Empty Days - Empty Days

(CD 2013, 49:03, AltrOck ALT 036)

The tracks:
  1- Two Views On Flight
  2- Ankoku
  3- Words Lurking
  4- Kurai
  5- Flow My Tears
  6- Ananke
  7- Running Water
  8- The Ghosts Of Dawn
  9- In Darkness Let Me Dwell
10- A Knife Under The Pillow
11- Coming Back Home
12- Waiting For The Crash
13- A Dark Vanessa
14- This Night Wounds Time

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Empty Days from Italy consist of Paolo 'Ske' Botta (keyboards), Jacopo Costa (vibes), Elaine Di Falco (vocals), Maurizio Fasoli (piano), Bianca Fervidi (cello), Pat Moonchy (electric zen garden), Rachel O'Brien (vocals), Giuseppe A. Olivini (percussion) and Francesco Zago (guitars, Mellotron, bass). It seems that Francesco Zago is very much the driving force; he wrote the vast majority of the lyrics and the music as well as editing, mixing and producing the record.

The album contains seven instrumentals and seven songs with lyrics. I'm very taken with the cover too and yet again AltrOck have released a very professional package. There's very little in the way of biography on the website, but if you visit Francesco Zago on Facebook, you'll be able to stream tracks from the album. Zago is a talented chap; together with Marcello Marinone he established AltrOck Productions in 2005 to promote avant-prog and experimental music. In the same year he founded the ensemble Yugen, who have released four CDs so far. Moreover, he's involved in Kurai another project as well as Empty Days. He also has an improvisation duo called Zauss, with the Swiss sax player Markus Stauss. In 2012 he joined Stormy Six, the Italian historical RIO group. He's also the guitar player of Not A Good Sign, who released their first eponymous album in June 2013 (see review).

Avant-prog and experimental is a good description of the music on offer. Ethereal female vocals next to more angular instrumental pieces make this an incredibly esoteric release. Running Water, for example is an achingly beautiful acoustic song, with very subtle strings and choir Mellotron before taking a baroque, haunting turn until single piano notes close out the track. The fourteen tracks have a running time of around 49 minutes, so the record doesn't outstay its welcome but the sparseness of the compositions, for example the instrumental In Darkness Let Me Dwell,  never rushes you - it's contemplative music.

This eponymous album by Empty Days is a challenging listen for traditional prog fans I think, but well worth having a listen to if you're in the mood for some quiet, understated soundscapes.

*** Brian Watson (edited by Peter Willemsen)

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