System Of Survival:
Needle and Thread
System of Survival duo Pietro ‘Bingo' De Lisi and Alex Carpentieri, who've been working together since 1989 in their native Italy, originally planned to release their debut album on their own Ianvs71 label, but things changed when Ellen Allien happened to hear “Needle and Thread” on the car stereo while being driven from a Circo Loco gig to the Ibiza Airport. As a result, the twelve-track collection by the Circo Loco resident DJs finds itself on the higher-profile BPitch Control imprint, primed to join no small number of DJ sets and playlists. The release's material consistently draws upon its creators' backgrounds and interests, specifically soul and funk for De Lisi and the sounds of Detroit and Chicago techno for Carpentieri, resulting in a rich and wide-ranging house-rooted style.
Though intended to function as an intro, “Aries” nevertheless promises much in its punchy beat design and ominous thematic figure. Smoothly picking up where it leaves off, “Lovebeat” achieves early lift-off with a tight, double-time drum groove and a creamy keyboard riff as fuel. At this early stage of the album, System Of Survival's crisp and poised attack is already clearly establishing itself, and the tracks that follow do nothing to counter that. Intricate drum programming and multi-layered synth patterns are central to the duo's sound, with that core elaborated upon with piano, guitar, and vocals. Showcasing De Lisi and Carpentieri's well-honed production skills, the clubby house banger “Nihil,” for example, swings with a grace and controlled fury.
“W Pitch Down” slows the pace for a downtempo funk exercise that gets a considerable boost from the soulful vocalizing and synthesizer playing of Surfbit, the first of three guest vocalists on the album. The presence of Hercules and Love Affair's Shaun J. Wright on “Attitude” gives the project a bit of an old-school house vibe in the singer's emotive croon and lyrical sincerity (“Yes, I'll fight for them with love”), while the warm and uplifting house shimmy of “X-Pert” is elevated by a smooth and sensual vocal courtesy of Anna Gi.Not everything's at a similarly high level, however, as some tracks would have benefited from more development. “I Can't Find Food” veers away from the outfit's strict house-centered style for five minutes of jazzy noodling that ultimately meanders a little too aimlessly, while “Phat Trax” fails to make the most of its promising acid-house groove. “Genny Casanova” likewise amounts to little more than a run-on mood piece, even if there is no small amount of interesting textural detail to hold one's interest; the jauntily swinging title track also doesn't capitalize on its initial promise, though the synth and vocal interjections by Autre (real name Pietro Caprioglio) do help keep one listening, and the album-closing “Crash What” spends its opening four minutes cooling its heels listlessly before morphing into a much more interesting vocal-based synth-pop exercise. One comes away from the album feeling that, though it definitely rewards one's time and attention, it had the potential to be stronger.