Admittedly, Italian pop and rock movements have often been a pale counterpart of the international scene. One of the few exceptions, which is extraordinary enough that many people outside Italy know about it, is the progressive music scene. Italian bands were key to the development of the genre in the 70s and this is a genre that is still thriving nowadays, at least among listeners in Italy.
Fewer are the bands that practice prog music, and fewer still are the bands that do so in a lively and entertaining way. Homunculus Res are a unique project in this respect, as they have made themselves known even outside the borders of the scene. Progressive music can be repulsing to non-dedicated listeners: most think about the genre as made of boring, never-ending jams, obsession for technique and weird tuning/harmonies.
In this respect, what Homunculus Res excel at is expressing freedom of art and thought through complexity, recovering the same rebellious liberation spirit of the original Canterbury-oriented prog bands. In Della stessa sostanza dei sogni (‘of the same substance of dreams’) there is also a more marked pop attitude, as what sound as excerpts from Italian pop songs of the 50/60s become nestled in vibrant, comic and blissful suites (‘Non sogno più’, ‘Se la mente mentisse’).
An indisputable sign of the value of this project is the plethora of collaborators that have joined the core of the Palermo-based band, including a few international names (Dave Newhouse of The Muffins and Petter Herbertsson of Testbild). The album is, as if following sleep phases, full of sudden, colourful accelerations and surreal moments of deep, volcanic imagination (‘Il nome di Dio’). Suffocating, circular patterns are interrupted by almost idling liberations, as if in sardonic contemplation of reality (‘Denti cadenti’, ‘La cabala’).
Irony shines throughout the album, tying the listener to its music, to its explosive bouquet of vivid flavors and images (‘Preludio e distrazioni’), to its narrative of oniric experiences (‘La casa dei sogni’). Not a new theme of course, but rarely accomplished so well in a record. If there is a band in Italy that deserves international attention (more than what it already has, of course), that is Homunculus Res.
Words: Lorenzo Righetto