" (...) The music is good enough to elevate the album above mere novelty, and the colourful variety of keyboard instruments, recorded superbly, give added interest. Mankar-Bennis’s imagination as a performer shines through, and the musical journey is thus a thoroughly enjoyable one." Steven Watson - MusicWeb international
“In an age in which it is said that art and science are being stifled by politics, what we are going to attempt is an art and science expedition. (…) We are going to visit Corsica, Sardinia, Italy, Sicily, etc. and we shall be publishing almost as we wend our way. Every gust of wind that blows towards France will carry a few pages that we have written on the very land that inspired them, packed full of local colour and still hot off the press from each experience.” Alexandre Dumas, La Méditerranée et ses Côtes, 1834
Although I felt that Dumas’s enthusiastic idea was an incredibly promising one and it led to my own scheme involving this musical sketchbook based around a trip to the island, the fact is that I’ve never even been to Sicily and that the “memories” narrated on the various tracks of this recording are totally made-up - actually, they're “memories” of a journey which didn’t involve going anywhere at all, given that I came up with the idea in the middle of lockdown in spring 2020. All the same, there was plenty that I could draw on from the many writers and travellers - some long ago, some more recently - who have given us their impressions of an island which makes a perfect setting for stories, daydreams and legends. Then, in order to round off my little deception, I needed a partner-in-crime, someone who’d be a false witness yet who’d also genuinely share the journey with me, so I chose Bernardo Storace, a vitally important yet shadowy, enigmatic musical figure of the Seicento period in Sicily.
Along with a selection of pieces by the Sicilian master, I’ve slotted two short improvisations of my own into the programme for this record; one uses a Northern Italian dance called La Bergamasca, and the other La Trombetta, also known as Girometta, which is based on an Italian Alpine folk song. For my own amusement, I’m pretending that this sonic herbarium is a collection of important cultural artefacts, but there are also a few whispers from the real world, such as the radio, a market, village religious festivals, motorbikes, etc., used as preludes to some of the pieces.