Alex Carpani -
So Close. So Far

(CD 2016, 50:35, Ma.Ra.Cash Records MRC060)

The tracks:
  1- The Eve (instrumental)(2:26)
  2- I Tried And Tried(5:36)
  3- Man On The Wire(5:56)
  4- Stay With Me(4:03)
  5- In Your Absence(3:39)
  6- Let My Drop Of Sweat Fall Down(4:25)
  7- Crystal Falls(6:08)
  8- One Face One Lie(6:19)
  9- Next Time(5:36)
10- The Last Sign(6:27)

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Alex Carpani is a musician from Bologna who has released a number of albums. I had the chance to listen to his debut Waterline from 2007 which I quite liked, and so I looked forward to the new disc. Alas it proved to be a bit disappointing, with enjoyable parts in between, no mistake there.

Of course I haven't listened to the other albums (yet), but it seems that Carpani's music has evolved from symphonic prog to some kind of sympho-pop with modest goth-pop-rock influences. An improvement if you are looking for catchiness, but for me it's no improvement at all, because it all sounds rather disposable. Let's look at some examples.

After the promising instrumental opener The Eve, we get the first proper song I Tried And Tried. This appears to combine modern pop/rock (do I hear distorted vocals there?) with neo prog, but to be frank, the result is disastrous with a throwaway melody, oh-oh-oh-OH lyrics and lame simple hack-hack-hack drums.
Man On The Wire starts better with a threatening atmosphere (I like the electric piano anyway) and this is also one of the longer pieces. And this is one of the tracks that illustrates the mention of gothic pop/rock earlier. One might very well imagine this being played by for example Lacuna Coil or Evanescense. Well, okay, maybe not the jazzy/symphonic prog middle part. Great keys there, by the way.
In Your Absence is Carpani's nod towards poppy metal. Riffy guitars and a fast-paced melody, which reminds me a bit of Saga. Then the song loosens up in a more dreamy piece. Beautiful, except for that processed (?) voice.
Crystal Falls opens with dance elements. What to make of that... Especially when the forward driving-rhythm sets in. And again that treated voice. What is it with people these days that they find it necessary to make their voices sound like this (and then they often sing similar melody lines too). After a minute or so it luckily turns into a more rocky direction. And best of all, Carpani shows us his rock voice. Untreated. The dance influences return, but are interlaced with other influences into playful instrumental parts.
Next Time starts with kind of a rave as well and it nearly led me to skipping to the next song. Luckily this piece turns into a forward driving rocker later on too.
The Last Sign is a dramatic Pink Floyd-influenced (that guitar!) closer. This one is clearly one of the better tracks on the album and it's good that it's saved for last, because you now leave the disc with a somewhat positive feeling.

I started by saying that I found the album somewhat disappointing and I still stand by that, but grudgingly I also have to admit that it can be rather enjoyable because of its accessibility. The musicianship is unquestionable. Therefore: approach with care, give it a few spins and pick out what you like. If you like your prog song based and accessible this one will be a sure recommendation.

***- Carsten Busch (edited by Astrid de Ronde)

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