Based around the compositions of singer Claudio Milano, Nichelodeon fits into a category all its own – avant-garde progressive opera. As the band’s first studio album (and follow-up to the live LP, Cinemanemico), Il Gioco del Silenzio (The Game of Silence) is a strange and hauntingly poetic piece. While the histrionic aspects aren’t for everyone, those who can appreciate it will discover a world of mysterious and beautiful music. Taken as a whole conceptual statement, it’s a masterpiece.
Milano has been gaining attention around Europe since 1997. His work has been presented amidst various artistic displays, such as dance, theatre, and short feature films. A few years ago, he assembled the first official formation of Nichelodeon for live performances (including the Cinemanemico release). In 2009, he turned his project into a workshop open to collaborators from the fields of improvisation, jazz, performance art, and the like. By February 2010, he had his new line-up and was ready to record Il Gioco del Silenzio.
The truly amazing thing about this album is how Nichelodeon combines the absurd and experimental with some very affective and engaging music. It’s got enough conventional structure to keep the listener intrigued while playing with dynamics and including plenty of weird sounds. “Fame” opens the album with a jazzy base, fancy piano work and danceable rhythms. Everything interacts underneath an ominous tone, an insinuation of evil underneath normality. It’s as if David Lynch produced Italian opera (which makes sense since Nichelodeon also released a companion DVD commemorating the anniversary of Twin Peaks).
“Fiaba” plays with intensity as it moves around a chilling riff (which is played on different instruments as the piece goes on). Various sound effects accompany what could easily be a lost soundtrack for a Dario Argento film. Perhaps the most arresting part of Il Gioco del Silenzio is the hammering of one note near the end of “Claustrofilia.” It acts as a troubling pavement for the rest of the music to walk on. These are only the first three tracks of Il Gioco del Silenzio; imagine how wonderfully original the entire piece is.
Throughout its seventy-eight minute duration, the album transverses across a spectrum of oddity, majesty, and hypnotic patterns, contemplating themes like heartache, fear and redemption, fluidly. Pure silence erupts into lushness and seemingly random fun synthesizes into finely tuned composition. An astounding amount of instruments and sound effects are utilized to bring this singular vision to life, and while it’s a lot to absorb in one sitting; it’s an experience you’ll never forget.
Check out the video for “Fiaba” here.