Band: Homunculus Res | Album: Andiamo in giro di notte e ci consumiamo nel fuoco | Genre: Progressive rock | Year: 2020
From: Palermo, Italy | Label: AMS Records
For fans of: Soft Machine, Gong, Caravan
Back in the early days of progressive rock, Italy was second only to the UK in the scope and vibrancy of their prog scene. The Italians infused Anglo-originating prog with native folk and classical influences, they sang in their native language, and their use of uncommon scales and modes made them stand out. Not many of these bands found success beyond Italy’s borders, though, perhaps due to just how intensely Italian the music was.
Homunculus Res, then, have somewhat subverted prog tropes. Andiamo in giro di notte e ci consumiamo nel fuoco (We Go around at Night and Consume Ourselves in the Fire) is Homunculus Res’s fourth full-length release. This Sicilian quintet plays a variety of progressive rock strongly inspired by the Canterbury scene. The sound of the Canterbury scene was intensely English, and that’s why it was so surprising to find an Italian act in that vein.
Andiamo opens in a jazzy manner, with “Lucciole per lanterne” (“Fireflies for Lanterns”) featuring light guitar strumming and saxophone. Before long, though, a cascade of keyboard tones—organ, synthesizers, and clavinet—fill in the auditory space. The organ tones especially pay homage to Caravan and Soft Machine. “Il Carrozzone” (“The Caravan”) continues with lush synth tones embellished with silky sax lines over unusual rhythms. Even the vocal delivery is reminiscent of Robert Wyatt’s distinct style.
“Buco nero” (“Black Hole”) is bouncy, light, and summery, in stark contrast to its rather grim lyrics. (Thanks, Google Translate!) “Supermercato” (“Supermarket”) features some of Homunculus Res’s most Italian moments, with a reeds-brass-and-strings arrangement in its second half, before “La Spia” (“The Spy”) enters with a fittingly slinky, sneaky electric piano heartbeat.
Even this album’s darkest moments—the opening moments of “La Salamandra” (“The Salamander”)—are relatively light. Buzzy electric organ is the lead instrument here, and there are some great instrumental excursions. “In girum” (“The Roundabout”) is mostly instrumental and highlights interplay between a biting, funky bass and rich, warbling synthesizers.
Andiamo closes on something of an odd note. “Non dire no” (“Don’t Say No”) works in its role as the record’s finale, but stripped of that context, it’s not quite strong enough to stand in isolation. It’s slow-moving and based around a waltz rhythm. Layers of keyboards gradually build up with flute and bassoon adding more textural depth.
The particular brand of keyboard-forward, jazz-infused, Canterbury-style prog is not exactly common nowadays. And when I do run across acts that play it, they frequently run the risk of sounding derivative or simply paling in comparison to the original founders of the scene. Homunculus Res largely succeeded at paying homage to the big names of the Canterbury scene while also making something distinct. The frequent inclusion of classical instruments helps to keep the sound diverse and engaging, while the classic keyboard tones work to evoke an era of prog, not blindly ape it.