Gui Boratto

Chromophobia

(Kompakt; 2007)

By Philip Guppy | 30 November 2007

Gui Boratto's native São Paulo lies toward Brazil's south-eastern coastline, providing the country with its primary industrial and financial centre. Composed of a seemingly haphazard and dense urban wake of modern and classical architecture, São Paulo stands as the propulsive coffee-fired engine room behind Rio's cultural heartbeat. To the north is the haven of Mata Atlântica, where emerald forests grease their way down to sugar-white beaches and azure waters; an idyllic memory of Brazil's past. Boratto's understanding of how these two environments co-exist fuels his latest Kompakt release: the steady organic sway of the jungle, the fanned concrete fingers of the city, each informing and overlapping the other to create an uneasy symbiosis. His music is both at peace with Brazil's natural beauty and its harsher human element, spearing the beauty found in the intermingling of these opposing facets: the rush of transport through starlit greenery, the crackle of electricity in a rainstorm.

The title Chromophobia is a subtle commentary in itself when taken in conjunction with the music. The fear of colour and the associated symptoms of discomfort and panic at being confronted with intense stimulus hint toward where Boratto is heading with these compositions. Dazzling the listener, laying sound down in waves like a painter would layer colour to create depth of field, Boratto creates a dense aural overload, bolstered by the urban and ripe with the organic.

There appears to be a compact conceptual theme running through the heart of Chromophobia which explores both the concrete and the flora separately, before placing the two together in their modern co-existence. "Mr. Decay" takes Kraftwerk's European approach to the rhythmic hypnosis of train travel and reroutes it through the South American rainforest. Softly padding drumbeats clack over sleepers as the heavy, muggy atmosphere whipcracks trackside high-tension wires off the darting locomotive pulse, everything slathered in moisture and cold night air. Boratto juxtaposes unconnected elements in "Terminal," as an irritated Teletype signal churns out over a steady beat littered with distant warehouse booms. The rhythm then shifts as a dripping, cavernous deep blue beat enters, its diaphanous walls laced with a melody that chatters and trills; eventually both facets are intermingled to create a sequence that's precision-made, but also contains an ethereal, drifting core.

This melding of technology and nature continues throughout the album, stopping to examine individual elements in isolation before fusing tissue and metal together. The sequencing, however, hamstrings the record's flow. When it works, for example, with the positioning of "Chromophobia"'s aircraft tempered tribal tattoo alongside "The Blessing"'s morning gloom, it creates a gently shifting, environment-skipping travelogue. When it falters, as is the case in the sequencing of the final three tracks, it presents an unfocused, piecemeal experience. Utilising the only vocal on the album and an odd choice of 80's indie guitar in its back section, "Beautiful Life" begins the disappointing final third. Its slightly reeling, jubilant feel runs at odds with the album's carefully forged pastoral/urban theme, an ill-fitting "hands in the air" aside. The following two tracks are fine, really, but seem to orbit the album like debris rather than being integral gears working toward maintaining its momentum.

But despite these minor flaws, Chromophobia acquits itself beautifully, as both an exploration of place and as a dynamic piece of composition. It's undoubtedly one of the stronger releases from the Kompakt stable, a collection with the scope and poise to tackle its complex themes while still retaining a head nodding drive. The creeping vines and chemical vapours contained within its coils mark Boratto as a name to watch for on future release schedules; disregard the title, these colours are nothing to fear.