Work In Progress Live – DFA
Moon June Records 003
It seems interesting that a band as incredible as DFA could come from a town
like Verona. Romeo and Juliet killed themselves somewhere near there, but I
think that – had they been around these days – they would have simply run
from their feuding families and simply gone on tour.
DFA (which stands for Duty Free Zone) is a progressive rock outfit that is
keyboard heavy, rhythmically impeccable and massively entertaining. Imagine
music that’s harder than Kimock, better than Phish, faster than Floyd, and
looser than Zappa. Best of all, they’re Italian. The quartet wandered into
United States to perform for the first time in the summer of 2000 and it was
captured for their CD, Work in Progress Live — a gem if I may so.
The best method to gauge this album is by the crowd’s reaction to a band few
had heard and none had seen before. The audience hardly knows when to clap
during the band’s multi-part whirlwind compositions. When the band hits
last note, the crowd truly erupts. As the CD continues, it is obvious that
room unanimously agrees that the Italian quartet can truly rock a house.
DFA includes guitarist Silvio Minella, bassist Luca Baldassari, drummer
Alberto De Grandis and keyboardist Alberto Bonomi. All four are excellent
soloists but more importantly they listen carefully and play as a phenomenal
The first tune, "Escher", is a crazy rocker with a number of key changes,
signatures and styles. DFA always finds some room in their songs to lock
a groove, but never keeping long enough to induce boredom. I would call it
composed madness. Somewhere on the continuum between Medeski, Martin and
Wood and Frank Zappa.
The album features Bonomi and Grandis singing on a few tracks. The vocals
don’t fit the music entirely. They sing a verse, then jam out for a while,
then come back to the vocals. Of course, I don’t understand a damn thing
it is in Italian. The vocals are part of DFA’s originality. What other prog
rock outfit is both confusing and mind-blowing at the same time? I suddenly
want to learn Italian.
My favorite composition is "Trip on Metro", designed to sound exactly how it
would in real life. Well, almost real life. Train songs are commonplace in
styles of music ranging from Wynton Marsalis to Del McCoury to Duke
Ellington. The tone poem is so accurate that my best comparison would be to
Gershwin’s "An American in Paris". Anybody who has ever ridden the
network of trains in Europe will appreciate the dissonant tones, pulsating
rhythm and Nintendo-like colors of DFA’s work. The most interesting thing
about "Trip on Metro", is that it was written by the band’s drummer!
When I wander through the aisles of a record store I always want to buy the
randoms that may surprise me. Work in Progress Live is just that
the rough. It is complex, unique, and great fun to listen to. I can only
they hit the road in America sometime soon.