Gui Boratto: III

The obvious downside to having a roundly acclaimed debut album is that it must be, if not surpassed, at least equaled in the ones that follow. Look no further than Gui Boratto as an example of said syndrome. His Chromophobia arrived in 2007 on a wave of critical acclaim and instantly established the Brazilian electronic music producer and DJ as a figure-to-watch, but the follow-up, 2009's Take My Breath Away, found him faltering in a set that didn't rise to its predecessor's heights. Now, his third, club-focused collection attempts to scale that mountain again but this time more successfully and on the whole comes close to doing so.

Boratto's sound is heavily synthetic and bass-driven this time around, as evidenced by the coiling synthesizer patterns with which “Galuchat” begins and which quickly morph into the tune's quietly radiant melodic core. Grounded by a purring bass figure, the slow-building track functions as an effective intro to the album in the way it surreptitiously draws the listener into its electro-dub lair. The second track finds us already in uptempo territory, with Boratto powering “Stems From Hell” with an insistent thump for eight minutes and cranking up the tension-and-release factor through the repetition of a rising melodic figure. There's an omnipresent thrust to Boratto's material that's clearly heard in a track such as “Striker” (originally intended for Take My Breath Away) where his cryptic vocal, so deeply embedded in the mix its words verge on indecipherable, feels secondary to the bass-throbbing groove slamming through the tune. In its stirring blend of melodic uplift, winsome melancholy, and pulsing rhythms, “Flying Practice” is quintessential Boratto, with the producer in top form in striking the perfect balance between expansive mood and driving rhythm. It's during such moments that his music ascends to the rapturous heights of trance and house at their most dynamic.

III includes its fair share of club-ready thumpers, with “Talking Truss” a prototypical example in its meld of syncopated chords, rave theatrics, and swinging tech-house flow. “The Drill” finds Boratto flirting with schaffel in a grimey, low-slung workout spiked by bleeding synth flares and surging chords—a decent enough piece but one that feels a tad paint-by-numbers compared to some of the album's more ambitious cuts. Not all of the album's tracks are dance-oriented. “Trap,” for instance, slows the tempo for a brooding meditation of Rhodes-electric guitar interplay that would fit just as comfortably on an Amon Tobin recording, while “Soledad,” Boratto's homage to Astor Piazolla, is less a riff on the nuevo tango master's sublime balladry than a dramatic, synth-heavy exercise in melancholic moodscaping.

No fool he, Boratto knows that ending a recording on a transcendent note can make all the difference in a listener's impression of the album as a whole, and so closes III with the radiant dance-pop of “This Is Not the End,” featuring vocals by his wife, Luciana Villanova. Having said all that, III, while a more-than-credible effort, won't dislodge Chromophobia from its position as the most essential Boratto recording of the three available. There's no denying, however, that III is an eminently credible offering in its own right, and one comes away from it more than a little impressed by Boratto's superb production skills.

November 2011