Category: The Drum

Miccoli

By Mary Long

Miccoli is an up and coming English band known for soaring harmonies and cryptic lyrics, which hint at a private world into which we are invited and reluctant to leave.

The band is comprised of the English-Italian Miccoli siblings, Alessandro, Adriano & Francesca. Having grown up surrounded by music, it became part of their identity. When decisions had to be made regarding ‘life choices’, music wasn’t a choice, but a calling, that had to be followed. This sense of an all- encompassing vocation eases the physical hardships of touring and strengthens the siblings’ commitment to creating music.

Their greatest motivation is the gratifying and humbling thought that people find solace in their music; Alessandro says, even the process of creating music is, in itself, extremely cathartic.

‘Over the years we’ve fine-tuned our creative process – because inspiration can strike at any time – you don’t really dictate the process – instead it guides you – we make mental notes, record it on phones, scribble on pieces of tissue or whatever – sometimes do nothing; as Paul McCartney said “If you can’t remember it in the morning, it couldn’t have been all that good”.

Then when the feeling is right we either sit down together or take some time to ourselves, reflect and see what flows – piecing together all the notes left behind.’

As writers, anything and everything can be inspiration.

‘Personal relationships play a key role and have to be faced with raw honesty, but when it comes to conveying this into songs, we like to also keep lyrics as cryptic and open ended as possible.’

Miccoli are wonderfully reticent about the origin and meaning of individual songs, generously preferring to allow listeners to develop their own personal interpretations.

The essence of Miccoli’s sound is their harmonies, which the band has spent many nights rigorously rewriting until perfect. This unique sound has won many loyal followers, but there is a price to pay for refusing to conform to the ‘commercial throw away music culture’. It is extremely difficult to get media recognition, which is the gateway to potential new audiences.

‘I think the great thing about the internet now is that it allows us to discover new music from all over, we don’t necessarily have to put up with the diet that major labels are trying to feed us. Great music is out there, you just have to be willing to search for it.’

In a world that is more connected than ever by technology and social media, paradoxically, less time is spent actually interacting with each other, be it with a conversation or listening to live music, as people seem more concerned with ‘instagramming’ or ‘tweeting’ moments, rather than being present and connected.

‘We played a venue in LA where they demanded everyone entering the show turn off all mobile devices and were told to focus purely on the music, such a simple thing created a more focused and calm energy in the room, it was really refreshing.’

Listening to Miccoli’s music seems to make, instead of take, time; Alessandro Miccoli appreciates time in a way very few of us do, following a traumatic event several years ago.

‘It changed my perspective of life completely – there’s a certain naivety that comes with youth, this sense of invincibility, endless time. It’s not the case and took a near fatal experience for me to come to that stark realisation.’

idle stranger final artwork cd

Miccoli have certainly embraced the philosophy that time and health should not be squandered; they are going to release a new album, Arrhythmia, in October.

The most unexpected of cicumstances inspired the album title, which suggests a life in danger from within.

‘Adriano and Alessandro were diagnosed with ‘arrhythmias’ of the heart. The word “arrhythmia” originates from late 19th century Greek “arruthmia” meaning lack of rhythm. A word none of us had heard before, but one that soon become very familiar and one that would inspire the whole album.’

When the band first started, their sound was very acoustic and stripped down; but as the new album demonstrates, Miccoli’s style has matured and a new confidence and sense of adventure has emerged. They have experimented not only with instrumentals but also harmony arrangements, in turn producing a more unique and more definitive sound.

A key part of Miccoli releases are beautiful music videos, in which the siblings’ individual pursuits have proven to be incredible strengths; Francesca has modeled and Alessandro’s photography captures the mysterious atmosphere of their songs.

Filmed in America, Sweden and Thailand, among other places, the band say it was as if there was a homing beacon in each location.

‘Having lived and breathed these songs for so long, the songs take on their own identity, meaning and character; when it comes to giving them a visual identity it’s very natural and almost instinctive.’

Identity is a theme explored very effectively in the stunning new music video for ‘Idle Stranger’; faces are obscured by masks and disembodied shadows, never quite revealing their true selves. Bells toll warningly at dusk and curtains flutter inexplicably in this dark and uncertain world of Venice. The lyrics are prophetic, almost reproachful in tone; ‘You will always be an idle stranger’

In ‘Lights’, the siblings retain their otherworldly qualities as they wander through the crass colours of Las Vegas; despite following the signs, they seem lost in the artificial kaleidoscope of the city.

Moving into the desert to film ‘Magnify’, the band are strangely at home, their dark hair sharp against the white sand. Swirling shadows twist across their faces as their pleading call ‘Please don’t magnify’ echoes through the song.

Filmed on the barren beaches and snowy woods of Sweden, ‘Undo’ explores the classical beauty of these children of nature, who urge us to ‘Fight, dream, believe’. Muted colours fade before the sunrise; the blinding morning light is directly contrasted by the lyrics, which speak of destruction; ‘All you do, do is try to undo’.

At this stage in their careers, having observed the highs and lows of a savage business environment, Miccoli is confident that people will appreciate the album, which is truly a labor of love.

‘There’s always an element of excitement but that’s also paired with worry, nervousness and anticipation, whenever you share something you’ve been working on for so long and are so invested in – will people like it? Is it relatable? But then a calming thought comes over you – if we genuinely love and wrote it from a sincere place – then I’m sure other people will see that and love it too.’

As artists, they have a philosophy that transcends external criticism.

‘It all circles back to the sense of self, if you are happy with what you are creating, then it no longer matters what people think. In the final analysis, music is art and art is an expression of one’s soul.’

Touring dates are in the planning stages; the band hope to play Ireland and the U.K. with additional dates in the US. Check out their website at www.miccoli.co.uk and follow them on their YouTube Channel, Twitter, and Facebook

The album is scheduled for release in October and an EP ca ed ‘1/2’ (H ALF) will be available on 12.05.17

Half EP front cover

A Month In Kiribati (or The Anatomy Of Primitive Paradise)

By Florcita Swartzman

The narrow dirt roads that twist and turn their way in and out of the villages of South Tarawa, the main island and capital of Kiribati, offer quite a particular view: little huts by the sea made from palm sticks and leaves, dogs, chickens and pigs running around freely, and of course, the usual flocks of naked giggling kids here and there. Those kids, born in a tropical paradise and raised on the eternal now, can sure point at an i-matang when they see them. You walk past them; the i-matang, the white stranger, and they follow you. They won’t let you walk any further. They gather around you, squeals and chuckles exploding like fireworks. You are well within bounds to call them touchy. They take your hand, look at it curiously for a while, and give it a squeeze, too hard a squeeze. ‘You are real’ is what you can almost hear them thinking. How can you look so different from me and yet be so…like me? Of course, the i-matang is in desperate need for some Pacific sun to tan her pale skin, but you can learn one thing from her: we come from the same place.

The mechanism of market economy is fairly recent for Kiribatians, whose official currency, besides the Australian dollar -used in the capital of the country and happily ignored everywhere else- is barter. They trade goods for other goods and services, like chickens for clothes, fish for some help with the thatching of a new hut, rice for coconut toddy and so on. By all means, a subsistence economy. We are now in front of a country that the Western expert, untrained in the art of primitive living, would call “poor”. What is poverty, anyway, and which are the parameters we are using to measure it? Do we equal poverty with high crime rate? With hunger? With lack of economic security? Do we ever think that the poor may not feel poor at all? Are we, maybe, just throwing the word “poor” around without any real understanding of its meaning?

Kiribatians don’t work in the sense that we do. They work hand in hand with nature. They kill their animals for meat (old style, you know? No industries, no money, no factories involved. Only them and their food, nothing in between). Of course they don’t have work schedules, and their physiological functions are not dictated by external conventions but synchronized with their inner clocks. They build their houses with their own hands and share life and laughter with their fellow villagers. Who needs material wealth when you can respectfully take what you need from nature? They certainly don’t have the need for advertising to tell them how to feel about their bodies and choices either. You never have to learn what the words jealousy, shame, resentment or greed mean when you are born in a society that encourages you to feel good about yourself. No one ever expects you to be somebody you are not in a society where small is enough.

After their classes, children generally play with each other in large groups. Age isn’t really a factor, but they tend to hang out with their grade-mates as the whole village attends the same elementary school. Gender is definitely not an issue either: you can see the girls playing football, running around barefoot, and getting as messy as boys (the Pacific is not quite the right place to come look for fragile princesses). They also usually play with sticks, stones, and scraps of whatever discarded materials they can recycle into their very own personal toys. The further away you get from the capital, the rarer entertainment devices like TV sets, telephones, and radios become. Surrounded by the sound of giggles, the grown-ups of the village weave palm leaves into mats and curtains for their huts, exercise, play volley-ball or table games -depending on what the mood calls for-, go swimming and fishing, climb coconut trees to bring down precious sap that will later be distilled into toddy, and get together to enjoy each other’s company. Sometimes you can see them just sitting around in complete silence. Sometimes there’s no need for words to fill the air.

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In the Tarawa atoll, most villages and islets north of South Tarawa don’t even have electric power: you learn to wake with the raising sun and the first crow of your nearest rooster, you go about your day and go to bed when your eyes get tired after hours of reading under the moonlight. To detox from all our usual daily distractions is not an easy task, but you too get used to the silence and contemplation as you realize that mobile phones and laptops don’t really have a place in an island like this. It’s almost as if they were incoherent, unnecessary tools from another time. Without their aid, you get more easily familiar with the phases of the moon, the behavior of the weather, the way the collective mind of birds is always in tune with the sky and other, maybe truer, aspects of our immediate reality.

        Kiribati: for travellers, not tourists is the slogan of the Kiribati Tourism Board. And behind those words hide a statement, a warning, and maybe even a proud “this is who we are” declaration of principles. There is only a handful of primitive paradises left in the world today, untouched, undisturbed by the interests of Western economic powers and left to their own self-determination. Some others have not been so lucky along our History, but they are a part of it too. Not too many explorers have the courage to venture into the deep heart of this remote archipielago, but if you let yourself be swallowed by it and spat back into a dimension that doesn’t belong to you anymore, you are sure to come back with one message: don’t forget about your roots.

For more info on Florcita’s time in Kiribati, check out her blog. Also, check out her portfolio for The Coolidge Review.

Rogue One: A Franchise Redemption Story

        Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is definitely not Episode VII. All the elements of the space opera are present, but what makes it truer to the canon is the emphasis on individual moral action. The Empire is still the greater evil, but the rebels are shown to be just as morally deficient and bureaucratically inept, forcing the heroine to go ‘rogue.’ An interesting side note is that a lightsaber didn’t appear until the final 15 minutes or so of the movie. The only real defect is that the score changes are too sharp and abrupt.

Episode VII displayed far too much of Disney’s influence. The force awoke to a dead Han Solo and a pathetically inept Sith Lord commanded by an evil giant E.T. look alike. All that was left out was Rey spinning around and breaking out in song. The film ticked all of the politically correct boxes while abandoning reams of published Star Wars stories that have now been relegated to ‘Legends’ status.

In the Legends, the son of Han and Leia was named Jacen. His trip to the dark side spanned several novels and his fate somewhat defined subsequent Legends stories and series. Leaving the Legends universe was very astute as recent events have shown. It was easy to reboot the entire story because the defining medium is film and not literature, especially now that the initial actors are collecting social security.

The new Star Wars canon began in 2014 and includes the animated series on Cartoon Network. It will be interesting to see how the death of Carrie Fischer affects Episodes VIII and IX. When episodes IV, V, and VI were first in theaters, it appeared that the story was about Luke. Episodes I through III showed that it was really the story of Vader, his rise, fall, and redemption through his son. Rogue One returns to this formula with better acting and special effects, along with a touch of humour, all in one movie. The other holiday releases really don’t measure up.

One thing I totally missed was the supposed negative comments regarding the election. President-Elect Trump supporters seem a mite bit touchy, with some justification, with the entertainment industry. Still, the political atmosphere in Rogue One is liberty versus tyranny with double dealing all around. One positive image is that of a father’s love for his daughter, and that Trump meme is not something I would get riled up about. From some of the talk, you’d think Darth Vader was striding around with a “Make the Empire Great Again” old guy hat while breathing heavy chasing a three breasted alien dancer. Mark Hamill might be a Leftist moron in real life, but he wasn’t in this movie.

Rogue One does a remarkable job of filling in and closing a loop without leaving any frayed ends. It is a worthy complement to the initial series with enough chutzpah to stand on its own.