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Area's uncompromising blend of jazz-rock, ethnic folk, experimentation, and political philosophies made them a unique presence in Italy during the 1970s. Fronting the band's musical fusion was singer Demetrio Stratos, who embellished his own operatic technique with yodels and growls. Stratos died in 1979, and the remaining members disbanded after releasing one instrumental album.
The band was formed in 1972 by various musicians who had experience in pop, avant-garde, and jazz groups. The band consisted of Demetrio Stratos (born 1945, Alexandria, Egypt; died June 13, 1979, NY - voice, organ, harpsichord, percussion); Giulio Capiozzo (born 1946, Boretto, Italy drums, percussion); and Patrizio Fariselli (born 1951, Cesenatico, Italy - piano, electric piano, bass clarinet, percussion, ARP synthesizer). Guitarist Johnny Lambizzi and bassist Victor Edouard Busniello were soon replaced by Giampaolo Tofani (born 1944, Florence - electric guitar, EMS guitar synthesizer, flute) and Patrick Erard Djivas (bass). Manager Gianni Sassi signed the group to the independent Cramps label, and their debut, Arbeit Macht Frei, was released in 1973. The album's bold title, cover imagery, and lyrical content were packaged as a protest of fascism, and by declaring themselves an "International POPular Group," Area gave new meaning to playing music for the people. Musically, the album showed the early influence of jazz rock acts like Soft Machine and Nucleus, with hints of folk music of the Mediterranean, the Balkans, and the Middle East.
After the first album, Djivas joined PFM and was replaced by Ares Tavolazzi (born 1948, Ferrara, Italy - bass, double bass, trombone, pocket trumpet). A second album, Caution Radiation Area, perfected the group's unique sound, combining the punch of rock and the frightening chaos of experimental music. It also showed their continuing political activism. By dedicating one song to German guerilla activist Ulrike Meinhof, the group began to get more international press for their politics than for their music. Over the next few years, Area would play benefits for controversial political causes, and they allied themselves with leftist youth and working class movements in Italy, including the socialist and communist parties. Winning a progressive music award in Italy, Crac! (1975) was the best evidence of Area's crazy fusion: furious, mind-bending rhythms and melodies balanced with humor and the avant-garde. A live album, Are(A)zione, followed in the fall of 1975.
But Area seemed to stall in its search for even more experimentation. Maledetti (1976) brought in guest players to contribute to the band's activity, and in some ways it backfired and fragmented the band. Event '76, one of those classic headache-inducing recordings, was a live album which found Area at the furthest point of their orbit: noisy, unmelodic sounds make up most of the record. Anto/Logicamente was a 1977 "greatest-hits" release, while Stratos had begun recording solo albums of voice experimentation.
By 1978, the band had reeled in their uncompromising and splintering directions, and recorded an album that was enjoyably melodic and playful, but by no means "pop." 1978 Gli Dei Se Ne Vanno... was Area reborn, a masterpiece of world melodies, jazz virtuosity, and off-the-wall attitudes. Sadly, the band's career was interrupted in 1979 by the loss of Stratos, who died of leukemia in New York. A memorial concert, featuring the brightest stars of Italy's progressive arts, was performed and recorded for a double album. Area returned with the mostly instrumental Tic & Tac (1980), an upbeat album that celebrated instead of grieved. It leaned towards the contemporary jazz fusion sound popular at the time. At the end of 1996, Capiozzo and Fariselli re-formed Area for a new release called Chernobyl 7991, with the collaboration of jazz bassist Paolino Dalla Porta (aka Paola Dalla Porta) and guitarist Fabio Condorelli.
Posthumous live recordings of Area have since been released, and the band continues to influence those who dare to listen. ~ Patrick Little
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