Banjo or Freakout – Banjo or Freakout

written by: April 5, 2011
Release Date: February 22, 2011


Banjo or Freakout’s self-titled debut is like being stuck in a haze. It’s not really a nightmare or a daydream, just a place separate of our own world; trance-distilled vocals float over quavering guitars, little piano trills drip from digital blips and all the while listeners are wondering where it’s heading.

Like a hallucinogen, the listening experience is OK if one goes into it with a relaxed and open mindset. Sometimes it’s blissful waves washing over the listener, but other times the listener has to beat through boughs and branches, in an attempt to escape.

The glimmering, lethargic “105” immediately transports listeners into the dream kingdom of Banjo or Freakout, where the lyric sheet reads portentously, “I was thinking of going to sleep/Seriously thinking of going to sleep.” It’s a voyage into emptiness, under the guidance of Italian producer Allesio Natalizia.

Sometimes he stands up, makes up his mind to go somewhere, but almost never does. While some will appreciate the innovation in production, others may be lost in an attention deficit miasma.

Natalizia is in his third decade of life, and Banjo or Freakout has been a studied buildup itself with years in the making.

The artist has been refining his palette, remixing his contemporaries and jamming with the likes of MGMT live. The record is fastened with original touches abound, but it’s still a heavily derived sound with the ambience of Radiohead’s The Bends, the punkish groove of Can and misty vocal styling reminiscent of many lo-fi rockers. Think Bradford Cox circa Atlas Sound then forget him because there is something here that is entirely unique.

It feels like something in a museum; It’s very beautiful and very cold, and you’re not allowed to touch anything. Stranger still is that Banjo or Freakout manages to stay accessible at times, with noise-pop melodies. “Idiot Rain” is so masterfully produced, so tactile in the ears that it’s almost a shame it’s drowned out on all sides by gushes of mind-numbing noise.

Banjo or Freakout meanders wherever its mercurial sonic waves guide it. Take the shift from “Idiot Rain” to “Fully Enjoy,” a swirling phantom of abrasive fuzz madness. Some may appreciate the album’s whimsy. There are some works that lay down ground rules and teach you listeners how to hear them; this one couldn’t be less helpful.

The vague ground makes it difficult to classify. It’s anything but consciously felt.

“Move Out” likewise, though far from poignant, is a haunting ballad propelled alternately by strummed and oscillating guitars, while “Dear Me” passes without having any memory of it having happened.

When the fog of the album retreats, there is a blurry residue, and maybe that’s a testament to what Banjo or Freakout achieves. Judging by the amount of time Natalizia spent creating it, one gets the impression that he’s doing exactly what he wants to, the way he wants to. In “Can’t Be Mad For Nothing,” he says, “I knew I was doing things right/I saw that it could take me the rest of my life.” Thank goodness it didn’t.

Banjo or Freakout – Banjo or Freakout Tracklist:

  1. “105”
  2. “Go Ahead”
  3. “Can’t Be Mad for Nothing”
  4. “Move Out”
  5. “Idiot Rain”
  6. “Fully Enjoy”
  7. “From Everyone Above”
  8. “Black Scratches”
  9. “Dear Me”
  10. “I Don’t Want to Start All Over Again”