Roberto Aglieri – Ragapadani (1987 /2017)
My listening habits run in cycling tangents, led by an obsessive desire to learn and hear new things. Among the most rewarding truths of recorded music, is that no matter how much you discover, you will only ever encounter a small fraction of the remarkable things which have been committed to tape. With a bit of curiosity, it is an inexhaustible wealth, offering unfathomable rewards. The process usually begins with a chance encounter – a burgeoning love affair with an LP, and a hope that it is an indication of further material unknown to my ear. In some cases this might be limited to an artist’s catalog, or to a movement, genre, culture, or country of origin. At some point along the way, roughly at the point I seem to have exhausted what I am capable of discovering, another encounter leads my ear on. The process begins again. Many years ago, it was at beginning of one of these tangents – researching lesser known artifacts of European Minimalism, that I encountered the Italian sonic avant-garde, among the great love affairs of my musical life.
At the point I began to encounter documents of Italy’s remarkable history of underground, experimental, and avant-garde musics – some fifteen or so years ago, almost nothing had been reissued, with generations of work remaining obscured from any wide view. Beyond collectives like Musica Elettronica Viva and Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza, who had managed to have albums released beyond their country’s borders, it was almost impossible to discover what had occurred. Some credit, at least in my own process of discovery, should be offered to Jim O’Rourke, who has always been incredibly generous with his sprawling knowledge, and who was among the first to drop names like Roberto Cacciapaglia, Franco Battiato, and Giusto Pio into the wider public realm. This was later aided by a small handful of committed imprints, particularly Die Schachtel, who began to slowly make some of these records available for the first time in decades.
It’s remarkable how much has changed in such a short time. The last couple of years has seen the history of the Italian avant-garde rocket into public view, where it has gained the wide praise it has always deserved. This year alone has seen the reissue of seminal albums by Franco Battiato, Giusto Pio, Roberto Musci, Telaio Magnetico, Zeit, Lino Capra Vaccina, Claudio Rocchi, N.A.D.M.A., Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza, and a stream of others, each an indication of the remarkably breadth and diversity of this movement, charting the singular path which makes the sonic geography so remarkable and unique.
Italian music from the second half of the 20th century is notoriously difficult to categorize, and remarkably democratic. There is an almost universal resistance to standard definitions of genre, coupled with a tendency to draw on diverse traditions from across the globe. To date, the reissue market has largely focused on gestures which fall within more explicitly experimental and avant-garde territories, but the Florence based Archeo Recordings is taken strides to broaden our understanding of how these characteristics have existed within a broader expanse of sound. Following their stunning reissue of Paolo Modugno’s Brise D’Automne, they return with Roberto Aglieri’s Ragapadani, originally issued in 1987, and among the coveted artifacts of its era. It’s been one my elusive holy grails for many years.
Roberto Aglieri is a mysterious figure. Very little biographical information exist, and his discography is slim, appearing in inconsistent intervals. Following his debut – Ragapadani, came fifteen years of silence before his next album appeared, followed again by little than more since (three album total, made between 1987 and 2003). What is know about him, placed against the sounds he has created, indicates that there may be logical reasons for his absences. For Aglieri, music holds a potential beyond its commonly understood realms, leading to his work as a music therapist, as much as a creator of compositions. He belongs to a generation of artists, once stretching across the globe, which includes Ariel Kalma, J . D. Emmanuel, Laraaji, and numerous others – those who seek a more intimate and meaningful relationship been humanity and sound.
Like many of his peers, it is unfair to constrain Aglieri’s music to the lens of New Age. While similarities present themselves, he is not the product of a final gasp of the optimistic 1960’s dream, but rather a deeply personal quest. As his world unfolds over the course Ragapadani’s two sides – an enveloping expanse of flute, arpeggiating synthesizer lines, and deep vocal chant, it becomes clear that these ambiences, structures, and tones are to be occupied rather than simply heard.
I can’t stress enough how happy I am to see this one come back – a singular event in an already incredible year for the history of Italian underground music. I am once again indebted to the passionate efforts of Archeo. In addition to the original 1987 LP, this edition is accompanied by a bonus LP, containing unreleased material from the period, making it the definitive rendering. A shimmering expanse of interlocking tone, and a balm for the ear as much as the mind. Ragapadani stands among the great creations of 1980’s Italian scene. Check out some samples below, and pick it up from Archeo Recordings, SoundOhm, or a record store near you. As essential as they come.
Roberto Aglieri – Made in Terraneo, from Ragapadani (1987 /2017)
Roberto Aglieri – Made in Terraneo #2, from Ragapadani (1987 /2017)
Roberto Aglieri – Protoraga, from Ragapadani (1987 /2017)
Roberto Aglieri – Aria, from Ragapadani (1987 /2017)