Rolf & Fonky: Cobra (Donnacha Costello December 2004 Remix)

Kikko Solaris & S. Dub: Re-freezer EP

Mathias Schaffhäuser & Xhin: Ice Monster

VA: Nocturne

Great 12-inch material continues to emanate from Alessandro Vaccaro's Catania, Italy-based Persistencebit Records warehouse, including releases by Donnacha Costello, Kikko Solaris & S.Dub, and Mathias Schaffhäuser & Xhin, plus there's a special one-off project combining photography and music that's perfect for those leisurely, off-club moments.

The first in its “Texture Series,” Kikko Solaris & S.Dub's Re-Freezer EP provides a choice sampling of the label's material. The title track, which gets the A-side all to itself, is a barn-burning slice of multi-hued tech-house. Swizzling synth patterns dance and low voices murmur while hand claps, swinging hi-hat patterns, pounding kick drums, and wiry bass lines provide the rhythmic thrust. The vibe turns progressively more electro-like as layers of rubbery synth melodies—poppy and subterranean—weave into starlit formation, until a late-inning breakdown brings funk bass flourishes to the forefront. Pushing that electro dimension further, the B-side's “In Da Beginning” works a bit of a Daft Punk vibe into its 4/4 throb with vocodered voices and swirls of chiming synth accents added to the track's double-time pulsation, while “Collision Globe” slows the tempo a bit for a low-riding trip into sleek techno-funk with bass synth lines strongly boosting the tune's fresh future-funk feel.

The fourth in that same “Texture Series,” Donnacha Costello's re-rub of “Cobra” by Rolf and Fonky (Italian DJs and producers Mirco Uguccioni and Maurizio Ottavi) is a bass-heavy, low-riding techno pounder tailor-made for the club. With razor-sharp hi-hats and martial snare patterns leading the war-like charge, the intensity mounts as layers build and handclaps echo until a steadily-executed decompression alleviates the tension. The track slows to a crawl and eventually stillness, the titular snake either expiring altogether or assuming a frozen position while it awaits the arrival of its next unsuspecting prey. Though the EP is a single-sided and single-track release, Costello's industrial-strength treatment of Rolf and Fonky's original is powerful enough all by its lonesome.

Ice Monster, produced as part of the “Electronic Music in Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Zealand” project initated by the Goethe Institute, brings Mathias Schaffhäuser and Xhin, originating from Cologne and Singapore respectively, together to collaborate on two tracks. “Ice Monster” mixes ricocheting percussion effects, tiny machine clicks, and a pumping groove into a tasty cocktail of swinging techno, funk, and house. Halfway through, the track changes gears dramatically by briefly morphing into a traditional jazz style (replete with a gravelly and rather silly voiceover declaiming “The Ice monster's coming”) before springing back into its previous form. The B's “Rendezvous Hotel” perpetuates the future-techno vibe with a driving bottom-end spiked by skipping hi-hat patterns, spacey synth stabs, and breakdowns so funky they'll pull clubbers to the dance floor whether they wish to or not.

Nocturne's a different animal altogether. In place of 12-inch vinyl, Nocturne presents a lavish, full-colour booklet of glossy photographs and a related CD featuring musical pieces by Scanner, Pleo,, Populous, Tu M', and others. Having drawn inspiration in his photograph work from the music of certain electronic composers, Francesco Brunotti contacted artists whose musical style he felt to be complementary to his own with the idea of uniting the two in a single project. He subsequently supplied the nine artists with photographs and each responded with an instrumental response to the images, collectively resulting in a fifty-four-minute “soundtrack.” In keeping with the title, Brunotti's photos are night scenes that are empty of people, making space itself the primary focal point, even if the images often depict illuminated man-made structures (buildings, train and gas stations, bridges, suburban streets, factories, an amusement park).

Byla's “Bloodrush” begins the collection on a harrowing note with five minutes of violent grinding before Martux's “Soundscape 02” offers a calmer setting of dream-like atmosphere. Quietly rippling and clicking rhythms lend the piece a languorous propulsion while luminescent tones relaxedly stretch out until the dam breaks at the eight-minute mark, with heavy-hitting tribal beats appearing repeatedly in the minutes that follow. One of the few tunes with rhythmic heft is Wang Inc's “Consciousness of Loneliness,” a lithe slice of propulsive future-techno, and one of the loveliest is Ether's “Mos 54” which stands out for its lovely chord progressions and warm ambiance. Elsewhere, Scanner combines softly burbling keyboard patterns and staccato rhythms in “Toward Sleep Like Fog,” and Tu m' paints a landscape of billowing electroacoustic haze in “Wind in the Forest.” Most of the pieces are downtempo “sound paintings,” gently drifting and gaseous moodscapes of a rather retiring and pronouncedly atmospheric kind. In fact, the CD's material is reminiscent of a compilation one would associate with BiP_HOp or Mille Plateaux than Persistencebit but that's not meant as a criticism, merely a way of identifying how different Nocturne is from anything else in the Italian label's catalogue.

February 2009