Saturday, 14 November 2009

Guido - Beautiful Complication/Chakra [Punch Drunk]

On paper, there are several things about Guido’s music that really shouldn’t work. Despite his origins and current operation within Bristol’s blossoming bass scene, his ear for bright and shimmering melody recasts him as the polar opposite to the introspection of the city’s smoked-out past and tech-heavy current operators Pinch, Appleblim and Peverelist, trading at times on unabashed sentimentality. His debut 12” for the latter’s Punch Drunk label, Orchestral Lab/Way U Make Me Feel, was drenched in the kind of luxuriant, silky-smooth synth work last heard on the soundtrack to some dodgy eighties erotic thriller. Upon initial inspection at least, his productions forgo the gritty dancefloor flex of his Purple Wow companions Joker and Gemmy. Yet he manages to skirt all of these potential pitfalls with surprising delicacy, infusing his future-shocked R’n’B with a wide-open sense of space and melancholy undertone that sits perfectly within his home city’s dubbed-out musical continuum.

Aside from being one of the most immediately gripping things to emerge from the post-dubstep sprawl in 2009, his second 12” continues to push the increasingly convincing argument that the raft of new producers emerging in the wake of the genre’s sudden outward trajectory are responsible for some of the most forward-thinking UK music to emerge in years. Given that Guido is markedly less prolific than the majority of his contemporaries, the sheer leap in ambition, vitality and vibrancy between his first and second single releases seem an indicator that he may well be on his way to eclipsing the work of his closest musical bedfellows. On a label not short of wonders over its thirteen-release runtime, Beautiful Complication/Chakra may well be the finest thing Punch Drunk have yet put out.

The aspect that elevates ‘Beautiful Complication’ to instant classic status is a deliciously human tension set up between Aarya’s angelic vocal performance and Guido’s minimalist, brooding production. In contrast to the none-smoother, none-richer layering of ‘Orchestral Lab’, he strips the track’s chassis down to its bare essentials, at times reduced to nothing but beat and raw-edged stabs of sub-bass that constantly threaten to overwhelm her presence entirely. So when all the elements meld together and her voice disintegrates around the edges to blur into soft-edged synth pads, the sense of release is tangible, and glorious.

‘Chakra’ on the flip is brighter, driven by a whipcrack snare figure and tightly-wound funk dynamic that pushes forward relentlessly underneath a wonderfully simple and sparse piano motif. Almost entirely untreated in the surrouding morass of heavily processed vocoder elements and dancefloor propulsion, it could have been taken straight from a classic Chicago tune, bumping upward in tight syncopations before spiraling back down into the mix. During the final minute, after three minutes of forward motion and a sudden move towards future-garage flex, the track’s central elements merge into a tantalizingly short tangent straight towards Detroit, gradually submerging underneath a chorus of glassy bleeps that finally fade to close.

This is the stuff that modern pop music is made of. Forget where it came from or the scene that begat its closest relatives – if Cowell and co had managed to put out a single song as affecting, uplifting and vital as either of these two, the entire reality TV charade would have been worthwhile. Luckily, it doesn’t matter one iota that they haven’t, and it wasn’t.

[Photo: Resident Advisor]

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