With the intercontinental mix of Italian trio Guano Padano, one could take the easy way out, calling it the bastard child of Ennio Morricone, Dick Dale, and Calexico. The truth is something more muddied, something broader yet less mashed up.
Led by guitarist Alessandro Stefana, 2 steeps in the traditions of Italian-western cinema — specifically, the Italian sonic interpretation of Americana — and applies surf rock and 1950s and ’60s rock ’n’ roll to the music of America’s south and southwest. Bits of gypsy, jazz, and oriental styles also dot the landscape, as each song is a journey to a new land.
Most songs, in fact, are referentially named. “Lynch” channels the legendary filmmaker’s soundtracks, notably the dark, smoky sounds of Angelo Badalamenti. “Miss Chan,” featuring guitar virtuoso Marc Ribot on a slithering solo, does a marvelous job of mimicking the Eastern koto from Stefana’s “banjolin.” And the spy-thriller sounds of “Prairie Fire” make masterful use of Ipecac label head Mike Patton, whose Mondo Cane project of old-school Italian pop tunes has included Stefana.
Yet Stefana is a master himself, traversing swaths of well-reverberated terrain with his banjo, electric and acoustic guitars, lap-steel guitar, and piano. By the time the album closes, the listener is well aware of his range, but a cover of Santo & Johnny Farina’s classic “Sleep Walk” is an apt conclusion to a dreamy, cinematic journey.