REVIEW: Luca Agnelli – Optical [DESOLAT 042]

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Our reviewers, Messrs. Pseudo and Nym of no fixed abode, agreed to a review of Luca Agnelli’s new EP ‘Optical’ with a little trepidation.   All they knew was that he was a young DJ hailing from Tuscany and this was his first release since 2013.  ‘Bound to be euphoric,’ said Monsieur Pseudo, with a sneer.   ‘Derivative too, I’ll wager’, added Monsieur Nym, popping the EP on.   But what they heard was something altogether different.  Released on the Desolat label (a reaction to all those sun-kissed beaches and wine-dark seas perhaps?) Optical is pure techno. Raw. Pulsating. Ultimately enigmatic. In many ways the Brutalist child of Richie Hawtin’s 2005 release Tunnel, this EP is edgier than a direct hit on Wilkinson Sword’s head office.

Opening strongly with the eponymous ‘Optical’, booming kicks and bass dominate the low end, while the middle is filled with more stabs than Croydon at 3:00 am. The track remains raw and the percussion sits on the top like bubbles on the surface of a swampy river.

Which conveniently leads us to the next track. In ‘Bubbles’, everything is focused on delivering a single rhythm. It starts with toms and a curious distorted tuned percussion. Something like a synthetic tinwhistle rises up.  But before Monsieur Pseudo could bring his ear-trumpet to his ear, it was gone and ‘Swiss Train‘ had begun.  A far cry from alpine holidays, this would be the soundtrack for Kavinsky’s ghostly Testarossa-driving character’s day job – cruising down highways with his HGV full of Lindt chocolates.

Via ‘Raw‘ – more stabs and kicks and general techno joy – the final track ‘High Pressure’ arrives before the audience have had time to think about that second skittlebomb lined up at the bar, and it is just as strong as the first. Darker than the beginning, descending underneath the Optical soundscape and into the catacombs of some long forgotten concrete nation, torchlight slowly pulsing to the ever-present beat before abruptly dying. Leaving you wanting just a little bit more.

Although Messrs. Pseudo and Nym cannot decide whether it would be more at home on a Friday night at Fabric or Instant (a Budapest must visit) they are both agreed that this is one they will be shuffling along to through spring.  When they are not tripping the light fantastic to Benny Benassi’s latest crowd-pleaser that is.

Optical is out on Desolat this month. Pre-order it here.

Written by Pseudo and Nym