Sardinian singer-songwriter does for Italian canzone what Burial once did for the rave, finds David McKenna

I first became aware of Sardegna-born Jacopo Incani, who records as Iosonouncane, last year as I was researching a piece about Italian legend Lucio Battisti. He was recommended as an artist who had claimed Battisti’s masterpiece, Anima Latina, as an influence. It was something you can hear on his previous album, 2015’s Die, on a track like ‘Buio’.

The spirit of 60s/70s Italian canzone has had a welcome revival in recent times thanks to artists like Andrea Laszlo De Simone as well as Incani himself. His stage name is partly derived from the song ‘Io Sono Uno’ by the tragic cantautore (singer-songwriter) Luigi Tenco, and he recently covered Tenco’s ‘Vedrai, Vedrei’ on stand-alone single ‘Novembre’. His approach there, of smothering a classic under a layer of heavy synthetic fog, anticipates the strategies employed on IRA. The title means ‘anger’(‘ire’) in Italian – but that doesn’t quite prepare you for the album’s frequently breathtaking scope.

Due to the pandemic and Incani’s desire to be able to take the album on the road as soon as it was released, the album’s release has been much delayed, contributing to the sense of anticipation. It has been viewed by some as a step forward in the renewal of Italian song, and it’s a bold release in several ways: a triple album, released on a major label (Sony Music Italia), on which Incani sings in various languages (Italian, French, English, Arabic, and more), creating his own kind of Esperanto. It deals, in his own words, with “multitudes in transit”, mass migrations. The mind turns to the migrants and refugees reaching Italian shores in places like Lampedusa. Titles like ‘Foule’ (“crowd” in French), ‘Prison’, ‘Horizon’, and ‘Soldiers’ tell their own story.

But it’s also about the sound of ‘IRA’. There are still traces of Italian song. The finale, ‘Cri’, is a particularly rich, creamy ballad. But, as elsewhere on the record, Incani’s treatment of his own voice gives it a feel like it’s speckled with dew or is escaping from a record that’s layered thick with dust, while crisp cymbals skate over the murk. Italian canzone on IRA is a revenant, a bit like rave is for Burial.

IRA begins with a slice of spectral MOR, ‘Hiver’, before we start to get a glimpse of some of the industrial influences that were already in evidence on Die. But IRA is more homogenous, in the best sense. The disparate inspirations (and one could add techno, jazz, Goblin-style prog, North African folk), have been fully integrated into a singular language, whether it’s the small-balladeer-in-a-box songs like ‘Soldiers’ or the charging Maghrebian percussion, tormented howling and foghorn synth blasts of the eleven-minute long ‘Hajar’. I’m willing to bet that there also aren’t many things in Italian song quite like the peculiar salad of Armando Trovajoli, chanson, and early post rock found on ‘Fleuve’. In other words, IRA e magnifico.

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