An apparently stupid question: What does Friuli have in common with Brittany? They both face vast bodies of water; here, the relatively placid Adriatic Sea, and there, the much more troublesome Atlantic Ocean. Where Friuli’s land embraces the sea in a vast gulf, Brittany throws itself in the ocean as the northwestern branch of l’Hexagone. The former is a borderland and scenery for both fertile cultural encounters and ferocious murders; the earth carries hidden rivers of blood spilled in by Yugoslav partisans during the last days of WWII in its dolines, named foibe. The latter still retains its own language—still held as a treasure and strange-sounding even to someone who currently speaks French—its precious Celtic heritage, and the dream of independence within the sound of ‘La blanche hermine’.
I’ve had the opportunity to visit both during winter. That said, and putting aside some hair-splitting details, one other thing that they have in common is a northern wind that flogs you in the face. In Trieste it has its own name—Bora—and a sinister reputation for brute force, but it isn’t any milder than the one blowing off the coasts of Saint-Malo.
The souls of men aren’t the same everywhere; throughout Europe, a lone wanderer could find everything and its opposite. While this is undoubtedly true for myself, there are ancestral hints and tacit truths that unite us all. For Friuli and Brittany, the common earthly undertone could be the wind, the water, and all that comes with them. The human soul becomes reflection of nature’s elements.
Can a band manage to take songs out of their original sphere of influence and position them—like tiles in a mosaic—in order to compose a bigger picture, each of them tesserae with their own beauty and meaning, different from the others and yet in perfect harmony? Perhaps.
This is the aim of Faitissa, a newly formed Spanish-folk project whose two members are of Galician and Catalan origins, and, ‘Terra aviatica means land of the forefathers […] starring in songs from 13th to 19th centuries, from celtic nations to Mediterranean world, alongside own compositions.’
The opening track is, unsurprisingly, a traditional Friulian song, and there’s a very interesting story behind it. The original is called Schiarazula Marazula, and the ritual dance—performed by men and women alike singing together to invoke rain upon cultivated fields—caught the eye of the local Inquisition for its pagan character. No lyrics survived, which led Faitissa to write their own very convincing interpretation.
After less than two minutes into the album, the crystalline vocal performance of Aloysia seems to loom over the rest. My (benevolent) suspicions are soon confirmed; ‘Iron Awake’—’Desperta ferro!’ in Spanish—which is possibly the best song of the lot, is a merging of medieval and apocalyptic folk and the imaginary yet convincing hymn of a mercenary company in twelfth-century Spain. The guitar, played here by Jorge Lamata, is the most impressive element behind Terra aviatica, with epic acoustic riffs as a magnificent accompaniment to the lead voice.
War and blood are recurring themes as we clearly hear in ‘Chosen by Skuld’—the lament of a dying Viking. Although Ms. Aloysia never lacks personality and depth, I’d have liked to hear a man singing this track in consideration of the themes behind it.
There isn’t just Thanatos to deal with; Eros as its counterpart receives a fair share of attention. Aloysia’s performance on ‘La dama de Arago’ is indeed far more fitting, and my desire to hear a duet is finally satisfied when, whispering and murmuring, Faitissa’s collaborator and flutist Daniel Torea joins the vocalist, together praising the astounding beauty of the Aragonese lady, Anna Maria, ‘daughter of the King of France and sister of the King of Aragòn’.
From Spain we now move to Great Britain. Much less platonic is the kind of love narrated in ‘Queen of Brehequem’; while the fair-haired Anna Maria was regarded from a deferential distance, whether in the intimacy of her room or walking the streets alongside her brother, this other Queen—whose figure is inspired by a minor tale in the Arthurian saga—doesn’t retain secrets and comes off as an incurable nymphomaniac.
One very good thing to note: Faitissa’s work sounds anything but cheap. All the instruments used in the making of Terra aviatica—flutes, guitar, and percussion—have more than a reasonably rich voice. Their musical reenactment of that from the Middle Ages strikes a chord and clearly is moved by an honest fascination.
I hate quoting myself, but if you recently enjoyed Erde’s Böse Zeit and are casually looking for something on the same wavelength, then look no further. Faitissa’s tutelary deities reside on another area of the Old Continent; I could push it and say they are, unconsciously, complementary works.
Terra aviatica’s biggest fault is the same intrinsic fault of their genre: after a while, although they do their best to fight it off, monotony gains the upper hand. There isn’t really a great variety among the tracks; most of them could be classified as ballads, and, while the themes touched by the lyrics—to which belongs my undisputed plaudit—cover a wide range, it’s hard to say it’s enough.
As a debut album, Terra aviatica is something that, regardless of some quite negligible faults, should make their creators proud. All of Faitissa’s intentions were solid, and frankly so is the final realization of the album. The bit of discrepancy between the aim and the final results isn’t anything that cannot be cured with the compositional solidity that comes through experience.
01) Waiting for the Rain
02) Iron Awake
03) Tri martolod
04) Catro vellos mariñeiros
05) A la una yo nací
06) Mia irmana fremosa
07) Se l’aura spira
08) La dama d’Aragó
09) Hija mía
10) Queen of Brehequem
11) La jument de Michao
12) Chosen by Skuld
13) Ad Semper