‘Synchronicity Embraced’ is the 26thalbum by the Italian band, and their second for Sleazsy Rider following on from 2016’s “Deep Blue Firmament’. The band themselves are the same quartet who have now been together since drummer Riccardo Spaggiari joined in 2003, but singer Francesca Nicoli formed the band in 1985, and was soon joined by Vittorio Vandelli (classical, acoustic and electric  guitars, bass guitar, backing vocals) while Giovanni Pagliari (keyboards, piano, backing vocals) has been in the band since 1990. It is certainly interesting to play this back to back with an album from only a few years earlier, as while they are both instantly recognisable as Ataraxia, the two are very different indeed.

In many ways this album feels far more modern in a musical sense, with just Francesca’s vocals taking it further back in time. Harmonies abound, and it feels a softer and gentler album, more controlled and in many ways even more sacred. Francesca sent me some incredible words to describe the band, their journey, and this album, and I was going to dig out a quote, but the more I read it the more I felt it so totally captured what I was hearing, and it needs to be read in its totality. If you feel inspired by her words, then I can only say that the album itself is majestic, all consuming, beautiful and transcendent:

“True changes need practice and music is such a heavenly practice. We feel like channels able to pick up and transform into music the energies surrounding us or coming from above. 

If our life is meant to be a spiritual growing and not just a materialistic experience, all the domains where spirituality is expressed can become a source of enlightenment. Behind all those ways of believing (a specific faith rather than paganism), there is our naked soul alone in “her” voyage. For this reason, in our tunes liturgical chants are sometimes mixed with tribal rhythms and pagan rituals. The important thing was/is to preserve our spiritual freedom from any kind of supremacy, searching and diffusing a spiritual knowledge that’s not linked to a dominating specific religion but to the harmony of the cosmic forces. The aim is to reach again the primeval plenitude, calmness and inner light, being a part of the whole. We feel the magic power of the word, the practice of the enchantment. We started from the ancient Greek “mysteries” and the role of women in ancient pagan cults. Enchantment means “singing inside”. Magic words have not a practical purpose, it’s an act of creation gaining a power and I’m conscious that this creation is a revelation, a process of deeper knowledge and self-knowledge. The magic word resounds before being pronounced. Knowledge and experience happen at the same time and all of this is a sacred announcement, a message that doesn’t need rationality to be caught. It is a sort of spiritual call coming from the depths. Memory and singing are linked, they enable a deeper subtle “sight”.

Greek mysticism was based on “mysteries” often embodied by a sybil or a priestess who, through her vocals and gestures, let the elemental spirits flow and express. We spent a lot of times on Greek islands and we were deeply affected by their atmosphere and the cults that were practised over there centuries ago. Our music is born to speak the pure and noble language of nature. The ancient rituals celebrated the art of the essence. They were able to concentrate into mantras, dances, sequences of sounds and rhythms the energy that, passing through human beings, kept them spiritually alive. People “felt” without the need of rationally thinking. It was just like breathing, inspiring and expiring are phases of our living, they create a balance. The ancient rituals were based on the celebration of nature, during those rituals the soul of the man was emptying progressively in order to get in touch and be filled by the harmony of creation and cosmos as “what it is above it’s also down here and within us”. Thanks to those rituals, the initiated managed to get rid of the coded language that became chant, sound. The ancient wisdom was based on letting go, forgetting ourselves, our ego and masks in order to feel and live “the moment”. Water and stone… Our music is often made of the substance of the water and the power of the stone, dark and coloured, lunar and marine at once. The sea is often present in our albums. We feel that the rhythmical sound of the waves is made of the same substance of music.

We also approached the theme of self-healing and what illness means nowadays, the way it is taken into charge by the official medicine. In old times, it was clear that illness was often linked to a pain of the soul, a part of us that was missing, a wrong direction taken by our life, so our body suggested, in a striking and precise way, that we had to re-consider our life. Shamans were spiritual guides who concretely helped people to find again their soul in order to find their good path. There was a deep and very interesting exchange between the healer and the soul who was in front of him. Shamans offered their life to take care of other people’s spiritual, psychological and physical needs and improvement. Music maybe has the same aim, it opens the doors of conscience leading the listener to make a voyage inside himself after having put away, for a while, the mask of ego – who many of us wear to survive nowadays -, in order to take a path of self-conscience and confidence. Music is a natural healing opening the gates of Grace and Beauty. For a while, we can silence rationality and enter into a dimension made of a different substance, the one of dreams, of perceptions, of a bright inner sighting, of intensity and pleasure. There are many self-healing songs.

At the end, making music is a sacred act, a sort of modern ritual to celebrate the elemental forces, we simply are ready and accept to be filled by Grace. In this way we can transmit energy to the others and start this mutual exchange, especially on stage. Year after year, our music started becoming subtler and people started telling us that we were able to open gates of far-off dimensions, to make they travel in places that probably belonged to their origins. We go back to our origins in order to start perceiving again in a way that is nearly forgotten. When we play in places that still own the power and the purifying energy of time (ancient cathedrals, gardens, old squares, archaeological sites, woods, etc) our music becomes ‘circular’ and enables both us and our listeners to perceive and live again forgotten memories and sensations, it doesn’t matter which is the country. Music comes from silence and becomes silence again, just like a ritual starting from silence and ending into silence. Listeners can choose their own path to be followed and explored. Along unique paths, everyone finds his/her lost memories, hidden fears and deep desires. For this reason, a concert is such an important thing, it enables everybody (both the musicians and the listeners) to know better his/her own unveiled essence. 

Of course, folk music means a main use of acoustic instruments rather than machines or computers and a special taste for traditional airs or themes but, in our opinion, all of this has to be transformed into something new. A completely new chant born from the immutable heart of Time. And sincerely, sometimes it is quite hard to define what our music is, being the mirror of different personalities within the band. Since our first albums, we have rarely been interested in creating single tunes. We have always enjoyed telling stories like modern minstrels, trying to filter what mythology, traditions and legends have handed down to us. We have always chosen to release concept albums. We are quite different the ones from the others, but we share a common inspiration. Our concept albums are always born on the basis of a collective inspiration on a specific theme. For this reason, we need each other to compose an album and we think that the band’s force is its unity and the different creative processes driven by each of its members. A song usually comes to life as a powerful river running along our imagination till it finds a way to go out and start living among people.

Music, for us, is also hope and hope is not a passive act as it engages all our power and will. Music is the miracle of coming into being and letting go. We just need to cultivate our own availability to the GRACE OF THE EVENT. Mystery is transparent, sometimes you need no words.”

8/10 Kev Rowland