On The Turntable: Aktuala May 17 2018
Formed in Milano in 1972 by husband and wife Walter and Laura Maioli along with percussionist Lino Capra Vaccina, Aktuala (meaning "current" in Esperanto) are often compared to their German and UK contemporaries, Embryo and Third Ear Band. The Maiolis collected ancient and traditional instruments from around the world, and their compositions combine Eastern and African influences with Italian folk modes as well as avant-garde and progressive leanings. The results are stretched-out jams that are psychedelic in mindset, but acoustic in nature.
The group released three albums (Aktuala, La Terra and Tappeto Volante) between 1973 and 1976 on the Bla Bla label, which is most famous for releasing the early work of Franco Battiato. Following the group's disbanding, Walter Maioli went on to play with an incredibly diverse set of artists from Futuro Antico (with keyboardist Riccardo Sinigaglia) and the brilliant Amazonia 6891 project to Armenian duduk player Djivan Gasparyan and German artist Christina Kubisch. Vaccina would become a pioneer in his own right, best known for his 1978 solo record Antico Adagio. Aktuala's reeds player Daniele Cavallanti went on to be a noted jazz musician, performing with the duo of Roberto Musci and Giovanni Venosta.
Though much noise has been made regarding subsequent work of its core members, Aktuala's three fantastic albums remain largely underappreciated – reissued to little fanfare outside of their native Italy. In addition to being important pieces of the Italian ambient, experimental and "fourth world" scene – a historial period that has seen dozens of archival releases and huge amounts of review copy dedicated to it in recent years – Aktuala deserve to be rediscovered not only for their influence, but also for the beautiful music contained therein. Essential listening for current times.