Sunday, 20 July 2008

Dario Dell'Aere & Victor Life, aka Fockewulf 190

Another great and much underrated Italo (although really a better description would be 'mystic futurist synth music') producer that deserves a mention is Milan's Dario Dell'Aere, along with his keyboard player and collaborator Victor Life, better known as the group Fockewulf 190. Inspired by the likes of David Bowie, Brian Eno, Kraftwerk and John Foxx, Dario and Victor met outside a cinema in Milan in 1979 and started working on music together. Dario had a background in artistic mime and Victor an interest in electronic sound and pretty soon the two also realised they had a shared interest in Eastern mysticism that would rapidly come to influence their musical style. Within a couple of years they'd formed Ice Eyes and made quite a big impression on the Milan nightlife with their local hit 'No Sex'.

Changing name to Fockewulf 190 after the German airplane of WWII (Dario was obsessed with model kits rather than politically motivated), they recorded two stunning 12"s 'Gitano' and 'Body Heat' that were critically acclaimed and sold reasonably too (in Italo terms anyway). Usually accompanied by Nora Dell'Aere on backing vocals, other musicians who made appearances on Dario and Victor's productions include Fred Ventura (vocals on 'Body Heat') and guitarist Stan After (later known for production work by his real name, Salvatore Nonnis).

Fockewulf 190 made a big impression on the Milan scene in the early 80s - accusations ran wild after practically every show they did that they were junkies, neo-fascists, fags, visionaries, lunatics... the usual kind of thing you get accused of when you refuse to sell out or conform in the music industry basically. The manager of Les Rockets was very interested however (mistakenly thinking he had a new Rockets) and things boded well for success but unfortunately he wanted to tell them what to do, how to dress, etc so they correctly told him where to go. Half-way through making the first Fockewulf 190 album, Victor split and Dario went off to record his solo single. All their records are now near-impossible to find and all go for hundreds of pounds even if you can. More intriguingly many tracks from the half-recorded Fockewulf 190 LP (such as the incredible 'Oh Oh Oh') have lain undiscovered for the best part of 25 years but are now starting to materialise at last...

The five records they released are:

1. Fockewulf 190 - Gitano (1984)

More rocking than Manowar, more synthed up than Den Harrow and more out there than Roky Erickson! Absolutely fantastic cosmic stormer with deranged but stunning vocals from both Dario and Nora. 'Gitano' sounds like a space shanty from another galaxy but I think is supposed to refer to a spanish gypsy dance as a metaphor for changind mindstates and realising the esoteric. Dell'Aere has a real knack for making his mystical lyrics sound cool as hell (ie "If you want you can become Gitano!"). The only dude I ever heard to mix this in a club was iamelectron at Robot Disco Terror in Glasgow so well done him!! I love the mysterious symbols on the sleeve, one of my favourite cover designs.

2. Fokewulf (sic) 190 - Body Heat (1984)

Fred Ventura on fine form on the vocals although of course it should have been Dario (that's Italian music industry for you!), saxophone stabs, sweeping dark melodies, brilliant lyrics - the other Fockewulf 190 single is subtler and deeper than 'Gitano' if less pedal to the metal. Mean, brooding and fearsome apocalyptic political visions is what this one's all about, by the end of the track you realise that despite all the weirdness this isn't just good musically; it's an elegant statement of intelligence, politics, passion and sophistication all round.

3. Ice Eyes - No Sex (1982)

Wonderfully weird and psychotically groovy track that seems to be the most obscure of all Dell'Aere and Life's productions - that also makes it the least financially damaging if you want to try buying it! It's one of those tracks that is basically so wrong that it's right. I'm sorry if that's an inadequate description but I hope you know what I mean! Full of pent-up frustration and New Wave moodiness, I like the sense of humour that somehow shines through. Ice Eyes was basically Fockewulf 190 before they changed name.

4. Dario Dell'Aere - Eagles In The Night (1985)

"All I will become, an eagle that flies only in the night, and you will become an eagle flies with me!"

This is real european synthesiser mysticism at its most powerful so brace yourself! The only track issued under Dell'Aere's real name, it's best described musically as somewhere between 'Gitano' and 'Body Heat'. When I met Intergalactic Gary he turned out to have heard me playing this on Magic Waves once and so we got chatting about it - he told me that he only ever saw it once which was when he bought it (in Chicago apparently) and first thought it was crap! On the second listen though of course he realised it was actually one of the best tracks he'd ever heard. It definitely is one of those one-offs that is so good you could overlook it completely and never know what you missed. 'Eagles In The Night' has a very spiritual vibe and is certainly not one for the trendies or sell-outs, but it is majestic, epic and sweeping in its vision and a real grower that I urge you to check out.

5. Frank Tavaglione - Tumidanda (1984)

Going on at the moment for $374, this is the only Dell'Aere production that could be described as pop. Have no fear though - it's not a commercial attempt so much as a natural. Sweet and irresistably melancholic melodies, full-bodied production and a totally addictive bassline define this final masterpiece. Delivered with total emotional conviction, it's like listening to Heartbreak but from 25 years earlier. Frank Tavaglione was apparently a friend of their's from the Milan disco scene who they decided to help out for Market Records.

These five records represent the very pinnacle and essence of non-mainstream European synth music from the early 1980s. While lost and forgotten for years, I was very pleased to see Fockewulf 190 have reformed and now have a myspace. I have been in touch with Victor Life who tells me they're making the album Fockewulf 190 left behind all those years ago (to be titled Electrum Lux) and will be touring at the end of the year to support it. With any luck we'll be booking them to appear in London which truly would be a dream come true. Let's hope!

Celso Valli

It's high time the world started giving this guy his dues. To my mind he's unquestionably one of the most vital contributors to both the Italo Disco genre specifically but Disco in general as well.

Probably his most commercially successful work was when he used to do the string arrangements for Jacques-Fred Petrus's Goody Music label (based in New York but run by Italian-Americans who introduced a fledgling Italo influence into the mainstream Disco sound), such as Macho's 'I'm A Man' or Revanche's 'Not Tonight'. This was all going on in those classic years 1978-80...

At the same time however, Celso Valli was busying himself producing and arranging such lesser known but equally mind-blowing Italo bombs as Azoto, Tantra, Passengers and Nuggets. The man was unstoppable it seems!!

Valli came from a string arrangement background and had studied various forms of world music at The Conservatory in the 1960s (hence the very clear Near-Eastern, Mediterranean and African influences that are apparent in most of his work). Unlike so many other of his contemporaries he didn't deal in filler either. All of his work (literally almost any track he had involvement in) in this time period is artistically distinctive, musically progressive and most importantly of all simply an incredible experience to listen and dance to.

I'd recommend:

Azoto - Disco Fizz LP

- maybe in fact the best Italo Disco LP ever made? if for any reason you don't already own this then change that situation now.

Tantra - The Double Album LP

- almost as good as the Azoto LP, this one really shows what a master of African music in particular Celso Valli was.

Lucrethia & The Azoto 14,008 - Dance Skinsation LP

- before the name change but same project as the more succinctly named Azoto. Weirder, but ethereally awesome. Check 'Sea Breeze' for some crazy disco-sea-shanty action!! (incredible breast-based sleeve art as well!!)

Nuggets - Proud Mary 12"

- straight disco style on this cover of the Creedence Clearwater Revival classic but utterly rocking throughout and guaranteed to crank any party up that vital extra notch!

Passengers - Hot Leather 12"

- more 70s rock influenced than his other productions but just as classic... if you like Baciotti's 'Black Jack' or Bob Salton's 'Starknight' then try this out for size.

As the American Disco market crashed and the Italo Disco sound was becoming more prevalent in Europe, Valli re-surfaced a few years later on Raf's classic 'Self Control', Atelier Folie's 'Fashion' and also Peter Richard's 'Walking In The Neon' (the latter two produced by the legendary Rago-Farina production team of 'Lectric Workers fame)...

Truly a genius of the Italo sound who deserves some serious recognition as one of the all-time greats.

Welcome To The Waves!

We've decided to start a blog for Magic Waves - expect to see plenty of archive mixes, photos, reviews, new releases, party info and of course loads of our unashamedly biased and opinionated thoughts on life, the universe and everything in the months to come...