A Fine Day Between Addictions

Diego Sandrin

Independent release, 2007


REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


The best part of this job (if you could call it that, though you really can’t, since “job” sort of implies both compensation and irritation, neither of which is involved here) is the completely unexpected stuff that just shows up one day in the mail.

Diego Sandrin is not a name you’re likely to be familiar with unless by some chance you’re an aficionado of either Italian punk band Ice and the Iced (sorry, no) or “Gone,” the track he co-wrote with Lisa Marie Presley for her To Whom It May Concern album (which is clearly too specific for us to be just making shit up here).

You might also have seen Sandrin’s name on Italian jazz albums – he had his own label, Sentemo -- or perhaps you caught him in an LA nightclub fronting a band featuring an all-female string quartet.  And if you’re thinking by now that this all sounds like the screenplay to a particularly surrealistic European film, heh, as it happens A Fine Day Between Addictions was produced by Italian film director Romeo Toffanetti, who had never been inside a recording studio before beginning work on this album at Acustic Studio, near Venice (the one in Italy, not LA).

Deep breath now.  Stay with me.

A Fine Day Between Addictions is a fascinating piece of work.  Composed and sung mostly in English with the occasional Italian verses and transliterations, it’s a distinctly cinematic cycle of avant-garde folk songs about the agonies of love, the meaning of life, and the emptiness of modern Western culture.

Heavy?  Yes.  This is not an album you’ll want to dance to, but Sandrin has a wonderful, rather Mark Knoplfer-ish rumble to his vocals from which tumble images and lines both compelling and obscure.  The arrangements – mostly simple and spacious, featuring acoustic guitar and piano, gentle percussion, frequent use of strings and occasional female background vocals – keep the focus on Sandrin’s voice and storytelling, as well they should.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The inside front cover of the stylish, detailed lyric-book (each song gets its own page and facing illustration) is emblazoned with the motto “LOVE DEVOURS,” and it doesn’t take long to understand what Sandrin is getting at.  “Blanket” is a carefully modulated portrait of a consuming, obsessive crush, a sort of acoustic hymn that finds Sandrin singing “I want your tongue your ears your mouth / I want your reflection your every attention…”  The chorus is where he reveals the core of the story, though: “I have a blanket to crawl with you under / And I’ll have a storm there to shelter you from dear / Should I ever see you again.”

From there you get a series of equally evocative, if not always as intense, portraits of characters and scenarios.  “From Music To Nothing” portrays the disillusioning aftermath of a love not unlike the one in “Blanket”; “Bad Graces” is a sort of calm rant to the same sort of reluctant lover.  The middle section of the disc seems like a travelogue of a trip taken in an effort to forget the pain experienced in the first three cuts, as Sandrin visits “Sammy’s Farm” and picks apart the foibles of “My American Friends.”

This escape doesn’t lead him out of the darkness, though, as in the final third Sandrin goes back to taunting his “Pretty Angel,” ranges way off-topic to narrate one song as a teenaged abuse victim who fights back (“Aged 14 Years”), and closes with the rocking “I’m Not Happy At All.”

For all this darkness, these tunes still carry the undercurrent of hope implied by the title, and by curiously ambiguous lines such as “It takes a faulty mind like mine to be free.”

The fact that Toffanetti produced and arranged this album with no prior studio experience is frankly astonishing; every arrangement feels pitch-perfect, matching tones and instrumental choices to the lyrics beautifully, and sonically this baby is clean as a whistle.  On an iPod, it sounds like Sandrin and company are sitting in the room with you.

There are times when the whole thing gets a bit overwrought – I did find the middle section of “My American Friends” over the top with its swelling strings and horns and calculated-to-shock x-rated lyric; likewise the closing Italian-in-an-echo-chamber narration on “Pretty Angel” – but overall, A Fine Day Between Addictions is a dynamic statement by an artist who melds seriousness of purpose with real insight and entertainment value.  Avril Lavigne it ain’t, but this is intriguing, challenging, compelling stuff.

Rating: A-

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© 2007 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Independent release, and is used for informational purposes only.