Italian four piece Altre di B has amassed quite a reputation on the European continent as one of top modern rising acts today thanks to a busy touring schedule and two stellar studio album that the band has recreated quite nicely for paying audiences. Their third studio release, Miranda!, reveals a more ambitious side to the band’s personality as they dive, head first, into the concept album form. Inspired by QuiricoFilopanti’s 1858 book including the first theory of time zones and the band’s experiences with tours, university studies, and literature, the ten song collection highlights a breadth of intelligence uncommon to works of popular art – it’s an academic intelligence that, despite its grounding, never ventures so far afield that it harms its accessibility for the average fan. This is no small trick with an album like this and testifies to the band’s songwriting and conceptual skill.
The album’s first song and a leadoff single for Miranda!, “Pungi”, is a mix of massed electric guitars creating a wall of sound juxtaposed against a more stripped down approach during the verses. There’s effective transitions built between these disparate sections and the guitar sound of the song varies just enough between these passages that there’s a sense of evolving textures powering the performance. The slinky tempo and suggestive arrangement making “Salgado” so memorable draws its fuel, in part, from being embodied in two distinctive ways. The guitar has a nasty bite but zeroes in on the song’s musicality while the drumming rides the tempo in such a way that it lays down a deep groove. Synthesizer, percussion, and guitar come together in an imaginative way again on the song “Poilao”. Much of the mood we hear on the earlier “Salgad” survives into this song, albeit employed in a different way. There’s a little more dissonance here than the earlier track and an increased focus on synths.
We’re back to a breezier, more overtly indie rock vibe with the song “LAX”, the title an obvious reference to the major airport in Los Angeles. There are subtle shifts in tempo and pacing throughout the song and the vocal has a breathy urgency that maintains a light touch in keeping with the song’s spirit. “Heathrow” refers to London’s famous major airport and maintains a muted mood throughout far more reliant on nuance than blaring instrumental flourishes. Drumming makes a big difference in this song and gives the arrangement a dramatic edge that it might have lacked with more straight forward drumming. There’s some of the same mix of chaotic guitar laden passages and low-key, spartan verses pushed forward by its percussion and colorful synthesizer fills. The vocals are treated with post-production effects, but not so much that it will cause problems with many listeners if any. Miranda! ends with the track “Bloemfoentein”. It runs almost six minutes in length and begins with an almost ambient slant with a guitar and synth fade in before clarifying its sound and segueing nicely into a uptempo and lean musical attack. Guitar plays an important role in the song, as it does throughout the album, but they once again wisely integrate it into a more overall modern sound that’s quite unlike any other bands working today. These are stunning sonic achievements that are made even sturdier by the fact that they solid songs, fundamentally, that are only enriched by the addition of synth lines and other post production effects. Miranda! is a powerful third album from Altre di B.