Secret Agent Man.” A rendition of Ennio Morricone’s The Good, The Bad And The Ugly theme is true to form, proving that some tidbits of culture are borderless. The most fascinating elements of The American Dream are, ironically, not precisely American: the mandolin-reminiscent refrains on “Django” or the sophisticated tinge of old-school Italian within the confines of old-fashioned rock ’n’ roll, such as vocalist Gaia Matteuzzi’s operatic, euphoric groundswell on “Sesso Matto.” It’s the musical equivalent of pouring Peroni into pineapple juice, and the resulting concoction is oh-so-tasty.