Cannibal Movie, ‘Mondo Music’

Posted by on July 29, 2013


Yerevan Tapes, 2013

Basing your opinions of a band on what they say about themselves can be problematic, but sometimes you can strike solid gold. In their own words, Cannibal Movie get their name from “a sub genre of exploitation films made mostly by Italian filmmakers through the 1970s and 1980s” and to listen to their music, you get the idea that they took the looseness and atmosphere of these movies to heart in crafting their sound. Mondo Music, their second album/potential grindhouse soundtrack (seriously, this swirling, intense music would make an amazing soundtrack for one of those films) was originally issued on a quickly sold-out tape, but now finds itself on vinyl and is well worth picking up before it sells out again.

This Italian duo, consisting of Donato Epiro on organ (an old Italian one, according to the band) and Gaspare Sammartano on drums, cranks out some serious music that seems improbable given the number of players. If you want to talk about something being way beyond the sum of its parts, this is it, because at any given time, thanks to some creative layering and manipulation, the organ sounds like it could be three or four instruments playing at once, piling up riffs, effects, and reverb in scattered, pulsing, propulsive collages of sound. Still, the organ would be nothing without the solid drumming behind it — simultaneously loose and locked-in, the drumwork manages to both ground the music but also add to the overall wild atmosphere of the music. Put this together, and you get some incredible sound voodoo that evokes free-form psychedelia, krautrock, jazz improv, and a little bit of Suicide for good measure.

Consisting of just two side-long, roughly thirteen-minute jams called “Mondo Music (I)” and “Mondo Music (II)” this album quickly solidifies just what Cannibal Movie is capable of doing. The first track opens with deep, pulsing organ tones (I hear faint echoes of “Rocket USA,” amplifying the Suicide comparison) and heavy cymbals that quickly escalate into an all-out sonic assault. The only constant in the song is the aforementioned organ tones, and squealing, distorted organ sounds soon pile up on top of it as the drumming ascends into a tight, rhythmic, pounding fury. Even with a solid backbone, the band is always willing to shift their tempos and dynamics, and even add new riffs as they maintain a distinct core to their music. Ultimately, this willingness to adapt is what elevates this music into the stratosphere, as it simultaneously manages to be focused and all over the place without that seeming the least bit contradictory.

The second track calms things down a bit and creates a very different atmosphere, but is still able to keep much of the feeling and energy from before intact. When it begins, this half of the album has a spare, ethereal feeling to it as the only sound to be heard is a series of slow, overlapping organ tones. Eventually, this gives way to light drumming and an understated, melodic organ line. Really, there’s a vague, almost Middle Eastern feel to this piece, yet it never strays into token exoticism or outright mimicry — really, it just seems to capture another place in its clouded atmosphere while still following the band’s own distinct musical path. The way Cannibal Movie works with its tempos on this piece can’t be praised enough, as they gradually increase their pace to make the track seem more urgent and intense as it progresses without resorting to the bombast and pyrotechnics of the previous side. The band is totally in control here, and it’s really amazing to listen to this unfold and hear just how they are able to manipulate their music, and also their listeners, in such a subtle way.

As I mentioned, this album is only two tracks long, but given that you’ll want to play it two or three times each time you put it on, it actually becomes pretty substantial. It’s a wild ride, but one worth taking again and again. Cannibal Movie is a band with some serious instrumental alchemy and that can’t help but seep into the minds and ears of anyone that’s lucky enough to give this a listen. And I bet if you give this just a few minutes, you’ll be pulled in right away. If you hadn’t guessed already, I can’t recommend Mondo Music enough.