The amniotic free-flow of Banjo Or Freakout isn’t easy to digest all at once. The milky, time-faded textures of the music can seep into the walls, disengaged to ears or attention spans – ambient, hookless, and rather obtuse. For someone like primary songwriter Alessio Natalizia, who’s only in the adolescent stages of revealing his sonic persona to the world, his music isn’t the most inviting – especially considering his most obvious roots revel in the gaseous, lo-fi warmth of buzzy indie rock.
And there are certainly moments on his debut self-titled record where he plays it straight, the dreamy, adulating opener 105 and the blissy, slightly perturbed follow-up Go Ahead is a perfectly capable one-two punch of lofty, librarian pop. It’s entirely likable, in the same way as The Radio Dept or the Slumberland roster, but as the record gets deeper it sounds like Natalizia doesn’t want a capable album that easily, starting with the frigid haze of the final moments of Can’t Be Mad For Nothing, the music digresses into the oblique, staggered, and occasionally colourless miasma of the songwriter’s most low-light ideas. The record slows, the head-nod tunes become more and more lethargic, and eventually you’re locked in the swarming aimlessness of Fully Enjoy or the atonal weepiness of From Everyone Alone. These odd moments of witless experimentalism end up comprising the bulk of the record – eventually the spectral fantasies at the top of the album seem like a distant memory.
This isn’t necessarily a damning thing, for plenty of ostensible pop records have dipped deep in shifty introspection and surfaced with something meaningful or memorable or even rewarding. However Banjo Or Freakout never gets that close. Natalizia never offers the listener a ledge to cling to, or even a reason for investment. His mish-mashed anti-melodies come off like half-baked tape-loops never given enough attention to transcend their dawdled elements. Even on a frank, visceral level, they’re not that weird or warped or even grating enough to grab ears. The music misses the boat entirely on artful swagger or interwoven complexes and sounds merely dull, which is rather impossible to recommend.
Natalizia has an idea, and it’s clear he can play a few instruments and wrap together a of couple ideas into a fully-formed song. But there are just not enough examples of this on his debut for it to garner much credence. He has talent, he’s capable, and he’s got a future – there are occasional flashes of creativity-stuffed aptitude – but this time around they’re merely flashes. A few years later, some more thinking, some more touring, and with an added dash of maturity, it might be a different story.