I like quirky. If you know me, you would know that’s true. Something just a little off-kilter really flips my switch sometimes. This band from Italy turns me on exactly that way. Here is something that’s hard to describe, though I will try. It’s astounding.
N.y.X is a collaboration of multi-instrumentalists Walter F. and Danilo A. Pannico. They are joined with such prog-luminaries as Trey Gunn and David Jackson. These two lend their talents to Down In Shadows which results in also lending a King Crimson flair to the proceedings. However, this is neo-prog meets art-rock at its artiest.
“down in shadows (part I)” opens aggressively with guitar and settles(?) into a section that almost recalls a Danny Elfman soundtrack or Talking Heads with its crazy percussion. Walter F. sings way over the top in an almost Peter Hamill (but more melodic) way. I like his voice a bit better when he sings more straight forward on songs like “colour” and “wait,” but he vocalizes with such abandon here it’s chilling, also recalling a young David Byrne.
“day after day” could be the union of Van der Graaf Generator and the Mael brothers. VanDerSparks!! “colour” is the first time the relentless assault (oh, in a good way) on this CD starts to chill, and I’m rolling along with the gorgeous mellow melodies. Mention here should be made of the suitable contributions of cello player Marco Allocco. References for this song are some David Bowie and early Split Enz.
There is a lot to like about the next cut, “o.y.o (on your own).” The horns, the clever juxtaposition, I’m feeling a bit of Mars Volta here. There’s a strong sax-solo from David Jackson about two-thirds of the way in to mellow out while the band prepares to go back to its punk attitude. This is my favorite song on the recording.
I ran for the CD booklet when “wait” started just to be sure that a certain Mr. Robert Fripp wasn’t guesting here as well! It reminded me of something off KC’s Discipline album. The lyrics throughout this CD are as serious as the music is wacky, so tread carefully while following the disturbing story. The guitar riff throughout much of the last track “down in shadows (part II - including crime)” throws a nod to King’s X, and as it’s all winding down very gently and quietly with a beautiful child-like melody played on a toy piano, I’m thinking “Man! That was good!” and hit the replay button.
References here are all over the place, from Adrian Belew to early Godley and Crčme and all the others I’ve mentioned. All this is done however with such a modern flair and very forward thinking. I guess this gets a little closer to being truly “progressive” then, in my mind. I totally ‘got’ this record. You may not get it. This was one wild ride and I loved it.
Reviewed by Terry Jackson on February 7th, 2010