Album review

Francesca Remigi

ARCHIPÉLAGOS: Il Labirinto Dei Topi [2020]

Text: Robin Boer

Founded in Brussels, 2019, this sextet, led by Bergamo drummer and composer Francesca Remigi, already booked successes in various showcases, like the Maastricht Jazz Awards 2020 (finalist), All You Have To Do Is Play 2019 and Nuova Generazione Jazz 2021 (winner). Renowned musicians like Steve Lehman and Stéphane Galland have sent their compliments and explained their appreciation of Remigi’s music. After a bunch of performances on and in various European festivals and venues, there is the release of debut album ‘Il Labirinto Dei Topi.’

Remigi is joined by five different nationalities: Claire Parsons (LUX) on vocals and effects, Niran Dasika (AUS) on trumpet, Federico Calcagno (ITA) on bass clarinet and clarinet, Simon Groppe (FRA) on piano and Ramon van Merkenstein (NLD) on double bass. A standard jazz sextet, you would stay. However, the music proves quite the opposite.

Concept and background

The music on this album is meant to represent and denounce examples of social disfunction and decadence, connected to some of the principals explained by authors like Noam Chomsky, Zygmunt Bauman, Roberto Saviano, Samuel Huntington and William McNeill.

The eight compositions on the album feature a high level of mathematical and rhythmically unusual, though highly creative elements, accurately fitting the current state of the world. These elements are meant to symbolize a kind of “matrix” organized society that controls and oppresses its subjects through Corporations and Social Media. The free improvisations by individual players in the sextet feature as a metaphor of individuals that rise up against establishments. The improvisations are featured in solo sections, though they are smartly arranged so they collaborate with the full band arrangements, explaining the profit of community (Archipélagos, which is Spanish for ‘groups of islands’), hope and solidarity, maintaining one’s personal identity.

Music analysis

The opening track (which is the title track- about a sociological experiment on rats by scientist Edward C. Tolman, searching for their food by finding their way through a labyrint) starts off with threatening mystique, as if we listen to some of the later works by John Coltrane. Claire Parsons (a familiar name at ProgJazz, since we highy acclaimed her 2020 release ‘In Geometry’ read and a number of her live performances we witnessed – clickclick) is pointing out the messages within the pieces in the form of spoken word performances.

The music develops with expressive piano chords, various time signatures that are crossing each other, expressive and improvisational blowing, spot-on double bass and disciplined, steady drumming.

On ‘Gomorra’, about the Neapolitan mafia-like organization ‘Camorra’ Parsons’ voice is more clearly visible and both raps and melodic singing are interspersed with exciting instrumental sections of odd meter and urgent soloing. It’s nice to hear the wind instruments are very up-front in the mix, and for instance, the sensational clarinet sections are really speaking to the listener, while all complex rhythmic patterns in the background are proceeding smoothly. It’s not wild and restless all the time though: there are multiple sections in the music with beautiful piano beds and soothing vocals to provide in dynamic variety.

Our very favorite piece on the album is ‘Scherzo’, which speaks about the lack of authenticity and critical thinking, due to the corporate and mass media doctrines that create stereotypes to which masses of people are mirroring themselves to. Musically, the piece contains key elements that remain active throughout the rest of the album: mystique, excitement, an immense range of different melodies, harmonies, intonations, accents, phrasings and energy levels, which are mostly for the adventurous, open minded listeners.

Sonic exploration

From a sonic perspective, our experience is that all solo instruments are very bright and up-front in the mix, though the bass and drums seem to have a softer, more supportive role. Remigi truly delivers in terms of rhythmic variety, accuracy and precision, though we do miss some depth in the snare sound, which is a bit too flat and one-dimensional to our taste, and therefore is missing out on opportunities to give the drum kit a more expressive and personal voice to the music. In some ways, the thorough nature of Remigi’s compositions are inviting an even more extensive sound palet, including electric instruments like guitar and synthesizer, so, instead of the traditional character of the jazz sextet, the music is being given room to be explored and experienced on a deeper, more colorful level.


Apart from that, there is little to be critical about. It’s a highly admirable and impressive piece of art. This recording may request some resilience from the average listener, so make sure your stamina for out-of-the-box composition and playing is well-stocked.



Tracklist and personnel

  1. Il Labirinto dei Topi
  2. Gomorra
  3. Scherzo
  4. Intermezzo
  5. Tiger Study
  6. The Shooting
  7. To Vijay
  8. Be Bear Aware

Claire Parsons: vocals, effects (LUX)
Federico Calcagno: bass clarinet (IT)
Niran Dasika: trumpet (AUS)
Simon Groppe: piano (FR)
Ramon van Merkenstein: double bass (NL)
Francesca Remigi: drums, compositions (IT)

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