The sole album by The Group (a pseudonym of Gruppo di Improvvisazione di Nuova Consonanza), The Feed-Back, was released by RCA in 1970, and promptly faded into obscurity. It’s now been reissued on CD; buy it from Amazon. Il Gruppo, which released several other albums under its proper name, was an experimental composers’ collective, the first of its kind, formed by Franco Evangelisti in 1964. The other two primary members were Ennio Morricone (yes, that Ennio Morricone), who played trumpet and flute, and Egisto Macchi, who played celesta, percussion, and strings. A number of other notable composers were members or worked with the group between 1964 and its dissolution following Evangelisti’s death in 1980, including Roland Kayn, Frederic Rzewski, and Giancarlo Schiafini.
These days, Morricone is best known for his movie scores, but he had his fingers in a lot of pies in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and his work with the Gruppo is some of his wildest stuff. On The Feed-Back, his trumpet playing is muted, yet fierce, and it zips back and forth across the stereo field, as does every other instrument—piano, organ, jangling one-chord guitar, and even the drums, which are hammering out a funk-rock backbeat tailor made for crate-digging DJs.
The album is short: only three tracks in a half hour. It begins with the seven-minute title track, on which trumpet and trombone engage in squalling combat, taking turns unleashing elephantine howls across a landscape of ominous piano chords, chopped-up guitar, what sound like electronically manipulated lions’ roars, underwater organ, and ridiculously funky drumming worthy of Jaki Liebezeit. The piece might have been conceptualized and performed by some of Italy’s most dedicated avant-gardists, but it sounds like a slab of late ’90s sampladelic dancefloor fodder. In its final minutes, it dissolves into electronic zaps, which segue perfectly into the second piece, the six-minute “Quasars,” which adds ultra-high-pitched violin squiggling, Tony Conrad-esque drones, and all sorts of percussive clatter to the already crowded mix.
The album’s second half is entirely taken up by the nearly 15-minute “Kumâlo,” which starts out just trumpet, backbeat and some kind of clanging like someone strumming the inside of a piano, all of it sliding from one side of the stereo field to the other. A noise like a crying baby filtered through a kazoo comes in and out; then there’s a long, not particularly skilled sitar solo. By the halfway point, when Morricone takes the spotlight, squealing and squawking, as behind him, the drummer takes a solo that’s almost Iron Butterfly-esque in its plodding relentlessness, and organ stabs and what sound like African percussion instruments begin to pop and rattle…well, it all starts to sound more like Miles Davis‘s On the Corner than anything else, except this was recorded more than two years before that album. The Feed-Back is a wild ride indeed, an album well worth discovering. (Buy it from Amazon.)
Stream the whole thing on YouTube: