The concept album Miranda! from Italian based quartet Altre di B serves notice that this band’s ambitions will not remain confined to the typical grab bags of songs. The ten songs are inspired by Quirico Filopanti’s nineteenth century book that proposed the first ideas about time zones while also mining the band member’s individual experiences with their school lives, touring, airports, and their knowledge of literature. Despite the relatively brainy backdrop for the album, Altre di B’s songwriting will connect with even the most casual music fans and never seems so far removed from the mainstream that it proves alien to the audience’s own experiences. Miranda! has plenty of musical imagination as well that embodies the lyrical conceits in the same direct, yet intelligent, way that defines the writing. Altre di B’s latest release is the peak of the band’s career so far and proves that they may be ready at last to take their talents to a global stage.
This isn’t a linear concept album attempting to lay out a story. Instead, these ten songs are united by common themes and a central frame of reference musically that gives it cohesion more hodgepodge collections lack. The first song, “Pungi”, proves there are scarcely any obstacles posed by the band’s Italian origins. They write and perform in English with great fluency and their subject matter, while personal to them, isn’t completely removed from the possibility of connecting with non-Italian audiences. They’ve certainly learned how to use the guitar properly in their music, but the truly remarkable thing about this song is how seamlessly it blends guitar heroics with electronica. “Salgado” takes a similar line of attack, but there’s much more of a duel or exchange between the guitar and synthesizer here than we heard in the opener and it generates a much different sort of tension. “LAX” is more of a conventional type of indie rock song that we’ve heard since the opener and certainly much more relaxed than “Pungi”. The sensitivity here is impossible to ignore as are the melodic touches afforded by the chiming guitars.
“Erevan” is one of the album’s more introspective numbers and the suitably moody arrangement taps into that without ever coming off as inordinately plotted out or too heavy handed. The vocal taps into the same moodiness and seems less affected by post production decisions than other vocal performances on Miranda! “Heathrow” has much of the same sort of melodic sensitivity without as much suggestion of the personal and “Potwisha” is another effort in a similar vein. “Tapis Roulant”, however, returns listeners to the post punk fire and fury they can conjure with their guitar attack and breaks the spell of the aforementioned trio of comparatively laid back tunes. The album concludes the nearly six minute long closer “Bloemfoetein” and likely ranks as the most epic track on the release. They bring together elements of the focused approach heard on the album’s more muted numbers alongside the dramatic flourishes that characterize the more cinematic numbers and it’s quite a success. It provides quite an exclamation point for the release and ends, with great flair, what has to be considered the defining release thus far in this band’s career.