Review: Anthony Naples – Zipacón (The Trilogy Tapes)

Anthony Naples seems to have been quieter this year than last. Even though the output of his own Proibito label has remained fairly constant, where his own music is concerned we haven’t heard that much from him. His POT 12″ (on Proibito) and a remix of Eric Copeland’s Bobby Strong alongside Bookworms for DFA (well worth seeking out) has been it since his excellent EP for Rubadub’s nascent (and still far too occasional) label last year. The Rubadub release was probably my favourite record of last year. Although it wasn’t particularly ground breaking, it was so infectiously joyous that it was hard not to reach for it time and time again – a record of hazy, warm house that throbbed with a massive sense of life and fun.

Although Zipacón, his second record for The Trilogy Tapes, is thick with many of the touches and textures we have come to expect from him it’s also rife with evidence that he is maturing as an artist. Anyone coming to it looking for the scruffy tropes that have been common in LoFi House of late aren’t going to get what they were looking for. There has always been something different about Naples’ music anyway – a focus perhaps, or an emotional energy that belayed such easy generalisations – but what we have here is a record that seems to have shorn off many of the frayed edges leaving something that is both leaner and more confident that ever.

Even though the opener Perro is the closest of the four tracks on offer to Naples’ previous work, it bubbles with an energy that directs the light in new ways. The breezy yet ever so slightly mournful synths provide an emotive and potent soulfulness over the jagged and precise electronica that rides away underneath. It’s a deceptively strident track, in fact: the beats come harder and faster than you might at first expect, and it has the feel of a stealthy builder, rather like Ill Still from the Rubadub record, but there is a balance to its various elements that is lacking in the earlier and rougher tune.

Zipacón itself is deeper, more playful in its jazzy complexity. A lightly stepping breakbeat shepherds the delicate tones through a misty, rain speckled dawnscape. Such tunes run the chance of slightness, of a sense of self-indulgence, but the fact that Naples’ manages to effortlessly sidestep such issues says much about his growing abilities. It’s pitched just right, a beautiful, sometimes sleepy slice of Post-house that inhabits a world of its own.

Many Problems is in many ways the flip side to Zipacón’s meandering dreaminess and is a proper big room slab of rave infused House. The crashing reverberating chords are the massive and brooding ghosts of early nineties warehouse chaos returned for what’s owed to them. The cavernous kicks might seem to dominate the piece, especially below the razor edged percussion, but there is a thread of subtlety that runs through the whole track that ties it together and provides it with an antidote to what would otherwise be an overly rambunctious pounder.

Crazy Spirit is the weakest of the four tracks on offer. It feels harsher than anything else on the record – not so much due to the aural palate, but more to a sense that it is slightly laboured and lacking direction. Having said that, it still manages to invoke its own weird vibes, especially when the sub bass splashes in to soak the track in frazzled frequency. Overall, however, there is a feeling that it never quite manages to pull itself together, at least not until the end when the wonky lead fades away to reveal a snarling and corkscrewing piece of analogue Techno that is every bit as thrilling as the rest of the record.