After what feels like an eternity detached from UK dancefloors, Black Spuma’s latest release couldn’t have landed at a more perfect time. The duo’s new EP feels like one enormous celebration. It’s an EP that suspends your imagination between the warm nostalgia of 80’s Italo disco and the slick mechanisms of modern house. The group consists of Robert Johnson Club’s resident, Phillip Lauer (one half of Tuff City Kids, one third of Talamanca System) and Slow Motion Records’ label head, Fabrizio Mammarella.
Station To Station immediately throws you into the centre of the action with a thumping kick drum and a resounding, reverb-washed snare. An 80’s vibe soon envelops you in bright colours and tones as a thick, arpeggiated bassline lays the foundations of things to come. A high-pitched melody, saturated in flanger, zooms intermittently back and forth like some kind of supersonic bug. The track’s Italo influence is exposed as the lead chord progression slowly fades into being; electronic piano chords expand to douse the tune in waves of sunshine and heat. That everything glues together so perfectly, so tightly, should come as no surprise when you consider the context behind the artists. Both Lauer and Mammarella have a wealth of experience in music production spanning over two decades, with Hypercall EP being the duo’s fifth collaborative release to date. The fluid, natural texture of their music could be seen as the product of a long friendship and an awareness of the need to never force creativity. As Lauer mentions in an interview with 15 Questions (April 2021), “I strongly believe I shouldn’t be in the studio unless I really want to be there. There is nothing there that can be forced to happen.” In an interview with Titel Kulturmagazin (2017), he also explains that with “Fabrizio it’s really easy as he is a much better producer than I am, that way I think we kind of manage to combine our ideas, and the outcome mostly sounds good to us. We’ve never fought about things, so far.”
The groove and rhythm of Transpork is so infectious that you’ll involuntarily bob your head along to it within seconds. Alongside a shimmering tambourine runs a bass lick with a plucked, string-like aspect to it. All of the tracks on the EP involve real, organic elements that bring the music to life with an engaging sense of immediacy. They could be explained by the fact that both Lauer and Mammarella have been involved with bands throughout their careers. As Mammarella teaches us (Titel Kulturmagazin, 2017), “I record my solo music and I work with bands and other artists. I’ve known Phillip since 2006, but we started doing stuff together only a couple years ago”. Lauer recalls that early on (15 Questions, April 2021), “I found myself playing drums in an “80s emulating” HC punk band”. Zapping laser beams of synth whirr and dart around you as Transpork continues to open up, surrounding you in the excitement and dynamism of a retro arcade. This ‘Coney Island vibe’ permeates the entire EP, giving a euphoric buzz to all of Black Spuma’s synth wizardry. The track ends by sounding like it’s being sucked back up into the wind turbine of a giant plane, or as if its returning back into the vortex of the alternate dimension that it sprang from.
Miracoli could well be my favourite house track of the year. It’s a tune that feels geared towards complete club domination from the onset. The bouncing arpeggiator on the melodies combined with the driving rhythm of the bass and beat gives this track a massive amount of forward momentum. The whistling, rubbery lead melody is a real head-turner. A massive swell of metallic synth pads surges up just before the second drop, signalling listeners to prepare themselves for something huge like the sirens of the tripods in War Of The Worlds. With the second drop everything is switched into overdrive. Bursts of distorted synth come firing out; booming, deep vocals rumble through you from some God of War. You feel like the main character of the best video game on earth being hit with the adrenalin of reaching the final boss battle. In his review of Black Spuma’s Oasi EP (Resident Advisor, 2015), Kit Macdonald states that the pair “never get stuck on one idea” and that “the record stays fresh as a result”. Mammarella also tells us (Titel Kulturmagazin, 2017) that “as Phillip says, we’re probably tired of cliches, so we try to pick the most relevant elements of our backgrounds and to elaborate them to sound new and fresh.” That freshness and experimentalism has evidently expanded on Hypercall EP, and the “humid, echoing vocals” that Kit highlights on the third track of Black Spuma’s debut release have now evolved into an entirely different sort of beast.
Data Life strangely doesn’t seem to gel as well with the rest of the EP. The beat underpinning everything is still predictably impressive and refined, but the menacing, darker tone of the music means that it doesn’t work as cohesively with Hypercall’s other tracks. Nevertheless, the euphoric, dreamy pads that radiate down in the track’s last phrase allow the EP to finish on a fitting high note. It’s clear that melodic perfection and pure simplicity form the beating heart of Black Spuma, and this is no accident. As Mammarella stresses (Titel Kulturmagazin, 2017), Black Spuma’s music “is more melodic compared to my solo stuff.” Lauer similarly explains (15 Questions, April 2021), “I’m not one to exploit all possibilities of technology, not even of the gear I have. As mentioned before, I try to keep the process simple and understandable for myself.”
The cover art of Hypercall EP is a reflection of all of the goodness that lies within. Overall, this is music that is upbeat, playful, carefree and celebratory. It’s an elated paradise of Italo-inspired bangers that doesn’t take itself too seriously and feels focused, above all else, on unifying club-goers after such a long period of isolation and division.
“Hypercall EP” is out now on Live at Robert Johnson and can be purchased on Bandcamp.
1.Station To Station
4. Data Life