On a weekly basis, The Groove Seeker goes in search of killer grooves across rock, funk, hip hop, soul, electronic music, jazz, fusion, and more.
Calibro 35: “Death Comes at Midnight”[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/02-La-Morte-Accarezza-A-Mezzanotte.mp3|titles=Calibro 35: “Death Comes at Midnight”]
During the 1970s, the Italian film industry produced approximately 250 films that fell under the Italian cop sub-genre poliziotteschi. The films were ultra-violent takeoffs of American cop and mafia movies such as The Godfather, The French Connection, and Dirty Harry. Always brutal and sometimes filled with nonsensical violence, poliziotteschi films had it all: car and motorcycle chases, political corruption, mafia wars, heists, shootouts, tough rogue cops, and not to mention properly trimmed mustaches.
To match the over-the-top action, films began replacing traditional orchestrated scores with driving sounds that drew influence from rock, funk, and jazz. A close listen beyond the double-machine-gun-toting criminals and the occasional poor dubbing job reveals the swankiest music ever set to film.
Calibro 35 has one simple goal: to make music that recreates the soundtracks and film scores that came out of Italy’s 1960s and ’70s film industry. Following in the footsteps of Goblin, whose fame is most associated with Dario Argento’s 1970s horror-film soundtracks, Calibro 35 is making music with the art of film in mind. Though it plays to a certain bygone era, the Italian jam band continues an aesthetic that is surely connecting with modern audiences. The band’s second record is also its US debut, Ritornano Quelli Di…Calibro 35 (or The Return of…Calibro 35). It’s a funk-filled journey through the grime-stricken underbelly of Italy’s fabricated crime scene.
In 2008, sound engineer Tomasso Colliva used soundtracks from ‘60s and ’70s cinema as a catalyst to bring together a group of musicians to record what was to become the band’s self-titled debut. The musical cast: guitarist Massimo Martelotta, multi-instrumentalist Enrico Gabrielli, drummer Fabio Rondanini, and bassist Luca Cavina, aimed to bring a contemporary lens to the classic but obscure themes.
Immediately at first listen, the chemistry between these four musicians is exceptionally impressive. Though they are easy favorites for Italian cinema buffs, audiences don’t have to familiarize themselves with the different merits between an Umberto Lenzi and an Enzo Castellari film to fully enjoy Calibro 35’s sound. From fuzzed-out guitars, distorted organs, and dark, brooding bass lines, the band never misses a mark. The musicianship is matched by Colliva’s authentic production efforts, mixing and replicating the cinematic sound in all of its golden-age glory.
The Return of… is a mixture of originals and covered classics, most notably “Cinque Bambole per la Luna D’Agosto,” the theme from Mario Bava’s 1970s thriller of the same name. But with a musical repertoire so strong, newcomers will be unable to pick out the old from the new. In all of its cinematic qualities, the record has a huge sound that leaves no room for intermissions. From the dirty guitar-driven opener “Eurocrime!” to the swelling psychedelic groove “Counselor of Crime,” Calibro 35 keeps an exciting and enduring record from start to finish.
“Death Comes at Midnight” shows off the inventive rhythm section, playing a late 1960s mod groove that is disrupted with a pure cinematic technique: just as the groove starts to pick up, the section trails off while Gabrielli’s menacing organ screams horror to mark the arrival of the Italian nemesis. Such attention to detail makes Calibro 35 thoughtful and careful in execution, as seen again on title tracks “The Band Returns Pt. I” and “The Band Returns Pt. II.” On the coupled tracks, the band taps into a certain dramatic overtone, effortlessly switching back and forth between reflective and burgeoning emotional states.
Presented with album art by Giuliano Nistri, the renowned painter who created many original ’60s and ’70s Italian film posters, the music is neatly packaged with the infamous art for which it was intended. Naturally, the songs of Calibro 35 have been used in countless television shows and documentaries, including original tracks for the highly anticipated Venice Film Festival entry Gli Angeli del Male. If listeners are looking to explore the soundtracks of this film genre, Calibro 35 is an excellent place to start. But better yet, the band gives audiences a foot in the door to some classic 1970s films — to learn just how serious Italians can serve two-fisted justice in all of its aggrandized magnificence.