PFM (Premiata Forneria Marconi) – I Dreamed Of Electric Sheep
As I sit here, in front of my computer, in self isolation due to contracting covid19, separated from friends and family, the latest release from Italian musical giants PFM takes on a whole new, almost prophetic meaning. The album title, “I Dreamed Of Electric Sheep”, takes its inspiration from the Philip K Dick novel “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep,” the very same book that was the basis for the film Blade Runner, starring Harrison Ford. The basic plot line is one of isolation from each other and with technology coming very much to the fore, we therefore find ourselves inadvertently distanced from each other with communication relying heavily on today’s tech. Sound familiar?
Much has been spoken, and written about the band, formed in 1970, being one of the most respected and influential groups to grace us with their presence and have, through the intervening 40 years, remained at the forefront of world music, managing to escape being pigeon-holed as they have successfully merged Classical, Prog, Avant- Garde and Jazz with comparative ease, whoever may have been in the band.
The album is bookended by two instrumental tracks, ‘Worlds Beyond’ and ‘Transhumance Jam’ which neatly wrap around the concept, a concept driven by the rhythm section and main writers, Franz Di Cioccio and Patrick Djivas and their love of Sci-Fi films. The basic ideas for this latest release came together quickly, as file swapping between the two writers from their home studios via today’s modern technology, of course, and comes with both English and Italian versions housed together. Although I am currently listening to the English version for this review, and with no offence intended to any Italian speakers, I do think the English version works the better of the two, the vocal melodies and inflections resulting in a more coherent, melodic finished product. But as I say, no offence intended.
As I mentioned, the album kicks off with the instrumental ‘Worlds Beyond’, all classical orchestral bluster, like an old movie soundtrack before the guitar, bass and drums move in and hijack the melody before moving it forward into more traditional prog territory.
The Scene is set.
PFM – Worlds Beyond (click here if the video doesn’t play)
‘Adrenaline Oasis’ starts with a beautiful gentle piano melody which unravels itself from the previous ‘Worlds Beyond’, thus linking the two songs nicely and then allowing the haunting vocal to become the focus before the guitar takes over, almost spitting as it gallops along, all keyboard fills and attitude.
‘Let Go’ has a much more laid-back standard prog feel to it before eerily spoken word heralds the arrival of ‘City Life’, a very much guitar driven composition with some lovely keyboard washes, reminiscent of ‘Tom Sawyer’ by Rush.
The latest single, ‘If I Had Wings’ is one of the strongest songs on the album and one that sits with both feet firmly in the Prog camp, a gentle love song to a drone! In perfect PFM tradition the title track which follows does a complete one- eighty, all jazz funk and busy bass lines whilst the jazz feel continues on ‘Daily Heroes’ interspersed with a more straight- forward rock feel.
PFM – If I Had Wings (click here if the video doesn’t play)
The longest composition on offer here is the wonderful ‘Kindred Souls’, a song which builds up slowly before bursting into life, driven by Ian Anderson’s flute alongside a multitude of other instruments before the unmistakable sound of Steve Hackett’s guitar take centre stage and takes the songs to a different level. The album closes with two interlinked instrumentals, jazz funk gives way to jazz rock before a blistering display of guitar histrionics on ‘Transhumance Jam’ signs off leaving the listener wanting more.
What PFM have created here, and it is very much intentional, is akin to a movie soundtrack, it has all the feel and sounds that lend itself to the big screen experience, like being at the movies without the pictures, but allowing you, the listener, to have the images created in their own head.
- Worlds Beyond (English version) (03:19)
- Adrenaline Oasis (English version) (04:53)
- Let Go (English version) (04:06)
- City Life (English version) (05:01)
- If I Had Wings (English version) (04:23)
- Electric Sheep (English version) (04:09)
- Daily Heroes (English version) (03:48)
- Kindred Souls (English version) (06:19)
- Transhumance (English version) (01:07)
- Transhumance Jam (English version) (03:39)
“Ho Sognato Pecore Elettriche”
- Mondi Paralleli (Italian version) (03:19)
- Umani Alieni (Italian version) (04:53)
- Ombre Amiche (Italian version) (04:06)
- La Grande Corsa (Italian version) (05:01)
- AtmoSpace (Italian version) (04:23)
- Pecore Elettriche (Italian version) (04:09)
- Mr. Non Lo So (Italian version) (03:48)
- Il Respiro Del Tempo (Italian version) (06:19)
- Transumanza (Italian version) (01:07)
- Transumanza Jam (Italian version) (03:39)