Review: Anthony Naples – Body Pill (Text)

Anthony Naples has come remarkably far in a very short period of time. It’s not even three years since his ‘Mad Disrespect’ 12″ for Mr Saturday Night battered its way into the public consciousness and already Naples’ has built a strong reputation for the sort of new wave house music that takes more classic forms and pushes them into a newer, sometimes more abstract, frame-work. But while there has been an evolution in his sounds and methods since that first release, Naples’ hasn’t ranged too far from his base template.

Last years ‘Zipacon’ on Trilogy Tapes gave us a heads up that there was something new being added to the mix. Although perhaps difficult to pin down to specifics, there was a softening of some elements, a hardening of others and a feel that extraneous noise was being filtered out making room for a tighter and more refined sound. It’s a direction that ‘Body Pill’ seems willing to continue in.

Does it work? Well, largely yes. Firstly, It is a record of widened vistas that owes more to a sense of exploration than previously. A knock on of this increased experimentalism is than it never feels as unified by common purpose as his murderously good release for Rubadub, say, but that’s really just nit-picking, and the fact is that many house and techno albums are similarly lacking a defined centre of gravity – even though in most of those cases they don’t have the excuse of trying something different.

The second point I want to make here is that such ideas as these are always going to be struggling to make themselves fully understood over the course of such a relatively short album. At under 30 minutes the whole thing clocks in at less time than it take Rødhåd to mix in a single tune. But Naples has never been one for outstaying his welcome, and it’s an interesting course to take seeing as there is so much packed in to such a small space.

The music itself ranges from house to cascading urban swing to subtle electronic sketches that vanish like snowflakes the moment you try to grasp them. As a statement of intent the opening track Ris is on point and on message. What’s most wonderful about it (especially given my tastes) is that it immediately departs from the expected destination and winds itself down into a ghostly, drifting and quite lovely piece of synth-scuzz that sounds like an out-take from a ‘Dirty’ era Sonic Youth recording session that’s just waiting for Kim Gordon’s dispassionate, half-spoken vocals for completion. The other experimental pieces, such as Way Stone or Pale feel more fragmentary. The latter, in particular, has a curious beauty to it, sounding like an attempt to rebuild the memory of a snippet of Vangelis once heard on a dodgy, fluttering tape.

The real meat of the album, though, remains in the more club friendly tunes. Abrazo and Changes bring Naples’ traditional sound into a bigger word, with fat drums hanging beyond thick washes of sound and texture. Changes in particular transits from house into a less easily defined realm where silvery drops of R&B speckle the groove. Abrazo holds a more conventional course, but allows itself a long moment to chill under the crystalline strings and tight little melody.

It’s Refugio, though, that many will gravitate towards. loping and lop sided it brings together a welter of experimentalism into a taut but gritty groove. It’s tied together by the pop and wonk of the alien melody, and shepherded by the chops of moody chords.

While the step up from 12″ to album is always going to be a tricky one, Naples has pretty much managed to do it without giving in to what was expected. That the more house infused tracks take their lead from new sources is something to be glad about, and it’s good to see a young producer pushing on with fresh ideas when most of us would have been happy for him to keep doing his thing for a couple more years. ‘Body Pill’ doesn’t hang together perfectly, it’s true, but I’d rather have a record that tries something different, even if it doesn’t quite get there, than one which simply clones up a dozen tracks from fossilized DNA and calls it a day.

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