There’s a photo on Bruno Bavota’s Facebook timeline of his merch table, on which a sign is posted that features a drawing of a piano along with the words “Bruno Bavota – albums and free hugs.” I can’t imagine a more appropriate greeting by the Italian artist, as the Napoli-based Bavota’s take on modern classical, post rock, post folk, and, dare I coin a term, nü-chamber (I did it, kill me!) is as warm and inviting as that sign suggests meeting Bavota himself would be. Mediterraneo, his fourth album, is a big ol’ enveloping embrace, one that provides comfort and escape. It’s familiar and warm, and it knows exactly the type of reassurance you need at any given moment. Its thematic center is the gentle wash of the Mediterranean against the shore, and its sole purpose, I think anyway, is making you feel incredibly good about yourself in any situation.
Bavota really is all about hugging it out, gang – he signs off on the intro to his website, “With love and a big hug, Bruno,” and his bio says, “His attraction to music came ‘only’ at the age of twenty. Music decided to save his life, covering him with an enormous, warm hug from which the echoes of the deepest emotions of his soul are constantly exposed.” This could be a big red flag – how cloying and sickly sweet is this record going to be? It’s remarkably digestible – see the RIYL below for a really good list of fellow artists. However, whereas an ensemble like Rachel’s threw their focus into academic pursuits and composed odes to the likes of Frida Kahlo, Egon Schiele, and M. Daguerre, Bruno Bavota lets his heart lead him to the exact center of what those painters and visual artists were trying to represent physically, and he, through sound, evokes paintings within thoughts. Pieces like “Home,” “Hands,” “The Night,” and the title track actually ache, wordlessly bringing subjects to life, vividly, within the imagination.
Bavota’s main instrument is the piano, often wielded solo, but he lets guitar take the lead on standout tracks like “Hands” and “Alba,” and brings in a full chamber ensemble sound on “Interlude” and, again, “Hands.” But he wrings his most evocative pieces from the piano, and knows his way around melodrama. (Not to sound weird, but the solo piano pieces remind me at points of Billy Corgan’s – hear me out – more meditative passages on Adore, one of my favorite Smashing Pumpkins records, and an achievement that hopefully will be looked upon more favorably by Pumpkins fans [critics seemed to like it] with time. Bavota should not be compared to Billy Corgan, mainly because his pieces are instrumental and don’t suffer from Corganist wordplay, but “melodrama” certainly is a term you’d ascribe to Corgan as well. Again, mostly spitballing here.)
Where’d I go there? Anyway, I’m back. I’m sort of a sucker for this upliftingly moody stuff, and I certainly don’t mind a little melodrama once in a while. (Oh! The beginning of “For Martha.” That’s what pieces of this record remind me of. Just remembered.) I think there’s a lot here for even casual listeners to enjoy – Mediterraneo certainly could be a gateway to this kind of music, and again, that RIYL section below is what you check out next. But in the meantime, sit back, chill out, light a candle or something, drink wine, hug everybody, and enjoy what Bruno Bavota has to offer.
RIYL: Balmorhea, Ólafur Arnalds, Rachel’s, Peter Broderick