[Reviewed by Peter Marks]
There is no middle ground with Italy’s Ataraxia, you either adore or cannot stand them. For over twenty five years, Vittorio Vandelli and Francesca Nicoli (along with a rotating cast of players) have been bringing the world their unique works and show no signs of becoming stagnant. This record is the result of several years worth of labor and after all this time, they’ve changed it up again. There is still plenty of operatic drama to be heard but the music has been altered to include drum loops and more usage of electronics. Now don’t go running in terror, they aren’t going to be on the next Ibiza compilation. Nor are you going to hear them over the speakers at your local supermarket, but this is a definite step away from their confrontational past.
Previously, when they gave you an album it was almost a dare to finish it. Not so this one, they describe on their site how they sought to seal the sound of exhilaration onto disc; is there anyone else out there who would have the confidence to step it up to this level? I think not. Each piece is lengthy and extremely detailed. I own just about every record they’ve put out but ‘Wind at Mount Elo’ is their prettiest, and not in some kind of delicate wallflower sense. Graceful strength in every word, every note; nothing is left to chance and no stone is allowed to remain in place. They have totally shaken up their approach and it’s out of this world. Will their fans take the leap?
If you don’t know the answer to that, don’t read any further because from this point on I’m aiming squarely at those who do.
We all know that this outfit can do soaring overtures and it’s no secret that they will their works to emerge from locations they deem saturated by magic but who could have suspected that they’d set down their classical side and jump head-first into the technological present with such ease. They don’t make it easy to follow along, their jumps in logic tend to defy categorization. In much the same way Ordo Equitum Solis operate, Ataraxia refuse to water it down or sugar-coat the message. So, my fellow aficionados, we stand on the edge looking into unknown territory, only Nicoli’s voice is there to guide us.
Some of the elements may have shifted on their creative periodic table, these tracks are miniature novellas in themselves. Every possible route and eventuality has been taken into consideration, there’s some blinding logic at the heart of Ataraxia’s latest. Yet for all the calculations and fine tuning, the primal urgency of their work remains. If you managed to plunge this world into pure, utter darkness, they’d keep right on playing. It’s clever how they amuse themselves with modern touches, yes, but they are only accents and random ones at that. They were chosen because they fit, the puzzle demanded their inclusion, nothing more.
Impractical as it seems to most, time must be cataloged and indexed by the feelings it imparts rather than just relying on the mediocre, ephemeral vapors of whim; In the space age 21st century there must be some connection we have to our past or we’ll lose it forever. Ataraxia are that connection, they are balladeers,sirens, sages, satirists and sorcerers… the mysteries present all around us. Become one with them, lose yourself in the freedom of abandonment to the moment. It is all we have.