Over the years, there have been very few releases that I can admit having fully regretted not picking up as there is more than enough music flowing into our headquarters on a daily basis to keep me busy for more than a few lifetimes; this, on top of the enormous amount of music that I buy and barely have time to listen to. However, in 2011, Brave Mysteries released a tape from Spettro Family entitled Candelora, and at the time, my experience with the project was minimal, being restricted to only a few youtube videos which were impressive in their own visual aesthetic. This led to my interest in the project being piqued, but I was foolish enough to wait too long to pick up a copy, and before I knew it, it was too late: sold out, gone, nicht verfügbar. That’s the usual story for many, of course, but after having had a chance to give this new 10″ EP from Reue um Reue a spin, I’m kicking myself out of frustration for not acting sooner as the music found on La Famiglia Spettro is one of the more unique aural visions that I’ve heard in some time, and not in a way that is necessarily theatrical as the genre affiliations may imply. Rather, I find the music of La Famiglia Spettro to be incredibly sincere for what it is.
With that, this EP represents a bit of a fictional journey within a journey that was inspired by reality. In 2010, the sole man behind the music, Stefan Iannone, took a trip into the Carpathian heart of Romania — a place that exists seemingly cut off from the rest of Europe in nearly every sense; so cut off, in fact, that it contains a large percentage of Europe’s last intact wilderness, and no doubt is a place whose people live within a culture that is at least moderately removed from most of the West in meticulous details, despite the far-reaching implications of Abrahamic religion that is all too visible in the artwork of the release. In short, this is Transylvania — the birthplace of some of the darkest legends (and realities) known to man today. Perhaps it was a bit of culture shock that led to the inspiration behind the compositions on this release, as can be seen by Stefan’s note on one of the inserts that “…I saw places, met people and heard stories beyond your imagination.” Of course, given the stubbornly traditional culture of Romania, I’m sure that the age-old skill of story-telling around local legend is still alive and well there — and most likely a bit removed from the stories of their countryside that we’re familiar with.
La Famiglia Spettro opens with “Psichiatria Primo Piano” and “Oltretomba” which both represent different sides of the same textbook Spettro Family sound. The opening track works the listener in easily through minimal synth and bass, simply building a retro atmosphere and setting the stage for the more melodic tracks that follow. The latter track, “Oltretomba”, carries on that retro atmosphere into new territories where the familiar cinematic, old-school horror approach of Spettro Family takes hold through a looping piano melody and simplistic guitar texturing that only does enough to keep the track moving at a subtle pace and swell the tension. It’s not necessarily reminiscent of the otherwise chaotic atmosphere that you’d expect from a song named after the afterlife (or underworld), but the title helps build on the thematic approach. Finishing off the side is “Crit / Aufwiedersehen”, a track most likely named for the Buneşti, Romanian village “Criţ”, which follows a similar vintage synth melodic style into more somber territories.
I get the impression that many listeners out there might find Spettro Family’s music to be a bit too kitsch for their liking, and that will certainly be understandable given the vintage flare of the record. However, it is through these vintage synth sounds and effective looping melodies (and later, relatively simplistic beats) that Spettro Family shows himself to be far more efficient at creating a tense and relevant atmosphere whereas more aggressive or complex artists would miss the mark completely by trying to be the moment, instead of preluding it. Of specific note here is “Brasov Black Biserică”, or “The Black Church of Brașov”, whose incredible and completely minimal beat vs. neoclassic melodic work was actually the first track to spark my interest in https://heathenharvest.org/wp-admin/post-new.phpSpettro Family to begin with. It is utterly haunting and maddeningly catchy in a way that completely overwhelms your focus and absolutely requires repeated listens for sake of addiction. “Bucureşti” attempts a similar style, but the track comes off as a little too complex or forced, especially on the distorted end, and unfortunately comes off as the only track on the album that doesn’t quite reach its emotive potential. Thankfully, though, the album ends on a high note with the memorably and fittingly reflective “Aokigahara”, named after Japan’s famous suicide forest, thus offering up a bit of an ambiguous — and certainly melancholic — ending to a superb effort.
Despite my new-found solid appreciation for the music of Spettro Family, I can’t help but feel like he has more to give. La Famiglia Spettro, despite its concept, still seems to represent a fictional world rather than one that unravels his journeys through Romania, but it works nonetheless. This album hits its best moments when it doesn’t try to do too much while still offering a rhythmic backbone, but the extreme minimalism of other tracks is what helped “Brasov Black Biserică” stand out so sharply. We’ll see where concurrent albums lead, but the future looks promising for this young project — a spirit that is sure to linger until his work is complete.
A1) Psichiatria Primo Piano
A3) Crit / Aufwiedersehen
B1) Brasov Black Biserica