Giardini di Mirò: Hits for broken Hearts and Asses
2.nd rec

Of all Giardini di Mirò's albums, Hits for broken Hearts and Asses is the one most likely to induce polarization. Fans of the Italian group's superb 2003 Punk…not Diet! may be disappointed to learn that its follow-up is not new material but instead a collection of older material dating back to 1998. Those enamored of the band's earlier style will, on the other hand, be delighted with the release, especially as much of the material has been unavailable for awhile. (All of the collection's songs preceded the band's first full-length Rise and Fall of Academic Drifting and were released as EPs and singles in small numbers. Consequently, by the time the band began to garner attention for its debut, most of those earlier releases were sold out.) Of course, many listeners will fall somewhere in the middle, eager for new material but also glad to hear the band's original sound. In contrast to the elegant, vocal-based and expansively arranged songs on Punk…not Diet!, Hits for broken Hearts and Asses finds the band playing more loosely sans vocals, and with a heavier guitar emphasis. The group indulges a more experimental side too, although the roots of its later more song-structured style are clearly in place.

While the recording sequences the twelve tracks in reverse chronological order, it makes more sense to discuss them from the earliest onwards, beginning with the four 1998 demo tracks the band recorded live to tape one night in their rehearsal room using two microphones. Certainly the modest recording setup can barely handle the sonic extremes of the massive, psychedelicized guitar wail the band, then a quartet (guitarists Jukka Reverberi and Corrado Nuccini, bassist Mirko Venturelli, and drummer Lorenzo Lanzi), conjures on “Song 4.” Even at this early stage, the band navigates between episodes of calm and chaos with controlled ease, plus its compositional strengths are already evident on “Citta Di Vetro.” In spite of circumstances which might typically lend themselves to recorded jams, these are full-fledged compositions. Still, the group's affinity with Godspeed You! Black Emperor is most evident in this earliest work, specifically their shared propensity to build dramatically from quieter moments to cacophonous wails. The sound is often eardrum-shredding, not only reminiscent of Godspeed but also My Bloody Valentine and Red-era King Crimson.

The five songs from the 1999 EP Iceberg are next, with the group now augmented by keyboardist Luca Di Mira and Emmanuele Reverberi (violin, bass clarinet and trumpet). A more experimental side is represented by two brief soundscapes, “Vintage Lover” (which contains an orchestral sample from what sounds like Angelo Badalamenti's Blue Velvet soundtrack) and “Space 04,” a collage of ticking, NASA transmissions, and machine noises. Other tracks reveal the band's multi-dimensional nature. The melancholy “ Pearl Harbor,” for example, is enriched by Reverberi's lovely bass clarinet and violin playing, yet it also includes abrasive guitars that rise to a massive roar (if at a slightly less chaotic pitch than on the demo). The Iceberg soundscapes, however, don't have nearly as long a shelf-life as does a stronger song-structured piece like “ Pearl Harbor,” and the band has wisely de-emphasized such indulgences in later recordings.

The group then split a 10” with Pimmon in 2000 comprised of “Penguin Serenade” and “Juicefuls.” The former, a beautiful through-composed piece, anticipates the group's current style by broadening its sound with the addition of trumpet and electric piano, while the latter, an interesting collaborative experiment with Paul Gough, finds the electronic artist's industrial squeals seeping in through the cracks of the band's playing. Finally, the atmospheric “A New Start (For Swinging Shoes),” a remix of “A New Start For Shoegazing Kids” that also appeared on a split 10” (this time with Deep End), showcases the earlier style effectively with its slow guitar broil and slightly psychedelic feel.

That the recording's a collection of older material is mitigated by the fact that 'older' in this case means 1998, hardly a long time ago. That's perhaps indicative of how much the band has evolved in a short time, however. In spite of their disparate origins, the twelve pieces on Hits for broken Hearts and Asses cohere into a solid portrait of the band's originating sound that should satisfy Giardini fans until the next set of new material appears.

April 2004