CD - ANGELO BOLTINI
Human After All
(2020, Angelo Boltini)
text: Robin Boer
'Human After All' is the title of the first full-length album by Angelo Boltini. The Dutch 1990-born musician, raised in Naarden (NL), is highly influenced by bands like The Beatles, The White Stripes, The Mahavishnu Orchestra and artists like Bon Iver, Tom Odell and Kevin Parker (Tame Impala). For this album, the choice has been made to use a lot of strings and a nice, spacious, dark and dreamy sound, where his previous work, the EP 'Paper Planes' (2015) has been made in more of a jazz-rock setting.
Right from the start, the tension is being built up skillfully with an imminent orchestral part and suggestive drumming, flowing seamlessly into 'This Town', where Boltini's vocals are backed by angelic background sining. The rhythmics are soggy and flat, clearly a preference of Boltini, also prominently present in his former works. For the vocal melodies, monotonic is dominating, to maintain the obviously dark intended characteristics of the music and dito atmosphere.
'Walkin' opens with pounding drums and bass, where unisono parts of bass and guitar, accompanied by roaring and crying Hammon-organ en slightly distorted vocals are pushing the song forward. We note plenty of attention for arrangement: the vocals are combined like a wickerwork and the drum parts are very thoughtful and complex. A little pièce de résistance in art-rock and one of the prize numbers of the record, for sure.
'Forget' is more peaceful, with nice acoustic open chords and low synths. Tasteful textures of choir and percussion later on in the song. A smart 7/8 for 'Sympathise' with similar ingredients and repetitive low accents on piano and strings. On top of that we are treated with lyrical and dynamic string parts and an eclectic violin solo.
Halfway the album there is room for an intermezzo ('Open Up Intro') of question-answer between strings and dramatic piano, aiming for the lowest notes. In 'Open Up', our very favorite track on the album, we notice some polyrhytmics of snare drum, strings and guitar, flowing into a beautiful chord progression on piano and strings, with a strong vocal part. What follows after is a Crimson-surreal full-band section of heavy, doom-ish guitar riffing, to conclude with the sung theme we heard before.
Tasteful dream-pop in 'Half a Man', with dreamy synth-chords, ornaments and soulful singing. The orchestra really shines during the bridge and Boltini delivers one of his best vocals of the album. A trip to revisit. 'Hail Mary' is a shorter song, again very dreamy, and quite electronic of character. The vocals float freely over the robotic beat and it ends abruptly. This album has quite a lot of variety to offer. On 'Fourteen' we hear nice open acoustic guitar playing in 5/4 with a beautiful cello melody on top of it, suddenly flowing into a straight 4/4 with light percussion, revisiting the first part to conclude the piece.
'Wolf' was one of the five singles that preceeded the album, fitting perfectly with the rest of the songs. We do like the dynamic differences between the fully blowing orchestral choruses and the transparent instrumental bridge. The harmonics on 'French Vanilla' are as well a feast for the ear. The attention for detail and atmosphere deserved a big compliment.
The constant menacing spheres appear to be a common thread, continued and further explored on 'Arrow.' The album ends melancholic with the personal 'Human After All'. A wise choice after a bunch of very interesting, but oppressive, sonically challenging pieces.
We can conclude that 'Human After All' is quite a different listening experience than it's precedessor 'Paper Planes' where the art-rock and jazz-rock influences were more prominent. Where Boltini's core instrument is the guitar, he also plays saxophone and piano since a very young age, and we learn his expertise is a lot more extensive. He developed himself as a promising sound engineer, a tastemaker in synths, a songwriter, arranger and producer.
We recommend to choose the CD for the best sonic listening experience. The music literally blasts from the speakers into your living room. The whole production is quite impressive.
The music has been recorded at the famous Wisseloord Studios in Hilversum, which may guarantee a certain level of quality, but the sonic experience as a whole, with all related details, of which many may unfold with each new listen, is to the credit of Boltini and the excellent group of musicians involved. One of a kind. Simply a must-have.