Review: The Normalmen – Dorko’s Antruum (Early Sounds Recordings)

Massimo Di Lena, Leskin and Rio Padice’s Early Sounds Recordings, and the producers herded therein, have a fine collective heritage in the sort of dusty, analogue-y House and Techno that is currently on its way to becoming something of a proper movement across two continents. Although releases still remain scare, they have upped their game with this, their third record of the year and there is enough in the run to suggest that there could be something very special happening down in Napoli, particularly if Di Lena, Leskin and Padice continue to unearth talent that match their own mindsets so well.

Any scene though, however grand, relies on the aesthetics and influences that their leading lights and innovators carry with them into music making. In the case of New York, for instance, there is much that is owed not only to the ferocity of early nineties NY Techno, but also to the heritage of No Wave and other forms of exploratory madness, particularity in the way many of its practitioners have come at electronic music from more Post-punk thinking. With Early Sounds Recordings there is are obviously similarities to the likes of L.I.E.S in their tastes, but there are other influences at least as overt.

Dorko’s Antruum is perhaps a handy encapsulation of those influences. The currently in-vogue House sound is a starting point for this début record by The Normalmen, but it is the wealth of other sounds that makes it so interesting. Opener Empty Silence seems at first glance to share much common ground with the current sonic Zeitgeist, but there is a heady dose of garage and dirty, warehouse-y acid mixed well in, and the way the fuzzy, pulsing bass scuttles between the upfront clatter of the hi-hats takes it somewhere very different. The otherwise joyful rush is tempered slightly by the maudlin synths and vocal samples, but this is no bad thing, and lends the piece an emotional pull that sets away from being a simple acid-wriggle.

Mazine Order continues the mid-night emotional flickering with an effective approach to deep House. Crystalline synths and its jazzy insistence keep things moving but it doesn’t quite have the same zest as Empty Silence, and suffers slightly for being a little too knowing, perhaps. It does carry off a pleasingly drowsy warmth, however, that goes along way to offset the formulaic edge.

The record really opens up on the B-side, though. No Limits seems at first to be of similar stock to Mazine Order, but blossoms quickly into some fine, early nineties tinged House of the sort of trippy sunrise on Ibiza stuff that always made it home in time for the tail-end of summer. Beneath the dreamy synths, though, there is a real drive and the kicks carry some seriously kidney punching heft.

Invasion 271 is, for me, the stand-out track, fusing as it does hardcore trappings and breakbeats with some serious mangled jungle-tekno bass, and the sort of Kitch sc-fi trappings Teknotika would have been proud of. Hardcore tracks tend to run to the claustrophobic, but the occasional pads and the mutant beat propel this along into cavernous territory just fine. Its as proud a slab of mutant dance floor madness as you will find this year.

MX22 delves further into the rave with its jangling, jacking, dark side of garage growl and woozy, descending chords that force implanted memories of parties in abandoned fun parks to flair into your mind. The rumble of bass and mutter of samples layer the euphoria over the rampant drums, and hold it steady as it drives home.

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