Gui Boratto Chromophobia

[Kompakt; 2007]

Styles:  techno
Others: The Field, Ellen Allien, Ricardo Villalobos, The Dahlbacks, Aphex’s ambient work

Brazilian producer Gui Boratto took an interesting path prior to recording what I think is going to end up as one of the best electronic releases of the year. Before issuing Chromophobia for Kompakt earlier this year, he put in work, doing everything from writing commercial jingles to manning the decks on a Garth Brooks record. An unassuming craftsman, his tracks are fabulous and colorful, but also candid, each reflecting a fastidious artisan’s sensibility. In an alternate universe, I could easily imagine Gui Boratto as an ingenious toymaker, building motorized, multidimensional jigsaw puzzles with gleeful neon skins. But I’d rather keep him here, translating that mechanical wizardry into beautiful techno.

I’ve been listening to this one for a full month now, and I have to say Boratto’s one of the best I have heard at packing subtleties into almost every bar, so that almost all repetition (both the bête noir and the raison de vivre of dance music, excuse my French) on the record becomes illusory. Cleverly patterned, these songs wriggle and scoot out of linear trajectories, where less attentive producers would leave them. It should be noted, however, that Gui is not afraid of the trance-y dramatic arc: several tracks get stripped to a single voicing to initiate the conventional element-by-element climax that crests with astral synths and spiraling melodies. You get the sense that Boratto does this with a twinkle in his eye (and an adroit hand on the mixing console): tracks like “Gate 7” tease the listener, making several approaches to the big payoff without actually realizing it. Boratto’s too wily to be trapped within trance clichés, so before reaching moments more frank about their grandeur, we’re treated to the skittering, sassy, hyperintuitive clockwork that swirls around what are, sometimes, the most ordinary metronomic beats.

In a Stylus interview, Gui mentions his background as an architect. That makes sense when you listen to him. His robust, mathematical artistry seems tailored to both accommodate and expand the constraints of the human scale. Listening to Chromophobia could be compared to walking down a serpentine corridor with a hundred doors, some the size of cargo bays, others slim as mail slots, each opening and closing, caching or coughing up a melody or beat structure. But making it all the way down that curious hallway may require more patience than non-techno fans are willing to give. Likely crossover hit “Beautiful Life,” however, should not be missed. Buried in the album’s back half, it’s the one song with vocals, although you can find fetching traces of human presence elsewhere too. Boratto achieves this by greasing tracks here and there with organic sounds that slip across the mix in languid streaks of decay irrespective of the beat. It’s a much cannier approach than simply throwing in field recordings or dumb voiceovers (tactics that lose their appeal as soon as you’ve heard them once). Chromophobia’s too smart for that, but never too smart for its own good. Find it, play (with) it, and keep your fingers crossed for more from Boratto soon.

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