Review Summary: Trance minus dance = POINTILLISM・・・・・・・・・・
I feel that an increasingly prominent trait of '20s #discourse is fixation on dance music from a non-dance perspective - and no, not just because Covid ***ed the clubs over. A full unpacking would deserve its own time and place, but I’d wager that the chief factors here can be triangulated between
1) online music consumption stripping originally situational styles of their intended habitats (for both better and worse),
2) the simple matter of certain genres of electronic that have picked up an attractive retro sheen after hitting peak popularity in the ‘90s and spending decades out of vogue (particularly trance and, to a lesser degree, big beat), and
3) the still more simple matter that the sheer quality of the music in question was always destined to appeal to a wider audience than those whose nightlife choices are communitarian and kinetic.
So here we are - all music is at the disposal of practically any context: Orbital are study beats, the Prodigy are a viable commute jam, LTJ Bukem lurks in the back of some fresh couple’s love nest while they make omelette together, and Goa trance fuels the wet dreams of platformer game fans the world over. The possibilities are endless; the realities are endlessly evocative of (occasionally) adorable Sims pastiches. Many of us who grew up indoctrinated into pop/rock dogma, expecting every individual part of a song to maintain an ongoing dialectic with every other, have learned to cool our jets and jive with music driven by repetition and patient layering. A little misappropriation, a little dissemination, a little personal growth - who’s to complain?
Take one step further back from the epicentre of ‘90s rave culture, and we come to the fiddly but very exciting question of how to view music made by and/or for non-dancers who love dance genres. That’s a vast category with umpteen potential ‘answers’, but few people offer as much relevance to it as Lorenzo Senni. Senni is an Italian electronic producer whose rather unusual formative experiences with electronic music consisted in attending (as he puts it, ‘observing’) gabber and trance nights as a straight edge university student primarily involved in the Romagna hardcore scene - and that’s hardcore punk, ravers. In accordance with this, his Persona
EP is almost entirely focused on peering at trance music from the perspective of an invested outsider, from his imaginative restylisation of the genre’s palette and structural conventions, to his hints of self-distancing in the title and his self-description as a rave voyeur
, to, inevitably, the artwork. Senni rather aptly terms his take on trance as pointillistic
, a reference to the relentlessly staccato approach he adopts for everything from his synth-pizz flurries to his squelching acid bass, but the erratic aspects of this extend to his rhythms, which, while robust, are so sharply contoured that the mere thought of translating them into actual motion is immediately accompanied by fear of physical injury. This is music about dance music, at once obsessed with its visceral thrills and openly out of step with the qualities that make it, well, danceable. Parallels may be drawn here with the likes of Perturbator and early-days Crystal Castles: kinesthetic overloads that hardly compel their audience to move a muscle.
Senni achieves this with reasonable consistency throughout the EP’s 30-minute sensory overload; his one notable misstep is the meandering "Angel", an R Plus Seven
-esque progressive electronic suite that drags its heels a tad too much for too long, more an admittedly cogent set-up for the closer “Forever True” than an individually rewarding experience. Beyond that, it’s more of a case of how much centre of gravity each cut packs; as fun as "emotiva1234"'s deconstructed frolic and "One Life, One Chance"'s arthritis-inducing laser frenzy are, the bookending tracks end up as highlight pieces, grounded as they are by a comparatively steady set of rhythmic pulses. There’s no need to dissect things too thoroughly though: Persona
holds up holistically, stimulating and gratifying an attentive listener enough to eschew danceability. It posits an unrelenting stretch of trance climax (structurally speaking, but hell, also otherwise), itself peppered with micro-climaxes. This leaves it too intense to function as a social album, but it does bear the rather wholesome imprint of more extroverted source texts - it’s easy to envision these tracks as an echo of good times shared to the sound of more stable beats, remembered in a form warped and irretrievable but no less enlivening for it. Sit, listen, smile - or, go right ahead and dance (if you dare)!