Federico Balducci – Dancing Trees (LP)

Composer and musician Federico Balducci’s new EP release Dancing Trees four superb instrumentals capable of standing alongside anything this guitarist has yet shared with the world. Balducci places great importance on music’s capacity for uniting listeners via its communal powers. There’s ample evidence of that attitude heard in each of these performances. Much of the music written for Dancing Trees focuses on the guitar, of course, but there are myriad other sounds Balducci conjures in his efforts to bewitch and transport listeners to another realm.

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This isn’t his debut and it is apparent after a single listen that the recordings selected for Dancing Trees are products of a master musician and songwriter. It never means, however, you can consider Balducci a finished product. Each new release has boasting compositional and stylistic, in particular, sophistication illustrating his continued work refining and expanding his artistry. The EP’s firs track “Roots and Silence” is an excellent example. It is easy to relish the music composed for this cut, but the judicious spacing in this tune provides a dynamic contrast you seldom find in modern popular music. Balducci has a steady hand for achieving effects without drawing attention to his technique – his touch his light yet decisive here.

“Wind Dance” begins on an introspective and hushed note before segueing into darker territory. Percussion plays a far more prominent role in determining the track’s artistic success than other tracks on Dancing Trees, no surprise given its title, but the drumming is clearly pre-programmed and its sound isn’t as bold as I’d like. I believe I understand Balducci’s aims, but his sense of restraint betrays him a little too much here and dilutes the recording’s potential.

It is far from fatal. “Wind Dance” makes an important contribution at the EP’s midway point introducing more ambivalent moods than the opener ever offers. “Counter” does this as well and stands out more for its possible popular appeal. There’s some pleasing musical and production elements rife throughout “Counter” certain to find widespread appeal with the proper promotion thanks in large part to its relevant electronic sound. It’s yet another indication that Balducci is at home on the stairway of surprise the greatest artists inhabit.

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He brings the final curtain down on the EP with the track “Back to Earth”. Balducci pushes his writing to its limits on this release and it succeeds because his taste carries the day. A nearly ten minute track normally invites self-indulgence galore but not with this writer. Balducci, instead, uses his talent for musical dramatics to great effect without lapsing into excess. His new release Dancing Trees is a brief outing for this gifted musician and composer, but we’ve come to expect that from him. Its subtle advances are all the more noteworthy. I’ve only recently become familiar with Balducci but I am gratified I can follow his career from this point forward. I advise you to climb on this train and do the same. It’ll be well worth the trip from here and ranks among the young year’s best releases. 

Michael Rand

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