Release Date: Feb 22, 2011
Record label: Rare Book Room
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Y’know, after a month in the company of Banjo Or Freakout I was ready to throw the towel in. I’d floated through starry, firework-lit skies to ‘Move Out’ and sunken into ‘105’s obfuscated Neil Young groove, but for the most part my connection with Alessio Natalizia’s debut had been, I suppose, amiable; perpetually on the brink of some mutual understanding but limited by the wearying toll of its stultifying tendency to wander off track, leading me down half-lit forest paths whose attractions I couldn’t quite decipher, or just didn’t want to. Our time was up.
Naming your band in a way that reflects the musical content can be a pretty good idea, letting people know where they stand before they listen. 3 Inches of Blood is a good example, the Softies is another. Banjo or Freakout is not a good example of a representative name. Firstly, there is no banjo to be heard anywhere on their self-titled debut album.
When Alessio Natalizia (aka BOF) started making music, [a]James Blake[/a] was probably still worrying about A-levels. To most people, dubstep wasn’t a word, let alone a phenomenon. Natalizia dodged the hype by going to ground, working on a side-project (Walls) and not rushing into a debut.
Italian producer Alessio Natalizia has created an aural equivalent of supernatural horror films such as Paranormal Activity and the Blair Witch Project. For the first half, not much happens: his dreampop-meets-indiepop chugs along pleasantly enough, with the lovely Move Out recalling the early Teenage Fanclub. But somewhere during the eerie Fully Enjoy, the album starts to develop a different atmosphere of creeping menace.
Banjo or Freakout's harmony-kissed bedroom music languishes in negative space. The songs that Banjo principal Alessio Natalizia lets peek out above the grey float along somewhere between the haunted bygone pop of Bradford Cox's Atlas Sound and the ponderous swirl of Panda Bear, their tempos and hooks decidedly impressionistic. In his review of Banjo or Freakout's Way Slow odds and sods compilation last year, Pitchfork's Zach Kelly pegged Natalizia's songs as "ghosted": You can make out their vague outlines and maybe a sense of their spirit, but what's missing often seems more striking than what's actually there.
There are many fiendish crossroads we pass on our perilous journey from cradle to grave. Soul or gold. Death or glory. Love or lust. Health or hedonism. Beatles or Stones. Moore or Connery. To this illustrious list we can now add ‘Banjo or Freakout’. Yes, London-based Italian Alessio Natalizia ….
London-based, Italian-bred Alessio Natalizia has been crafting bedroom folk pop for the last four years, releasing a handful of singles and volumes of covers and instrumentals under the moniker Banjo or Freakout. He’s been able to arouse a steady following, but the overall consensus has been that his songs lack maturity and are underdeveloped, and though he’s got a knack for pop construction, his affection for lo-fi and hazy acoustics can be determined a bit tedious. On his debut for Rare Book Room, his eponymous proper full length, Natalizia confronts some of these issues, but regrettably continues to prolong many of the same complications.