Beat Circus


(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

Dreamland (2008) , 7/10
Boy From Black Mountain (2009), 6.5/10
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Beat Circus is the brainchild of Boston's composer, film-maker and multi-instrumentalist Brian Carpenter, who was equally exposed to small-town popular music and to free jazz during his formative years. The sextet (featuring accordionist Alec Redfearn, trumpet, tuba, saxophone, banjo and drums) debuted with the multi-stylistic tour de force of Ringleaders Revolt (Innova, 2004), an instrumental work that was still influenced by improvised jazz music.

Carpenter blossomed as a composer with the concept album Dreamland (Cuneiform, 2008), set in an amusement park at the beginning of the electric age, scored for a 22-piece ensemble, and consisting of 16 cinematic vignettes that alternate between warm humor, macabre doom and nostalgic melancholy. The stylistic range has deep roots in the life of small-town America, evoking a less jovial VanDyke Parks. The grotesque robotic ballet Gyp the Blood leads the parade: the children's lullaby The Ghost of Emma Jean, the funereal instrumental elegy Dark Eyes, the frenzied Balkan dance Slavochka the limping blues of The Gem Saloon with echoes of the vocal groups of the 1930s, the instrumental circus music with Spanish overtones of The Rough Riders (and with Dixieland-like improvisation), and the pompously narcissistic March of the Freaks. And of course there are plenty of cabaret skits a` la Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, such as Delirium Tremens and Coney Island Creepshow. By carefully orchestrating the styles of small-town America, Carpenter wove together a breathtaking journey into the psyche of a nation as it was beginning to craft an urban landscape of entertainment and desire.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Tobia D’Onofrio)

Beat Circus è la creatura del compositore, regista e polistrumentista di Boston Brian Carpenter, che durante gli anni della formazione ha subito le influenze di musica popolare e free-jazz. Il sestetto (che comprende Alec Redfearn a suonare accordion, tromba, tuba, sassofono, banjo e batteria) debutta con il tour de force multi-stilistico Ringleaders Revolt (Innova, 2004), ancora influenzato dalla musica jazz improvvisata.

Carpenter fiorisce come compositore con il concept-album Dreamland (Cuneiform, 2008), ambientato in un parco di divertimenti all’inizio dell’epoca elettrica, musicato per un’orchestra di 22 elementi e composto da 16 vignette cinematiche che alternano caldo umorismo a una nostalgica malinconia e un macabro destino. La varietà stilistica ha le radici ben piantate nella vita dell’America provinciale, ed evoca quasi un VanDyke Parks meno gioviale. Il grottesco balletto robotico Gyp The Blood apre le danze: la ninnananna per bambini The Ghost Of Emma Jean, la funerea elegia strumentale Dark Eyes, la frenetica danza balcanica Slavochka, lo zoppicante blues di The Gem Saloon con echi dei gruppi vocali degli anni ’30, la musica da circo strumentale di The Rough Riders con armonie spagnoleggianti (e un’improvvisazione alla Dixieland), e l’ampolloso narcisismo di March Of The Freaks. Ovviamente, poi, ci sono parecchie scenette da cabaret alla Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, tipo Delirium Tremens e Coney Island Creepshow. Orchestrando con cura i vari stili cari all’America provinciale, Carpenter intesse un viaggio mozzafiato nella psiche di una nazione come se stesse incominciando a strutturare un paesaggio urbano di divertimento e desiderio.

The arrangements are more sophisticated, elegant and fluid on Boy From Black Mountain (Cuneiform, 2009), the second part of Brian Carpenter's "Weird American Gothic" trilogy, so much so that the album may be viewed as an essay in irreverently revisionist roots-rock in a festive and goliardic atmosphere: the zydeco-tinged The February Train, the fairy-tale folk lullabye Boy From Black Mountain, the frantic, slapping hoedown As I Lay Dying, the solemn Judgment Day and especially the crackling banjo-driven country & western (and klezmer-infected) mess of Petrified Man, The comic, nostalgic and musical zenith is reached with the lively ragtime-era skit of The Life You Save May Be Your Own, replete with sterilized female choir and brass fanfare. Unfortunately, these brilliant gems are dragged down by inferior material, especially in the second half, ranging from a half-baked country ballad like The Quick and the Dead to the hard-rocking instrumental Nantahala. (Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
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