- For album appreciators fixated of late on the tough-metal bind of Ostgut/Berghain, it seems hard to remember that just two years ago Kompakt was turning out kaleidoscopic stunners, and Gui Boratto was a big part of it. Coupled with Axel Willner's debut album as The Field, the Sao Paolo native's debut on the Cologne label, Chromophobia, was arguably the year's biggest techno crossover record, a thirteen-tracker of vibrant emotionality and narrative coloring that seemed a gift for album lovers and long-form listeners.
Chromophobia offered a breadth of sound that felt neither too far-reaching nor too shallow, shifting from the swaying green-eyed trance of "Mala Strana" to the loose-hipped minimalism of the title track or "The Blessing." Where Willner wanted you submerged—dunked in his stately symphonic bristling as a kind of hypnotic alternative reality, soothing and almost placid—Boratto needed your senses at day-speed to appreciate all the colors of his palette. He wanted you here, both ears open, almost as a storyteller would, to appreciate his smooth sonic weaving, one of simple stubby rhythms and charming synthetic cadences.
Of course, Boratto's ain't been slack since then. Beside a wealth of remixes to his credit on labels like Boxer and Systematic, he released the underrated single "The Island" with Martin Eyerer and placed highlights on compilations by both Cocoon and Kompakt. The latter, "Anunciación," was classic Boratto, a serene buzz of layered synths and sinewy euphoric tones. His follow up full-length, Take My Breath Away, plays like a natural successor to last year’s "Anunciación," exemplifying Boratto's fascination with playing subtle cross-grain tensions against the rosiest-cheeked of melodies.
"No Turning Back," the record's foray into the pop-nuggetry of "Beautiful Life," makes more out of its staid formula than you hear at first, progressing from a retread of that track's overt summer evening rush to reveal itself as less showy with its tenderness, less gaudily sentimental if just as engaging. Lead single "Atomic Soda" toys with the most abstract, Picasso-shifted senses of tune, with its bubbly, sanded-down synths and peppery rhythms, while the effervescent pulses of "Take My Breath Away" slowly wear away at its stark, pulpy beat 'til they gain a hold. Meanwhile, "Opus 17" perfects Boratto's taste for field-day meandering, another of his tiny hummable epics that doesn't waste syllables or sounds.
But whereas much of Chromophobia's sway lay in how adeptly Boratto melded his talent for song with sly frictions between his rhythms and oft buried melodies, sometimes Take My Breath Away is too contented with gaudy surface appeal. "Besides" lacks "Mala Strana"'s shy, first-love ascent and winds up sounding like its dull coffeehouse remix, while "Les Enfants" bungles the narrative arc necessary to keep its lite electronica afloat. More perplexing though is final track "Godet," which as an interlude of solemn piano and gurgles of electronic finishing stinks of the self-aware ambient album closer. And yet, in chastising Boratto for some of these flaws, I can't help but feel a bit like the dickhead who lampoons his friend for being too welcoming, too open and friendly. In a techno landscape often cold and crass, anything like the sincerity Boratto has to offer should be met fireside, a hot cup on hand.
01. Take My Breath Away
02. Atomic Soda
04. Opus 17
05. No Turning Back
07. Les Enfants