Rolf & Fonky: Immunactiv EP

Rolf & Fonky: To Care DVD

Rolf & Fonky with Scanner: Tinnito

There's not a wealth of bio info available about Rolf & Fonky (Italian DJs and techno artists Maurizio Ottavi and one-time drummer Mirco Uguccioni) but three new Persistencebit releases offer a comprehensive representation of their work. Aside from hearing a strong Ai connection in their bright electro-techno sound, we also know the two welcome collaboration, whether it be Scott Pagano's DVD direction or Scanner's musical partnership.

Arriving in a super-jewel case accompanied by full-colour insert, the To Care DVD gets full marks for presentation and production value. It's an ambitious project (eight videos of 7-10 minutes each plus an extra, Mario's electrofied “Hanima” remix) as opposed to a slapdash curio. The videos are largely variations on a theme, each one displaying multiple layers of semi-transparent imagery. Footage is both real and computer-generated, shown alternately and simultaneously. The style is generally abstract, geometric, and amorphous, with imagery unfurling in slo-mo, non-narrative manner while the duo's pulsating electro-dub-techno (the sleek “To Care,” the warm bump of “Dream Tracks Plaster Cast”) churns alongside. The music's great, the visuals merely so-so, the sort of thing that'll look of its time twenty years from now but looks tolerable enough now: strobing bombardment one often sees projected in a club to sustain energy and continuity between live sets. Steely shards dominate “Hanima,” “Nothing” features liquid architecture, and, overlaid by tendrilesque patterns, a woman drifts through an outdoor landscape in “Immunactiv.” The only truly grating misstep appears in “To Care” where an actress's B-move Vampirella persona reduces the video to kitsch. Watch the DVD more for the duo's music, then, and approach the mini-movies as rapidly-changing wallpaper than self-sustaining narratives.

With two tracks in common, the Immunactiv 12-inch seems a natural if more modest complement to the DVD. Interestingly, though, the simpler vinyl treatment arguably serves the duo better by limiting the focus and thereby accentuating their strongest asset. No longer distracted by their videos' abstract patterning, one better savours the downtempo electro-sparkle of “Hanima” and the roiling title cut's jittering jack, for instance, while the jubilantly rollicking “Jedy” and elegant “Devices” are entrancing enough to render visual accompaniment unnecessary.

Tinnito, the duo's full-length collab with Scanner (British electronic musician Robin Rimbaud), likewise appeals on a number of counts. It's succinct, for one, with five tracks clocking in at thirty-nine minutes, plus it expands its scope beyond techno into other realms, stoking a ferocious acid storm in “Overstressing,” for example, and getting dirty with rolling breaks in “Sound Intensity.” “Cortic Organ” nicely merges Rolf & Fonky's pulsating electro-groove with Scanner's voice treatments and electrical white noise. While Rimbaud plays his atmospheric hand conspicuously on the brooding “The Balance System” where scratchy ripples and garbled voices stream over funky breaks, his album presence is rather restrained. If there's a weakness, it's the artists' over-reliance on run-on grooves, the musicians a bit too content to let the machines do the work for them. But aside from that, Tinnito effectively draws upon the artists' respective strengths.

May 2006