Lorenzo Senni: Scacco Matto review I Ben Beaumont-Thomas's album of the week

(Warp)
The Italian producer charges the euphoria of dancefloor anticipation with punk spirit in these joyous, poignant tracks

‘Where’s the drop?” This was a complaint often howled at festivals or in YouTube comment sections during the EDM years (usually by a hench guy in a vest), when mainstream dance was all about extreme peaks and troughs. They would get annoyed if a track just simmered without delivering a thunderous pay-off, accompanied by a blast of confetti, which in turn was annoying, because for many people the simmering – the coiling tension as a track builds or is allowed to just be – is the best bit.

Lorenzo Senni: Scacco Matto album art work
Lorenzo Senni: Scacco Matto album art work Photograph: Publicity image

Taking this to the extreme is Lorenzo Senni, an Italian arthouse trance producer who puts the palette of rave music to experimental, yet still euphoric, ends. He came of age away from dance music in the Rimini hardcore punk scene, perhaps helping him to now ask the questions that other producers don’t: why have lulls and crescendoes? Why even have beats at all?

His 2012 debut album Quantum Jelly explored the minimalist compositional potential of trashy rave synths, which was a laudable punk provocation and also a little bit boring, with a narrow dynamic range. But with Superimpositions (2014), his music started to open up, taking our pleasure centres with it; his career can be seen as a scientific exploration into the sheer effect of electronic music, honing and intensifying it to provoke the strongest possible response.

With further tracks such as Win in the Flat World, Rave Voyeur and The Shape of Trance to Come, his method approached an almost dangerous perfection. He sustained the breakdown sections of dance tracks in perpetuity, making you cover your face with your hands because you couldn’t handle any more glorious stimulus. To be kept in this state of permanently delayed gratification induces a kind of madness; were it a Hollywood movie, this is the point where the suits funding the experiment would say from behind reinforced glass: “Shut it down. Shut it down!”

But Senni continues to ratchet up the intensity on this new album. He uses his widest range of sound yet but maintains focus by resisting, as he always has done, the inclusion of vocals or drums. This is one of the great and joyous paradoxes of his music, which is still intensely percussive – synths are planed down and combined into hard bolts of sound that have the rhythmic strength of a drum machine – but freed from the shackles of looped drum patterns. Opener Discipline of Enthusiasm is full of this toughness, but funkily hops from one foot to another, a heavyweight with the speed of a bantam.

He scales up melodically too, with some decidedly rococo tunes fluting through XBreakingEdgeX and Move in Silence (Only Speak When It’s Time to Say Checkmate). While they slightly overreach and verge on fussiness, there is still a wonderful exuberance to them. The central section, a pair of ballads, is stronger. Canone Infinito showcases a distinct Senni tone, a pealing yet distorted sound that faintly resembles an electric guitar, set against lulling background undulations: you can imagine Manuel Göttsching approving. Dance Tonight Revolution Tomorrow is exceptional, with a simpler and more realised melody plucked on an algorithmic harp, joined by other ersatz string parts including a double bass twang low in the mix. It captures that beautiful moment in the club when the beat falls away and you click out of your internal space to look around and drink in your mates’ grins.

This music, and indeed all of Senni’s work that deals with that pre-drop tension, is even more poetic when club culture has been silenced during the coronavirus crisis. We’re all waiting for the beat to come back in, and Senni’s work inadvertently hymns this sad moment while encouraging us to look for the poignancy in it.

Scacco Matto means checkmate, and Senni does indeed play his queen last. Think Big is his most ambitious and brilliant track yet, built around a big, charmingly naive melody rendered in the cleanest of analogue signals. Underneath, synths stutter in the same peppy syncopation of Chicago house pianos, before being harassed by blurts of slap bass: an incapacitating accumulation of pleasure triggers. The drop, thankfully, never comes.

Contributor

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Jana Rush: Painful Enlightenment review – an electronic visionary
The Chicago producer finds new emotional depths to the footwork genre, confronting depression and overwork in stunningly original music

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

12, Aug, 2021 @11:00 AM

Article image
Arca: Kick ii, iii, iiii, iiiii review | Alexis Petridis's albums of the week
Four new albums of extravagantly warped electronics offer listeners a lot to take in – and her most pop-focused music to date

Alexis Petridis

03, Dec, 2021 @6:00 AM

Article image
The month's best music: Post Malone, Björk, Lorenzo Senni and more
From Charlotte Gainsbourg’s delicate minimalism to kick-ass indie-punk by Dream Wife – plus Somali disco and elegant techno – here are 50 of the month’s best tracks

Ben Beaumont-Thomas and Rachel Aroesti

02, Oct, 2017 @11:29 AM

Article image
Tunisian techno, Xitsongan rap and Satanic doo-wop: the best new music of 2019
From cheeky rappers to explosive hardcore punks, we introduce 50 artists sure to make an impact in the coming year

Ben Beaumont-Thomas, Laura Snapes and Ammar Kalia

28, Dec, 2018 @10:00 AM

Article image
The 50 best albums of 2019: the full list
Our pick of the year’s finest albums brings American dreaming, teenage dynamism, heartbreak, barbed rap, impetuous indie and beautiful soundscapes

20, Dec, 2019 @9:41 AM

Article image
Irish drill, jazz violin and supermarket musicals: 30 new artists for 2021
From the ferocious hardcore punk of Nicolas Cage Fighter to the ultra-meditative ambient of KMRU, discover new music from right across the pop spectrum

Ben Beaumont-Thomas and Laura Snapes

01, Jan, 2021 @6:00 AM

Article image
The 100 best albums of the 21st century
We polled 45 music writers to rank the definitive LPs of the 21st century so far. Read our countdown of passionate pop, electrifying rock and anthemic rap – and see if you agree

Ben Beaumont-Thomas (1-50); Laura Snapes and April Curtin (51-100)

13, Sep, 2019 @8:00 AM

Article image
Why Radiohead are the Blackest white band of our times
Radiohead released Kid A 20 years ago today. It pointed a new direction for rock music – and mirrored radical Black art by imagining new spaces to live in amid a hostile world

Daphne A Brooks

02, Oct, 2020 @9:00 AM

Article image
Bicep: Isles review | Alexis Petridis's album of the week
The Northern Irish producers kick over the dinner-party table with an album that matches the scope and ambition of 90s dance artists

Alexis Petridis

21, Jan, 2021 @11:08 AM

Article image
Bendik Giske: Cracks review | John Lewis's contemporary album of the month
The Norwegian musician mics the whole studio, influenced by everything from techno to queer theory, on his hypnotic second album

John Lewis

27, Aug, 2021 @8:00 AM