Giardini di Mirò: Punk… Not Diet!
2.nd rec

While the Italian group Giardini di Mirò garnered attention with their 2001 full-length debut Rise and Fall of Academic Drifting, the six-member band received even more for 2002's The Academic Rise of Falling Drifters, a set of reinterpretations by electronica artists like Isan, Styrofoam, Opiate, Dntel, and Hermann & Kleine. However, the remix recording slightly misrepresents the band by implying an electronica dimension that is absent in its core sound since the band's essentially acoustic music is created using guitars, drums, bass, and keyboards. Thus the subtle electronic enhancements on the oddly-titled Punk… Not Diet! are provided by contributors Arne van Petegem (aka Styrofoam), Thaddeus Herrmann (of Herrmann & Kleine) and Christophe Stoll (aka Nitrada). In fact, Giardini di Mirò's music evokes Mogwai or, even more directly, Godspeed You! Black Emperor in its instrumental approach, as the layers of guitars and aggressive drums (on, specifically, “The Swimming Season,” “Given Ground,” and “Connect the Machine to the Lips Tower ”) aspire to achieve an epic grandeur that comes so naturally to the Montreal band. The relative concision of the pieces on Punk… Not Diet!, however, militates against this effect as the tracks' general brevity prevents the band from stretching out to any uncontrolled degree. Furthermore, the stabilizing presence of vocals on most tracks grounds them too. Since the band has no lead vocalist, guests appear to fill that void. Ronnie James's deep voice provides a portentous spoken intro on “Too Much Static for a Beguine,” and Kaye and Christy Brewster's gentle, ethereal vocals adorn the beautiful lullaby “Last Act in Baires.” Appearing on five of the nine tracks, Alessandro Raina's singing is restrained and serviceable if lacking somewhat in personality, a good thing perhaps for not distracting the listener's attention away from the consistently strong music. “The Comforting of a Transparent Life,” for example, features a gorgeously layered backing of violins that supports the interweaving counterpoint of Raina's vocal lines. Elsewhere, accordion, banjo, mellotron, trumpet, and strings contribute to the band's expansive sound. Punk… Not Diet! ultimately impresses as a recording of compositional richness and instrumental variety which is enhanced but not overwhelmed by the presence of its distinguished guests.

August 2003