Maletiempu is a tough album to wrap words around. It is a stripped-down and sometimes gentle affair that has what they refer to as a "Salentine melancholy." Led by voice, accordion, flute and percussion, with some contributing artists on guitars, percussion and additional voice, its unifying strength is in the traditional songs they choose, and how they inform the contemporary works these artists create in this collaboration.
Both artists will be familiar to fans of southern Italian music. Vocalist Rachele Andrioli started with the ensemble Officina Zoè, was part of Canzionere Grecanico Salentino, and has traveled the world singing with musicians from all manner of musical background in other parts of Europe, Lebanon, and India. You might have heard her on some of Giancarlo Paglialunga's recordings, and the recent recording by Cesare Dell'Anna and Giro Di Banda.
Rocco Nigro is an accordionist and composer of songs and film scores. RootsWorld readers know of his work with Vinicio Capossela, Opa Cupa, Cesare Dell'Anna, Antonio Castrignanò, Redi Hasa & Maria Mazzotta, Giancarlo Paglialunga, and Anna Cinzia Villani. He's also done work with theater groups like Cirque du Soleil.
The album's opening track immediately sets the tone for what is to come, with Andrioli's plaintive first notes in the title track shifting quickly to more mid-tempo percussion and accordion phrases. "Maletiempu" moves back and forth between a fervent paean and a plaintive cry, often with startling stops and changes in mood. She sings about the passage of time, how it comes and goes, waxes and wanes, kisses us and then leaves us in tears. The delivery is often heartbreaking, even as the song offers as much promise as melancholy.
In contrast there is a song probably most associated with Sicilian icon Rosa Balestrieri, “Lu Cunigghiu” (The Hare). Here, the sensual allegory takes on more immediate passion in an almost erotic performance, all the more so in the joyous film they made to accompany it.
Nigro's film music experience comes to light on “L'Attesa” (The Waiting), a song writen by Massimo Donno, who also sings and plays guitar on the piece. It is by far the moodiest work on the album, with hints of Bill Frisell, or Ry Cooder in his film scores.
Towards the end of the album, they deliver their own version of the Puglian classic, “Ninna Nanna” (Lullaby), where we get solo measures of Andrioli's voice and percussion, Nigro's accordion, and duets of accordion and flute as they gives us a piece that is anything but a soothing song to put the baby to sleep.
Across its twelve tracks, Maletiempu offers the the fire of a mid-summer day in Salento, and the softness of it fading into night, by two artists who have worked together long enough to seem as one. - Cliff Furnald