Italoboyz: Bla Bla Bla

The debut album from Marco Donato and Federico Marton under the Italoboyz moniker, Bla Bla Bla roars with techno fever and inspired conceptual lunacy. Though the album doesn't include “Viktor Casanova,” which became a club hit by wedding a manipulated operatic vocal to minimal techno rhythms, it does include nine head-spinning tracks cut from similar cloth. To a greater degree than most dance music producers, Donato and Marton audaciously merge disparate genres—house and techno naturally, but also jazz, classical, and folk—into arresting set-pieces. As a result, the seventy-three-minute set remains engrossing because of its many unpredictable twists and turns. Where else, for example, might you hear the voice of Salvador Dali (heard alongside a piano-heavy techno-funk base in “L'anagramme”) rub shoulders with the playing of John Coltrane (supposedly containing “the only legally licensed John Coltrane sample in the history of dance music,” “Bahia” merges passages of acoustic jazz heaviness and elastic techno propulsion). The related cut “Edo Breiss” needs little more than the bluster of a jazzy tenor sax, a repeating funk bass line, and a swinging backbeat groove to keep one listening for seven enticing minutes.

“Where Is London” gets the album started on a high note with a tango-inflected throwdown punctuated by samples of Big Ben and a stepping pulse ornamented by sparkling piano rambunction. Aided by the inclusion of French duo Masomenos, the track rides a jubilant techno wave for a dozen chugging minutes, and exudes an exotic, Eastern European character when a spinet-like treatment makes the piano sound closer in spirit to a dulcimer (one hears also the piano's inner strings being strummed). The boyz thankfully invest the project with ample doses of irreverence and humour, with “Chinese” the most obvious exemplar. Over a thumping techno pulse, the voice sample “I don't speak Chinese” gets twisted, chopped, and mangled while Asian piano melodies brightly tinkle alongside. The East-West fusion amuses, yes, but it's also cleverly executed, and something more than just a joke. Equally an 808-driven techno broiler and tribal disco jam, “Taka Taka Tashhh” burns with feverish energy, while a “rumble” voice snippet sliced'n'diced into rhythmic flow eggs on a racing minimal tech-house pulse in “Techno Tower.” Bla Bla Bla ends arrestingly with “The Pink Unicorn,” a jazz-tinged and piano-heavy setting the duo recorded live during a four-hour session in Tokyo. Again, piano is at the forefront though this time any trace of dance rhythms are downplayed in favour of a more organic, ride cymbal-driven pulse.

If there's a weakness to Bla Bla Bla, it's that its tracks tend to meander loosely, making them sometimes feel less like economically-designed compositions and more like overlong jams. What compensates for that is diversity, the fact that each track pursues a different end and uses individuating and imaginative means to reach it. The collection ultimately doesn't feel like an unrelated collection of separate pieces either, as Italoboyz unify the album by sprinkling dense piano clusters across many of the tracks' thumping rhythms.

October 2009