Tredici Bacci’s kaleidoscopic sophomore album, La Fine Del Futuro (NNA Tapes), explodes and deepens leader Simon Hanes’ preoccupations with Italian soundtracks, showtunes, and dramatic orchestral pop. The cover—a painting of a kitchen knife in the back of a colorful pool chair—sets the tone. Tredici Bacci understands what every tropical bartender or crusty beach bum knows: the most refreshing drink uses more astringency than sweetness to cut through the sunlight. In the same way, La Fine Del Futuro revels in paint splatters and disjunctions where its genres meet, even as it acknowledges the pleasure and depth in their sleek, glossy surfaces.
The panoramic Morricone landscapes of Hanes’ writing in Tredici Bacci’s earlier work still haunt La Fine Del Futuro. The opening track, “Titoli De Testa,” uses Marilu Donovan’s harp like a stiletto, glinting under the lush strings of the opening and slicing through Hanes’ guitar and Evan Laine Allen’s harpsichord as it stiiches the bouncing brass and wordless vocal with a menacing thread picked up later in the piece by Kenny Wollesen’s vibes. “Ambulette” is an after-image of a car chase, woodwinds chasing Baldwin’s brass, providing a depth of field as he rushes from foreground to back, resisting an easy grasp. The violins of Abigale Reisman and Abby Swidler shoot that line to the stars as the music shatters and reconvenes itself into a mosaic of pulse-pounding arpeggios around the streetlight shadows of Allen’s organ.
Tredici Bacci’s love for theater music of the 20th century comes to the fore in two tracks. The Bachrach/David classic “Promises, Promises” gets a playful, sharp read. Buoyed by Sami Stevens’ electrifying vocal, the glittering brass of the arrangement draws out the open heart behind its wink. Hanes’ original “In the ‘70s” taps the same theatrical vein with ironic lyrics and a staccato meter reminiscent of Sondheim’s music of the period.
The album also includes collaborations with other writers. Hanes contributes an easy-swinging arrangement of Ryan Powers’ “The Cavalry,” with Powers on lead vocals. Powers’ and Stevens’ vocals roll together like quicksilver on seductive lines like “I’m going to rattle the bars, stare down the stars,” and “Late at night we’re gonna get in primal shapes,” as the track showcases Heasly’s well-oiled bass and Daniel Pencer’s murmuring clarinet.
Hanes co-wrote “Felicity Grows” with JG Thirlwell (of Foetus fame), and Thirlwell’s lyrics showcase Stevens’ voice, shading “Saturday with nothing to do. Looking for a cheap tomorrow, take a ride on this avenue to Tompkins Square,” with the promise of joy and the knowledge it’ll probably fall apart. That vocal melody gets tangled with the strings and loping rhythm section to evoke the New York sunlight filtered through canyons of buildings, shoulders, and faces. Thirlwell also contributes a stirring vocal on a ready-for-war cover of the hymn “O Come O Come Emmanuel,” re-titled “Emmanuelle.”
True to its title, La Fine Del Futuro traces what might be the end of the future. But on its way, it reminds us of the beauty in those forms, scavenged and re-purposed, welded together and sanded down. It reminds us everything can be made new.