9 Songs, 48 Minutes

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About Not a Good Sign

Putting a 21st century spin on the sound of classic '70s prog rock, the Italian band Not a Good Sign came together after Marcello Marinone, producer and head of the Milan-based avant-prog AltrOck label, and two of the label's key musicians, guitarist Francesco Zago and keyboardist Paolo "Ske" Botta, decided to develop a group with a somewhat more accessible sound than their more avant-leaning projects. Zago and Botta are both members of the sometimes exceedingly complex avant-prog ensemble Yugen -- which might be considered AltrOck's flagship group -- and Botta (under the Ske moniker) issued his own album of ever-changing multi-layered prog, 1000 Autunni, on AltrOck's Fading Records sublabel in 2011.

Marinone, Zago, and Botta were interested in something a bit more "old prog school" (even if "old prog" might seem inherently oxymoronic) than Yugen or Ske, and their vision began to take shape with the recruitment of singer Alessio Calandriello and bassist Gabriele Guidi Colombi, two members of the Genoa-based prog group La Coscienza di Zero (which, incidentally, is signed to Fading Records). They also conducted drummer auditions and were particularly impressed by Martino Malacrida, who was selected to complete the group's five-person lineup in 2012.

The band's approach to music-making might draw elements from "old prog," but Not a Good Sign represents something new particularly for Zago, whose composing style for Yugen has often been akin to modern classical chamber music on steroids. In Not a Good Sign the material is more song-based, with Zago writing English-language lyrics and sharing the composing duties with Botta. Zago penned both words and music for the song "Not a Good Sign," the title of which was chosen as the group's name. In an interview with the Dutch Progressive Rock Page's Roger Trenwith, Botta said the moniker was appropriate given the unfolding economic crises affecting people across Europe and indeed worldwide, a situation reflected in the band's music and name.

Between March and April 2013 Not a Good Sign recorded their eponymous debut album, which was released by AltrOck/Fading in June of that year. In addition to the core five-member band, the album also featured several guests: the British chamber folk North Sea Radio Orchestra's Sharron Fortnam (who appeared on an interpretation of Elizabethan era metaphysical poet John Donne's "Witchcraft by a Picture" with music by Zago and Botta), Yugen pianist Maurizio Fasoli, and Sonata Islands/Altrock Chamber Quartet cellist Bianca Fervidi. Shortly before Not a Good Sign's June 2013 release, the band made its live premiere at the fourth AltrOck/Fading Festival held in Milan earlier that month, and received an enthusiastic audience response. ~ Dave Lynch

ORIGIN
Milan, Italy
GENRE
Rock
FORMED
2012

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