Carlo - Mediterraneo (Aterral, 2021)
The Aterral label head injects real serve and swagger into four classy house numbers that contain a significant amount of emotional engagement to keep the blood pumping and the mind placed firmly on cloud 9.
Seeing sounds and tones evolve over time is the sign of a producer who sees a clear path onwards and upwards, with no deviation from that vision left unturned as a result. Engagement through sonics and a singular genre can often be a hard ask when considering how much emotional investment goes into the process of building up a sound, and for some there's a contentment in playing the game in a way that sees a audial identity being built up over a spread of releases that consolidates the grooves and keys within a familiar yet entertaining paradigm. For others though, there is a need to diversify and expand their atmospherical territories, which involves an engagement with the varying strands of dance music that have sprung up on a frequent basis over the past 40 odd years or so, which in turn creates a story that remains pleasantly enjoyable as new ingredients are thrown into the mix on a regular basis. We become invested in that journey due to the organic evolutions that occur in the spaces between each release, where the person behind it all explores new branches of possibility within their expanded universe, eager and willing to pick up and take off from where the previous record finished and distill it within a fresh set of perimeters. House music is a genre that many flock to when making dance music, such is its universal appeal and its melodic depths, and as a result there is a plethora of artists to invest in who cater for a wide range of mood and flavours. Within that dense mist of music, journeys of significance and deviations of note start to emerge as attractive strands of flow to become involved within, starting off from the origins and moving through the gears which provides phases of not just one strand of house but multiple. It all begins with what the first few releases sound like - what's the vibe? how do the tracks operate together? how do they operate on a singular level? what kind of tone do these cuts aim to achieve? - and from there its a journey that keeps rising up and up, with the most expansive and wide reaching soundscapers being the ones that we flock to as a result, our interest sparked by the initial goodness and then retained through consistent excellence. The journey then moves onwards from there, drawing upon the strands of house's essence to provide a upward trajectory of vibes, styles and feels, the music starting to morph with new contexts and emotions that highlights how these producers can bend their audial identity to differing places, spaces and people. The journeys undertaken in these musical developments become intertwined with our own, a movement into contexts which we remain on good terms with but can always find the time to extend that relationship to brighter realms, with the music soundtracking it all doing wonders to the mind and its ability to conceive exciting new forms of the genre.
One of these meandering journeys has been undertaken from Spanish producer and DJ Carlo, who for some time now has been mesmerising us with his dynamic and continually evolving take on house music. Originally from Malaga but now based in Berlin, Carlo has touched upon many of the historical and contemporary mutations of the genre, with his discography a continually evolving sequence of events that takes in all that you can satisfy yourself on when it comes to house. His sound has touched on pretty much every facet imaginable, with deep house and straight up four to the floor numbers interspersed with minimal and tech house during the initial stages of his career before moving into jazz laden groovy numbers and sample heavy gems that hark back to the late 90s Detroit sound, meaning that if you were to dip back a bit in time there is certainly a number for you in his works. Its the sign of a great producer when they are able to diversify their efforts into a body of work that contains many hallmarks of different eras and scenes, and Carlo certainly has the talent and vision when it comes to crafting top quality house music. One feature that remains consistent across the board is his ability to find really interesting melodic sequences to fit within his drumming patterns, which provide the sense of spark that occurs frequently within his productions, with the flow being kept consistent by the beat structures that maintain a steady vibe but consistently provide momentum and forward thinkingness. Prior to setting up Aterral, Carlo released a slew of excellent records to pick up and highlight, starting off with the atmospheric and groovy 'Forget Me Not' record from 2015; the equally groovy 'Azizi' record from 2016; the driving looping excellence of the 'From Russia With Love' EP, released with long time studio pal Black Loops, which arrived in 2017; the beautiful and enriching progressions found on the 'Tres' record, that arrived in 2018; the deep and atmospherical 'Strawberry Fields' record, that arrived also in 2018; and finally, the intricate and playful 'Take Your Time' EP, that landed last year. Throughout these releases, we see Carlo move through the gears of musical development, with his jazzy disco phase leading into 90s leaning electronica and dance numbers, all of which is pulled off with an impeccable eye for detail in relation to layering and melodics, with each sequence feeling very much in its rightful place as we wonder through blissed out dance tones. Last year, Carlo released the debut record on his Aterral imprint, 'Estasi', that showcased his movement into a new kind of sound, one that touched upon the rich traditions of progressive house, breakbeat and deep house with a kind of flair we have come to expect from the Spaniard. Black Loops followed up next with an equally impressive effort, 'Homesick', that further cemented the label's sound with a handful of swinging cuts that pulsated with a breezy effortlessness. As journeys go, Carlo's is a rich and intriguing one, and to take a gander back at his past records was a joy, showcasing a natural propensity towards exploring every angle and corner of his creative visions, with his works a demonstration of all that he is capable of conjuring up. If you like sheer delight and playfulness in your productions, then be sure to check out his previous cuts, you won't be disappointed.
And now we arrive at his latest offering, 'Mediterraneo', and it only furthers the scope and depth of the label and all it has going on. The drums are as crisp and clear as ever, with the top layer where the magic starts to reveal itself through a series of 90s inspired stabs and ethereal pads, with each cut differing slightly from the last in terms of direction, mood and tone. As a collection of tracks, it highlights Carlo's dexterity with the hardware he uses, with a heft dosage of creativity injected into each cut as they weave and dip with a real sense of urgency. Cuts defined and crafted for the dancefloor, but feeling equally at home with a pair of headphones on, such is the depth that exudes from the top to the bottom. So, without further delay, lets jump right into this excellent record....
Up next comes the title track, and this one begins with the classic breakbeat sound emerging somewhere in the distance. The loop is quickly joined by a kick and then a full on ensemble, with the simmering hats intersected with the crisp high end hat and bass line, with the structure providing the basis for the stab like chords to slide into view. The singular note evolves into a sequence very quickly, eagerly showing to us all that it can achieve as it slides in and around the drumming pattern, taking breathers to help exemplify the climatic symbol crashes and craft a sense of momentum that feels unstoppable at this point. The cut then moves into a melodic less section, with the drums really stripped back to build up the sound of the foundations, before moving back into the main melodic driver of the keys, with the overall vibe one of continually evolving and moving through the gears, switching between the stabs and the bass laden undertones with such ease and flair. An opener from the gods. Up next comes 'Naranja amargo', which begins in subdued yet intriguing places. The groove quickly evolves as the kicks and additional crunchy percussive features come into view, with the bass line not far behind as we get to know the core rhythmic elements, with the overall picture moving along at a frantic pace, with the first dip in energy building back up into a peak that takes the breath away. The pads slide and groove on top of the drums with real intent, capable and willing to drive right into the heart of proceedings as we drift and drive on a wave of euphoria, with Carlo doing some very interesting things with the pads to keep the blood pumping. Their tone is constantly tweeked with, going from full on displays to filtering into the backdrop with an airy infectiousness, able and willing to drive the composition onwards towards new heights of excellence. The dips in energy give us moments alone with the chords, taking in all they have to offer as the track continues to spiral upwards, cascading across the sonic landscape like the wind. We are placed right in the middle of it all, pointing up to the stars and feeling the waves lap at our feet. A very special sound indeed.
Up next comes 'Azahar', and this one starts off in similar percussive territories to the previous cut. The melodics are there from the off, with a dynamic swing like motion allowing maximum engagement with the sweeps, with a guitar like sound abounding on the left hand side of the pan as the pads remain embedded in the progression, as the drums switch up a few gears to land us fully in the middle of it all. The track then filters out to accommodate the vocal sample that aligns itself in the cusp, the words speaking across the tundra of sound and before long we move right back into the main progression which lands back into our laps in all its glory, moving to the beat with a real sense of urgency and mood. Carlo shows off his chops once again at being able to weave such a compelling melodic narrative within his beats, with the application of the chords so soft and delicate, which crafts this brilliant dynamic between the razor sharp beats that provides all the feels you could ever hope for. There is time for one final filtered breakdown, then then moves us swiftly back into the main structure, and like that we are away for the rest of the night, eager to mingle and have all the fun we can hope for. Top notch. To wrap things up, we have 'Mijilla', and this one begins with the drums and sweeping vocal sample. The drums are spacious as hell, with an eye on how the melodics can align themselves with the rhythm confirmed as the bass line arrives in the middle of the structure, as a high pitch key line pulsates on the right hand side of the view. The chords arrive soon enough, their entry placed and applied to perfection, but no sooner have they gone through two movements have we taken a dip down into the breakdown, which sees the introduction of the stabs. The ensuing progression is a thing of beauty, as the two main melodic sequences continually sing to one another as the times flow and branch out with an incessant feel, touching upon all the emotions you have ever felt in the club when the music being played takes you to new and exciting realms of possibility. What a way to end.
This label might be on its fourth release, but already its showing signs of real promise, along with representing an exciting chapter in Carlo's ever developing production career. The music found here is delicately poised between driving beat progressions and carefully placed melodic sequences, with the progressions singing as a result, with careful placement of climatic breakdowns leading right back into utterly infectious rhythmic segments. Each cut contains its own chapter but when added together has an overallness to the sound that remains compelling from start to finish, with the balance of elements constantly evolving and shifting to craft a series of moments on an EP filled to the brim with ideas, quality and emotion. A brilliant record that all points for many superb releases to come from Carlo.
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