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Ettore Castagna
Ἐρημία / Ereměa

Alfa Music
Review by Chris Nickson

Calabria, home to Ettore Castagna, is the toe in the boot of Italy. It’s a place that’s been buffeted by influences from all around the Mediterranean over many, many centuries. You can hear strong hints of that history in the music here; bits of Greece and North Africa, along with that dry, dusty sound that typifies the entire south of Italy. It makes for a heady rhythmic and often hypnotic combination, one that multi-instrumentalist Castagna gleefully explores.

Ereměa started life as a completely solo project, just Castagna’s voice and playing, but quickly grew far beyond that, as he brought in musicians and instruments from around the world to add their own colors and textures to the material. Yet, for all the guests, the core of the sound remains constant to Castagna’s original vision. Just listen to the opening cut, “Middalo Pricio,” with its gentle yearning and lulling melody that evoke the Mediterranean heat, while the opening to “Riace” travels directly from the Maghreb before exploding into Calabrian madness.

The vocal acrobatics at the beginning of “Tempu Ca Scurra” offer a nod towards the frantic dance of the tarantella, carried by the relentless drive of the percussion as the voices duel and twist around the melody.

The title cut appears twice, the first a sweet, delicious mix of Southern Italy with added desert blues guitar, then reprise as something slower, more meditative and reflective, slowly lapping around the bassline in little ebbs and flows. The result is very affecting. It’s one of three cuts that are reimagined. The frame drum and guitar that power “Mundu Spersu (Reprise)” highlight Castagna’s fretboard skills and join hands across continents to give West African colors to the Mediterranean romance, a far cry from the brass that pillows the original take.

Ereměa is a triumph for Castagna, the man and musician behind it all, a wonderful and unusual joy. Recommended.

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