This is the second release from Genovese quintet, Panther & C, following on from 2015's L'Epoca Di Un'Altro, and most enjoyable it is too. Although relatively new to recording, this unassuming band have been playing together since 2003 developing an accomplished, textured sound complementing the epic vocals of Mauro Serpe. Having only decided to begin recording after appearing at a festival with now label-mates Il Tiempo D'Elle Clessidre, they unashamedly reel off a list of influences from classic 1970's prog. However, there is one band in the canon who loom larger than any other in Panther & C's repertoire and that is pre-Lamb Genesis. They wear their influence up front, to the extent that I had to check whether the Italian titles contained hidden references to favourite artists. (There don't, not that I can see anyway).
Just to clarify, I don't say this like it's a bad thing, and normally I try to avoid listing influences. Everyone sounds like themselves and are entitled to the odd lift on a giant's shoulders, but in this case it is fairly inescapable. I can therefore quite honestly recommend a listen to all our readers who, so our polls tell us, are well-disposed towards Big Big Train and that ilk who wallow in the wake of the Charterhouse troupe. The more I listen to Panther & C, the more I find to admire in their pastoral soundscapes. Fuga Del Lago in particular, a hymn to the need to escape the stresses of everyday life is the perfect accompaniment to a summer day anywhere, showcasing Alessandro Del Corte's keyboards with Riccardo Mazzerini's shimmering guitar. This is a triumphant piece of music and just one diamond to admire amongst a small horde. Conceptually, the album traces the theme of its title track, the search for that perfect balance, apposite for a band who are perfectly in tune with each other (maybe only discernible tension could make them sound more like Genesis!), and what happens when that balance is disturbed as viewed dispassionately on the epic closer, through the eyes of a seagull observing the 9/11 atrocities. A low note on which to finish, but there is little that could follow this sensitive treatment of a defining moment.
Panther & C are undoubtedly a worthy addition to the Italian prog scene, and another good answer to the question, 'Is there any decent Italian music besides PFM?' If they were from Northern Europe, my news feed would have been full of these musicians for some years now. So what's it to be? Listen to a band that sounds like Genesis playing old Genesis songs, or listen to a band that sounds like Genesis playing some remarkably good original material. I know where I would put my money down. Ciao! Panther & C e Benvenuto!
**** Andrew Cottrell
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