El Italiano to drop Urban Pop/Tango crossover Cross a La Mandíbula
“Buenos Aires is an immense, hysterical and beautiful monster. It constantly challenges us to be mindful and attentive of ourselves, but very few succeed. Yet, I like to think the city’s hypnotic frenzy gives reward to those who detect that enigma.”
So says El Italiano (singer/composer/producer Alejandro Giannini) of the mystifying city in which he was born . The grandson of famed Argentine tango composer Jose Lanzo, El Italiano has captured the essence of that undetected enigma on his album Cross a La Mandíbula (to be released Sept. 24, 2021). It is a compendium of urban pop/ tango songs delivered in a transgenerational style, grouped together in a conceptual album that merges the universes of contemporary urban pop with the imagery of Buenos Aires, its literature and its music, without resorting to traditional tango or nostalgia.
El Italiano invites us to travel with him through this sonic novel, which venerates courage. Inspired by the porteño, or Buenos Aires epic, it speaks of the construction of a myth where fragility, reflection and consecration appear.
“The intention,” says Giannini, “was to show that a transgenerational album could be made and could have an impact on the culture of Buenos Aires and Latin America using only songs that are brave enough to want to be singles. None of them could be allowed to settle into the vanity of boasting about their exotic beauty”.
Preceded by the three singles “El Mito,” “La Primavera” and “La Reputación,” the album comprises a journey taken in phases, which starts with the presentation of “El Mito,” passes through declarations of revenge, confessions and the search for glory to end up in “Redención”. In between these points, we can hear “El Campeón Jacinto Chiclana,” in which Jorge Luis Borges is quoted, calling to mind the archetype of modern compadritos or gaúchos that inhabited Buenos Aires at the beginning of the century.
Says El Italiano, “To personify Borge’s hero in a minimalist and modern milonga was a really powerful idea, and one which I wasn’t going to pass up. Specifically, regarding the lyrics of the album, I wanted to tell the construction of an urban and Buenos Aires hero. With his different steps: call to adventure, trials, resurrection, consecration, etc.”
Cross a La Mandíbula, a title taken from the famous prologue by Roberto Arlt to his novel Los Lanzallamas (The Flamethrowers), is a contemporary work where the use of samplers (such as the 8 bars of “Primavera Porteña” by Astor Piazzolla taken for “La Primavera”) is combined with synthesizers and orchestral instruments, piano and local folk guitars. The symbiosis between the two very disparate universes achieves such a synthesis that it makes the listener forget both and take it as a whole.
Alejandro Giannini started composing when he was 17 after some friends asked him to write words to their songs. After a few weeks, he was already composing his own songs, using a guitar that friends had loaned him, impossible to tune. In the beginning, he used the guitar to give a harmonic context for creating melodies. His school of influence was originally the English tradition: Lennon, Marc Bolan, Donovan, Bowie, Morrisey, Ian Brown. But he knew he had to stifle those influences if he really wanted to do something personal and relevant.
“I never studied music,” reflects El Italiano. “After a few years, I forced myself not to use any instruments. I’d create melodies from scratch, usually while walking and driving. They usually come alone; walking, the change of the streets, the houses, the landscapes generate a rhythm as if it were a mantra.”
After having been the leader of the band Pampa, he moved to Calabria, Italy, where his father and all his paternal family come from.
“I always wanted to visit the town where my father was born, meet my uncles and cousins, see my grandparents’ grave. Argentina’s economic crisis in 2001 pushed me to make the decision. It was an incredible experience. I lived together with Catholic fanaticism, the mafia, and the everyday life of my blood, my family.”
Giannini had given up music 3 or 4 years prior. It had begun to feel irrelevant to him and he felt that rock and pop did not represent him. He had planned to re-dedicate himself to literary writing. But it kept going around in his head to do something different. Something that is really from Buenos Aires and current, something that sounds 2021, without nostalgia, that is not Anglo.
Passing through Barcelona briefly on his way, he returned to Buenos Aires, where he would unexpectedly record the new EP. He was travelling to a city on the sea 4 hours from Buenos Aires when it happened:
“I’d recently overcome a history of somewhat severe panic attacks. Sadly, just driving on the road, my head wanted some action and started calling on my old friend the panic attack. Suddenly, I started to compose using the voice memos app of the cell phone. I forced myself to have the song finished by the time I arrived at my destination. That’s when I started writing again, and the first of the Cross a La Mandíbula songs appeared, ‘The Reputation’. It was born out of a vital need. And that was the moment I fell in love with music again.”