Pier Bucci - Familia

If there's such a thing as perfect 4 a.m. music, the debut album from Chile's Pier Bucci could be it. Imagine that time of night when your senses are considerably fuzzy, and you're not sure whether to wring out every last drop of borrowed energy on the dancefloor or flop back in a seat. Familia could happily soundtrack either option.

It may best be described as minimal house, although - those of you better at categorising - feel free to disagree. Typical of the style is Towers, beginning simply with light, blippy rhythms, then slowly weaving in synth pattern melodies to gradually become a more complex beast. It's trance-like but (fortunately) it ain't trance. The approach is often playful and inventive; on Jesss, for example, quick hiccups of vocal actually form part of the rhythm.

To keep things involving, the record has resonance in spades. Long synth washes on Siberian create a spacey atmosphere, while penultimate number Pipostrack is an awe-filled plod through tinkling piano groves. Sadly, album closer Hydra really does seem like a splash in the bath by comparison, both literally and metaphorically.

None of the above would have been out of place on Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Vol.1 1985-1992 (which leads one to question just how far electronic music has evolved over the last couple of decades). Where Pier Bucci distinguishes himself is in the addition of vocals to his soundscapes, even if this only applies to three tracks here.

Armelle Pioline appears - to arresting effect - on Tita and L'Nuit. The former opens the album in haunting fashion, and, although the lyrics are in English, they have a delicious dreaminess which make them unclear (something to do with diving?). The calypso melody adds to the sense of exoticism.

On L'Nuit, her French vocal wavers in the mix, half spoken, half sung, while the rhythm, to begin with, pounds like a fast heartbeat. It's sensual, mysterious, heady. By the end, sounds are ricocheting around the speakers as if someone is battling with a pinball table, and all manner of squidgy acid noise madness has been unleashed.

Neck in neck with L'Nuit for most full on track is Hay Consuelo. The vocal here is by Macha (I'm guessing the language as Spanish) and has a timeless, magical quality, as if he is serenading a female, or perhaps just singing at the full moon in the vast night sky. Whatever, it works well with the rippling bass and the sort of synthetic bird call which should have ravers searching for new shapes to throw.

Perhaps because these tracks astonish, the purely instrumental stretches occasionally seem rambling. It's a small gripe, however; this is quality "electronica", trippy and beautiful. If you believe music can be worth a thousand words, if you enjoy the imaginative voyage odd blips and ambiguous vocals can take you on, Familia may be one of the year's more impressive releases - whether you're still standing or have crashed and burned.



out of 10

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