Release Date: Mar 3, 2009
Record label: Kompakt Germany
Two years ago, people spoke about Gui Boratto’s Chromophobia as if it enabled them to levitate in the street. I was part of that chorus—that’s my story and I stand by it. The accolades are well-founded: at the hands of this Brazilian producer, the arctic temperatures sometimes mentioned in the same breath as “minimal techno” are warmed measurably on Chromophobia, with blissful arrangements and clever pop-and-club melds.
If high school biology taught me one thing, it’s that as much can be said about a single cell as can be said about a system of them. Then why, I ask myself, do I struggle to describe Gui Boratto’s Take My Breath Away, an album that so carefully extracts the basic elements of the music that I love? To start, Boratto records for Cologne, Germany’s Kompakt label, the premier source for meticulously conceived, bare-bones techno. From what I can tell, the unifying feature of Kompakt’s releases is the willful surrender of human flourishes: Clean mixes, phasing synth lines, and the near-ubiquitous 4/4 pulse replace charisma or charm as the music’s terminal focus.
Gui Boratto is as much a product of the democratization of techno as he is a preacher of it. While he started out in the early 1990s as a jingle writer in São Paulo before moving to rock production and performing, his subsequent move to techno was motivated primarily by the desire for control: He wanted to be able to run his own studio from his living room. And control he did: Chromophobia, his 2007 breakthrough on Kompakt, evangelized the steady bass pulse and austere dissonance of contemporary techno within the context of inviting, discrete songs.
Take My Breath Away is the third album, following the 2004 apprentice-work Royal House and 2007’s superb Chromophobia, from Brazilian producer Gui Boratto. Two years ago, the latter record stood out from the minimalist crowd like go-faster stripes on a hearse, reconstituting the trancier elements of progressive house that the dominant Berlin scene had been industriously stripping away with an inventiveness and enthusiasm that showed all roads to melody needn’t be paved with cheese. With minimal house running low on inspiration of late, the scene as a whole has moved towards Boratto’s sound – god knows, he’s done enough remixes in the last couple of years to shift it all by himself – so Take My Breath Away can be seen as falling into difficult second album territory (provided, that is, you ignore the fact it’s his third).
Let me preface this a bit, just a little bit. Have you ever spoken to people who listen to electronic music and who seem to have such a, for lack of a better word, pretentious stand on it? This can be seen from two sides: the side that listens to only club standards and dare say they know everything there is to know about the genre and then there are those who claim to know every sub-genre underneath the electronic name and scoff at people who use the word ‘electronica.’ Where exactly am I going with this? Well, let’s see. Electronic music is a HUGE genre with a multitude of genres underneath its shadow.
São Paulo’s Gui Boratto surprised many with his unassuming debut album Chromophobia two years ago. On the backs of molar-rattling, tightly-coiled sides of titanium-plated techno, Boratto delivered a disc that was equal parts laid-back wallows and hopscotch agility, all of it glistening with vivid melodies. But from the stridently Floydian gravitas of its cover to the ponderous, tolling piano notes that close the album, Take My Breath Away finds Boratto straining uncomfortably to make some kind of serious statement.