Decada 2 - La Noche Del Atomo (Philoxenia, 2021)
For their second release, the Philoxenia crew shine a light on the incredible music of the late Mexican producer Mateo Lafontaine, who blended together so capably the many strains of Dance Music that were developing rapidly during the 1980s into his own sublime and original voice.
Some records take us back to a place in time, with their ingredients very much representative of a context, scene, or cultural movement that gives us a great feeling of what was going on in the clubs and bars, or indeed what was being played out loud from cars as they drove off into the night. There are a select few records that achieve this but also sound like no other, in that they capture the context but also the intrinsic flows, the developments so to speak of music that were occurring rapidly at time within electronic and dance music, and these records are the ones that really stick out in the memory. These records came from the minds of musicians who concerned themselves with the inbetween spaces, the liminal audial environments where genres spilled into one another, where differing tonal and rhythmic arrangements converged with one another in a perfected sense of harmony, the results of such experiments always doing much to push the foundations of music onwards. These melting pots of sound were key to aiding the creation of new genres, where differing sequences would add new sides to the story which would help to not only further personal conquests in terms of sound development but would feed into the overall narrative, crafting new directions for those who followed to pursue and get involved within. The 80s would oversee the introduction of many important genres of Electronic music, wherein many around the world started to devote themselves to the possibilities of matching synths and drum machines to human experience and emotion, and the results speak for themselves as we look back now. Genres like Italo Disco, House, Techno, EBM, Electro and Hip Hop would all find themselves moving into the spotlight during this era, and in many ways they would all feed off one another in order to continue finding gaps to fill and spaces to occupy, and as a listener it is a wonderful period in time to explore. Musicians seemed to feel liberated from the rigidity of convention, as the previously impossible became the possible, the future that felt like a million miles away suddenly became a tangible moment in the here and now, and it is this feeling that has endeared so many to their music, even through to the present day. We look back in acknowledgement of the achievements of those that continually looked beyond the parapet, who were willing to cross-pollinate their core ideals with sprinklings of other genres and their tropes, with the results always far reaching and most importantly, helping to push the narrative onwards. They help to portray a kind of future that we reside in now, one that feeds off the ideals of morphology and evolutions in the same way in which these artists were looking to capture at the time, something which was epitomised in the first instance as the 80s moved into the 90s, and when looking back both periods you really get a sense of the purest essence of experimentalism through audial frequencies. It's hard to quantify just how essential these periods of time were in dance and electronic music, as the pioneers set the foundations for some of the world's most beloved genres, but it also showcased how embracing non linearity when crafting compositions is absolutely key in creating time defying records that will forever stick in the memory, their role in music's development forever cemented in time, as we continue to find great comfort and genius in the music found within, never forgetting but simply continuing to be mesmerised by it all.
When I began to love and know synthesisers, in parallel I embraced futurism as a philosophy of life.
One of those artists who truly encapsulated the meaning of morphology and progressive musical thinking through their works was Mexican visionary Mateo Lafontaine, who since the early 80s had dedicated themselves to understanding the finer points of where musical languages start, finish and move onwards and upwards. Long considered a pioneer within the Mexican Electronic music scene, Lafontaine certainly held his light up very high as a means to draw people towards his brand of music, which was a sound very much in tune with the enormous shifts that arrived with the electronic age and the endless possibilities that came with it. His style combined numerous strands of thinking, with the essences of EBM, early Techno, Electro, House, Rave and Breakbeat all reverberating around within his song structures, but to say it was simply just these genres knocked together would be a disservice to his creative visions. Lafontaine distilled the core ideals of these genres down into a malleable entity, one that he could shape and craft in his own image, and as such the music which he started to conjure up sounded very much like, well, no one else except for Lafontaine. Yes the references and influences were clear, but it was the way in which his songs unravelled themselves to the listener, cascading from one set of tones to the other in such a way that kept you very much engaged from start to finish, our eyes firmly set on whatever Lafontaine had stored for us next. Playfulness remains high on the agenda, with meaningful yet infectiously charming melodic sequences floating past us with all the time in the world, as vocal samples drop in and out of time to keep us fully immersed in the epic world being presented to us. His music reads like a neverending narrative, a story which can be told in numerous ways, with a re-playability to his music that keeps you on your toes both in a physical and emotional manner, and that all comes down to the way in which he took in and put back out the genres which were swirling around at the time. In many ways there isn't a more perfect morphology of the many strains of electronic music that was circulating at the time, and its this attitude that carried Lafontaine onwards into the present day, with a plethora of tunes online remaining as a testament to his deep rooted talents. A lot of his music can be found on his bandcamp page, with our favourites including the eerie yet impeccably groovy 'Somos Responsables', which arrived in 1986; the wonderful proto-house that abounds from the 'Aflabeto' cut, which arrived in 1987; the gorgeous sublimity of the 'Robot Disco Kids' cut, which landed in 2001; the progressive as hell power that exudes from the 'El Cielo Dividido' track, which arrived in 2006; the gorgeous tonal feels that abound from the 'Wasted' track, which arrived in 2013; the minimal feels of the aptly named 'Late Night Techno' track, which also landed in 2013; the acidddddd that leaps out at you from the 'Elipse 01' cut, which arrived in 2014; the tonally excellent 'Stay With Me' track, which arrived in 2014 also; the squeezes and the feels of the 'Square' track, which arrived in 2014 also; the deep and driving progressions found on 'The Stranger', which was released last year; the brilliant sequences of the De Tanto Jugar A La Distopia' release, which arrived last year; and finally, the quietly exquisite feels found on the 'Sunt Mala Quae Libas' track, which also arrived last year. In all, Lafontaine started his career off in the best possible way, that is having an expanded vision for how his music could sound in the here and now and where it could end up in the future, and his discography as a result feels incredibly well balanced and thought out, as if he knew exactly where things would start and where they would end up. You could pick out any of his tracks from any time period and place them backwards or forwards in time and they would still sound like they were contextually relevant and forward thinking all at the same time, and to be able to pull that off not just once but many times over is simply staggering. We remain so very much in awe of his music and all it has achieved, a body of work that has aged so very well and will continue to do so right into the modern age, it's adventurous nature keeping us dreaming of those moments in life where we drift between the lines and get reminded of just how good music can be.
And now we arrive at the latest release to bear his name, 'Decada 2 - La Noche Del Atomo', which arrives via the wonderful Philoxenia imprint. This album has developed a double meaning since it was originally announced last year, the first being that this is the first time that Lafontaine's music was to be pressed onto vinyl, and secondly that Lafontaine tragically passed away during the production stages of the project. This record now stands as not just an incredible reminder of his wide reaching talents, but an important aspect of his musical legacy, one which as mentioned before is shrouded in the notions of being from the past but still seemingly sounding like the future. The record brings together 6 cuts from the mid 80s to early 90s, and for sure shows off his complete range of styles, tastes and influences, with each track highlighting one strain of his dynamic vision in the most clear cut and astonishing of ways. We simply sit back and take it all in, from the pumped up drumming patterns to the joyous melodic features, the bountiful vocal samples and the flowing transitional spaces that intersperse powerful stanzas, this record really has the lot, and remains for us one of this year's most accomplished reissues. Not only that, but it comes with a beautiful front cover in the form of a poster designed by Lafontaine himself, with the font inspired by that used for the 1968 Olympics held in Mexico City, which just helps to further bind us to the music and the overall package being presented here. Lafontaine may have left us too soon, but it's records like these that will forever cement his status as a radical sound designer, a deep atmospherical thinker and a delightful purveyor of progressive an original dance music. So, without further delay, lets dive right into this little meander through only the very best of what Dance music has to offer....
Up first comes 'Musica Electronica', and this one begins with the rising chordal sequence and vocals to get us going. It's a pretty grand opening, with a pretty grand sense of scale emerging to push us onwards and upwards, and this occurs as the kicks arrive to immerse us fully in the progression, with vocal snippets landing on both sides of the momentum to offer up these wonderful additions to the flow. The melodic sequences switch between these arpeggio like key lines and the main chordal arrangement with a gorgeous sense of ease, with the blend of transitions working so very well in pushing the emotional levels up a notch. The track finds time to serve by drum laden segments where the keys disappear to really immerse us in the rhythms, and help to provide moments of calm amongst the sea of melodic euphoria. Around the mid way point the track continues to serve and swagger it's way through it's numerous plains of existence, with all manner of differing layers and feels coming to the surface as we move in and around the ever present pulse, never loosing sight of the feelings which have wrapped themselves around us in the most glorious of ways. A beautiful opener. Up next comes 'Psycho Dance', and this one begins in slightly more subdued territories. The vocoder vocal lines weave in and around the invisible pulse as light chordal blemishes wistfully move around in the distance, and then out of the breeze comes a vocal sample to wake anyone up as the drums come right into the mix, and it's a wonderfully slowed down feel that emerges. The repeating line of 'Psycho Dance' really hits home as the rave like lead chord progression chimes out up above the drums, as deep rolling bass notes converge with the percussively rich drumming patterns underneath, with the spaces left between the swinging snares primed for us to occupy and get to know. As with the previous cut, the handling of movements between one sequence to the next is masterfully pulled off, as differing structures are stitched together by the most delicate of momentum shifts, with the movements between the stripped back melodic sections and the big euphoric chords a real highlight. The track adds in further glimpses of possibility with sweeping chordal touches that create these breaks in energy that help enormously in providing even more variety into the mix, and like that the cut plays out into the night. Wonderful stuff right here. Up next comes 'La Voluntad De Dios', and this one starts off with an extended vocal sample to get us going. This segment reminds us of Lafontaine's inspired use of vocals in his works, as the tone of the voice helps to set the scene for well, seemingly anything, and what arrives is this almost orchestral and divine sounding organ arrangement, which is condensed as hell and crafts a glorious sense of scale going forward. What follows next is very interesting, as the drums come into view alongside stab like chords and samples, and as the guitar riff flashes into view before disappearing as quickly as it arrives, the drums and bass come into view, and from that set up it's quite the switch in direction and pace. The kicks set an high energy type of tempo, and as time goes by the melodics start to double up, with funky key lines underpinning the rhythm as big beefy chordal lines align themselves with the mix, and it's just so very glorious.
'Dr Rhythm' arrives next, and this one begins with the kicks to get us going. The melodics then start to seep in from over the horizon line, in the form of cheeky key lines and atmospherical high pitch chords, and before long some wondrous rave inspired stabs come into the mix, and it's around this time that the drums begin to multiply rapidly, with kicks, hats and cymbals emerging from all over in providing a sequential experience that works on so many levels. The track then climaxes around the 1:40 mark as the vocal samples - 'Are you ready to move??' - dominate the foreground before leading us right back into the main momentum, with plenty of emphasis placed on the progressions as we move between one wonderful tonal outline to the next. The track then breaks it down once more which leads to more beautiful instrumentalism, with a series of acid lines converging on one another in a powerful display indeed, as the drums frantically build then build some more to give us a fitting send off. Very powerful indeed, this cut. 'Extasy Bondage' comes next, and the immediate feels are very sultry and emotive indeed. The vocal samples repeat the name of the track atop of a deep set bass line that is joined swiftly by the drumming pattern, which involves the snares and right hand side hats along with softly spoken kicks, as the customary transitions continue to inspire and dazzle as new layers find their way into the mix to keep the momentum going on strong. The mix of styles is evident as the chiming chords that appear within the breaks in percussion add many flavours to the momentum, and as this happens a second time we see some big melodic chords come into the mix to really add the extasy factor into the blend. The emphatic fuzzy chords that come next just build upon that sentiment, as all of our senses go into hyperdrive as layers continue to throw themselves at our feet, content only when our eyes roll into the backs of our head and the biggest of smiles emerges on our face. There's so much to love on this cut, with perhaps Lafontaine's superb understanding of melodic tones and how they intermingle with one another being the outstanding feature on this track. Superb to the very end. To wrap things up, we descend into the rave one final time with 'Holbox', and this one starts off in truly spectacular fashion. The blend of deep set techno style chords comes into view on the left hand side as repeating arpeggios swirl around in the middle of the blend, as delicate trance style piano keys float up above the mix and Whale echos call out from the deep - as an introduction, they don't get much more immersive than this, as the souls of humanity and nature align in the most beautiful of ways. The chords then move away as the track slides off into the distance, but we get the feeling that as everything disappears this is not the end of the story, as sure enough the acid line comes straight to the surface. The chords then make a return in a slightly different form, cascading from point A to B with the arpeggios making an appearance up above to add extra flavour, and soon after the drums come into the picture to really lift us off our feet, with new melodic lines added with each passing second. The bass really captures the imagination as it moves and grooves from side to side, an ever present momentum that keeps things grounded as everything around us seems intent on elevating us to new points of euphoria, as an extended bass and drum segment leads us right back into an incredible final section. We reflect on the experience we have just meandered through, one that touched upon so much on all sides of the Dance Music spectrum, a slide through all that Lafontaine held dear to his heart when making music, and the results simply speak for themselves. Truly glorious, and a fitting way to end proceedings.
There were plenty of musicians during the 80s and 90s who concerned themselves with the liminal spaces, the morphological environments where sounds converged, intertwined and contorted, with the results always pushing genres onwards and sometimes birthing new movements entirely. Mateo Lafontaine was certainly one of those musicians, and his music will forever speak to this line of reasoning, simply because he was able to draw lines between the dots that persisted in the wider audial universe and bring forth something in his own image. This collection of tracks stands as a testament to his abilities and his vision, with the vibe seemingly persisting in the inbetween spaces that reside between the cracks of Dance Music, and what comes forth to the surface is a magical blend of grace, power and melody. It's emotional, it's intuitive, and it's constantly moving onwards, seeking out new areas to call home and new ways to add to it's internal dynamism. We stand right in the middle of it all, amazed at the passages that cross our paths and the structures that bind us all, and the ingenuity and talent that resided in Lafontaine's magic fingers. He may have left this earth, but his legacy is encased in his music, then, now and forever. A truly stunning record.
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