Gui Boratto: III

Nathan Wisnicki

When he’s on his game, Gui Boratto can let timbre subsume rhythm without sounding languorous. On III, he sounds languorous.

Gui Boratto


Label: Kompakt
US release date: 2011-09-13
UK release date: 2011-09-26

This always happens. Laptop Guy makes Laptop Music; Laptop Guy works some good tones into some (often justifiably) well-received singles; Laptop Guy releases engaging, textural debut album with sonics blending toward something resembling forward motion; Laptop Guy can now have a successful life traveling the world and DJ-ing for masses of swelled pupils. Somebody else can worry about objective quality, I suppose; hence, let’s all raise our glasses to the valiant music writers everywhere who are left holding the bag on this stuff, parsing through the forceful thumps of albums like III and listening for anything that emerges from the mildly anguished blur. Make no mistake: that 'mildly anguished blur' is what a Kompakt album sounds like by the third go-round. At least they humour us with echo. Although getting more 4/4 digital echo in 2011 is like how a dog must feel when you lay out the 139th bowl of kibble.

Now, Chromophobia, Gui Boratto’s 2008 debut, had an oft-heard French house/German microhouse mix, but it really did sound vivid, sequential, and – at its best and most melodious, tracks like “Scene 1”, “Acróstico”, and particularly the token vocal, “Beautiful Life” – even progressive. Though personally I found his sophomore Take My Breath Away a dull shrug of a record, its industrialist-pop base won some people’s admiration. The point is that when he’s on his game, Boratto can let timbre subsume rhythm without sounding languorous. On III, he sounds languorous.

The album’s not without its sonic kick, of course. Kompakt records almost always sound terrific, even at their flattest. The dissonant, scattered hums of opener “Galuchat” crawl their way into a buzz is a mild thrill; ditto the tones of “Soledad”, blurring and re-focusing to the sad melodic disruptions around them. There’s a menacing guitar thrust to “Striker”, and the simple rapid-fire staccato of “Flying Practice” is won over by the grand carry of the sound itself. But these are the closest that III gets to any transferable drama, or tension-and-release; the rest of the album – even “The Drill”, which Kompakt for some reason chose for inclusion on this August’s Total 12 comp – always hints at getting busy with the thumping flashes of timbre, but even when it does, we always seem to end up back at Trent Reznor’s Elevator Music World. Whatever culminations take place seem stressed, not natural and much less ‘earned.’

There are tinges of vocals in a couple of tracks, but “This Is Not the End” is the only one that delivers them full-on. It’s sung by Luciana Villanova, who also sang “Beautiful Life”, and her voice adds some well-needed breeze, to be sure. Problem is, it is the end by this point, on top of which her voice itself is tampered-with to a weird degree; it sounds plugged and blurry in places, and Villanova now seems submissive to the swells of the beat – which doesn’t do much for the melodic grace that she was so good with before. And speaking of melody, isn’t it still a little soon to be re-doing the “All My Friends” tune? Just sayin’.

Talented? Of course Boratto is, and of course they (Kompakt) are. But young Laptop Guy never has to make another album as good as that first one – there’s simply no need for one, no demand in the scheme of his 9 to 5-ing (P.M.-A.M.). The aesthetic is so fitted to a scene with no indication of slowing down that simply keeping up is enough. In a dance club with good acoustics and the right number of blue strobes – or as ominous muzak for groggy subway riders – III will surely satisfy; there’s a darkened, slightly cavernous narcotic sweep to it. For the rest of us? Well, I guess there’s always that echo.


To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.