Green Baize - Game of Chance (Oversky Records, 1992)
On the sole Green Baize release, the inseparable duo of Alex Neri and Marco Baroni showcase just what the Dream House genre was capable of with a stunning saunter through enriching key lines and swirling universes of sound.
Interpretations of the Chicago Deep House sound started not soon after its inception in the early 80s, and arguably no other genre reflected back as strongly as the Italian House and Dream House genres, which dominated much of the European discourse during the late 80s and early 90s. The interpretation blended the rich emotional sonics of American producers with the driving progressions and big beefy melodic features of Italo Disco, through which the Italian House sound would rule throughout the Second Summer of Love and the explosion of dance music across Europe. Whilst Italian house was more aligned with the sounds of groups like Inner City, another sub genre would emerge that was more akin to the likes of like Fingers Inc., Vincent Floyd, Litia~Loe and labels like Nu Groove, with this sound given the moniker of Dream House, and this sound would help to largely define the new wave of deep house that would emerge during the start of the decade and beyond. It was a sound concerned with the swelling of melodies, where drumming patterns gently pulsated to the rhythms of the heart as our minds and bodies were moved to all manner of places and spaces, primarily to the rich deep blue hues of the Mediterranean. It was a genre high on melodic purity, where the sounds were highly pleasing to the ears and the consciousness, crafting a beautiful blend between progressions and emotional investment, all of which contributed to so many falling in love with the genre and all it had to offer. Highly visceral, it provided the utmost of escapism within the rave or at home, transporting people to imagined places filled with all kinds of beauty and colour, an ode to the power of dance music in moving us through the back doors of possibility and out the other side into the blissed out fields of our most vivid dreamscapes. It became one of the many sides to the deep house sound of the early 90s, one concerned with both the physical and the mental, a duality of experience that draws power from the keys and the heart pleasing progressions which when blended together crafted some of the decades most compelling tracks. Dream House drove through the dance music scene with its crispness and compelling depths, its power drawing from the core foundations of house to bring forth a sound that resonates through the ages. Its no wonder that the genre has remained deeply embedded within electronic music's narrative, with its feel good attitude and emotional gains still shining strongly after all this time, able to fit right in with any kind of set or moment where the hands go in the air, the eyes close and the smile widened to the ears. A genre which has a somewhat familiar feel across the board, yet contains so many differing expressions and feels to which you never tire of the endless goodness that flows from each producer or alias, with differing threads and interpretations existing that provide us with all the emotional fulfilment we could possibly hope for. Enriching to the point of ecstasy, its a movement that does so much to fulfil the mind and the body to new heights of understanding, journeying through the never reaches of tone and texture to present to us dance music that overflows with positivity and good vibrations.
Its fair to say that Alex Neri and Marco Baroni clearly shared a very special bond indeed, one that allowed them to dynamically craft some of dream house's finest records over a series of years together. The duo began working together in 91', and would release a slew of tunes during this time, before a 2 year stint doing national service put their productions on hold, but would return to releasing records soon after it ended, where their sound would evolve in reflection to the ever changing face of dance music during this period. Their initial sound was deeply rooted in the Italo and Dream house genres, where sultry beats warmly lit the underbelly of melodies up above that took the breath away with their rhythmic chimes and warm pads, with Neri and Baroni using different group names in order to explore all facets of the genre's overarching musical feel. Each name bought with it a new sense of identity, a jigsaw piece that contributed to their joint feelings about the music they desired to make, taking into account all that persisted at the time and bought it forward into a new space and time, moving the genre along to new heights of excellence. To see them evolve and jump beyond the genre once its hay day was nearing an end was simply another stylistic jump for the pair, who always had a knack for staying with the times and reflecting genre morphs and fluxes in Italy and beyond. There was always a direction, a force of nature that resided within their cuts, where the dream house combo of dreamy keys and delicate yet purposeful drumming seemed that little bit more elevated within their cuts, a perfected blend of its intrinsic elements that carried itself over to us, resonating still so very strongly in the hearts and minds of house fans all over. Whilst the duo released an absolute slew of records individually within other groups, we will be focusing purely on their work together during today's review, with some of our favourites including the utterly beautiful and enriching powerhouse that is the 'Paradise' EP, that arrived under the Deep Invention Orchestra name in 1991; the sublime and intensely deep vibes found on the 'Love Me' record, that landed under the Deep Sleep name also in 91'; the equally brilliant and deftly melodic 'Holy Dance' record, that arrived under the Agua Re name in 1992; the deep and melodically enriching excellence found on the 'Mi Place' record, that landed under the Marmalade name in 1992; the hypnotic rhythms and pulsating key lines that weave within the 'Caravan' record, that arrived in 1994; the wondrous tone and feel that abound from the 'Night Walk' record, released in 94' under the Kama Sutra name; the incredible deep house finery that resides on the 'Phase Flower E.P', a joint effort with Phase 5 under the Plastic Project name, that arrived in 1994; and finally, the deliciously groovy and deeply percussive 'K's Groove' record, that arrived via the K name in 1996. Spreading themselves across multiple aliases, Neri and Baroni did an awful lot in crafting their own multi verse of sound, rhythm and colour, one that was certainly influenced by the context they found themselves within but also keeping a firm eye on the ever expanding potential of dance music, and within the dream house genre they firmly held their own with brilliance and grace. Their names are still revered by those who were there and lived through it all, and for all of those who stumble across their music they are in for an absolute treat, as the blissful tones roll over you time and time again. If escapism into the inner sanctums of your emotional brainwaves is what you crave, then this surely is the pairing for you. Simply superb stuff across the board.
And now, we arrive at the subject of todays review, one of the very few long players that the duo ever put out, 'Game Of Chance', that arrived via the Green Baize moniker on the iconic Oversky Records back in 1992. Whilst their EP excursions were a chance to see the pair exploring varying facets of their joint sound, this LP was a moment to saviour for those waiting for the deepest excursion yet, and the record succeeds on every single level imaginable. From the instance the needle starts playing, you are whisked away in a glowing embrace of tone and feel, with the vibes shifting between expanses of sonically beautiful chords and rhythmically enriching stabs, its one of the genre's most groundbreaking pieces of works and touches on everything that many others got right and draws power from the collective spirit that inhabited everyone releasing records during this time in Italy. A statement of intent that was met with a real buzz at the time, and remains one of the most complete and accomplished dream house records ever released. So relax, move into a long reclining position, as we drift back through time to the blue hues of the Mediterranean and look out into the orange glow of the sunset, with excitement in our heart and emotions riding high.......
'Unrest' kicks things off, as the keys gently align themselves with the sonic boundaries being set right before our eyes. Their tone and movement flowing like sparkling water, cascading down from up high and landing directly within a deep set pool of emotion and joy, inviting other elements such as the sporadic percussive element and the highly addictive bass line to come in and enjoy the spoils. The track then lifts off as the drums come into play, lifting the keys to new heights as it pounds along to the gentle pulses, keen on ascending to far reaching places indeed, as we are whipped up for the ride through the ethereal plains. The track takes a dip and dive before arriving back into the full blown glory of its fullness, but then takes a second breather as the keys move away from their two note progression to showcase a rising feel, moving through the octaves to craft a deep climax of sorts, as we are carried along once more in a deep set pool of beauty and emotion. The sparkling key lines on top simply add to the illusion, drawing us in deeper into the world that becomes painted so vividly with each passing second. Gorgeous stuff. Up next comes 'Undiluted Poison', and this begins out in less dense territories. The chiming stabs of the keys lead the way, starting off with a singular sequence before branching out into two lines of inquiry, crafting a call and response of sorts that just amplifies the feels we start to receive as the track moves onwards and upwards. The keys are impeccably placed to align themselves with the drumming pattern, that once more elevates the melodic features with grace and elegance, with additional chordal lines popping up either side of the breakdown that leads into a denser drumming sequence. The arrangement moves onwards for a few bars before leading into a gorgeous melodic moment, where the original key sequence is complimented by some delightful notes that continue adding to the depth and complexity of the piece. The track then transitions into another deftly crafted section, where the kicks remain but the keys are allowed to be overly expressive, as the backdrop pads mingle with the chimes of the stabs, with the ultimate climax coming as we are greeted to one final display of gorgeousness, a final hurrah of a track with so much to say and so much experience to give over to us. Brilliant. Up next comes 'Tramp Heart', and this cut begins in familiar territories indeed. The kicks illuminate a soundscape that is highlighted by the key work, subtly built up by two lines of bass and synth, with the track descending into its first breakdown fairly quickly, as the vocal line introduces itself. The track then builds up once more, delightfully weaving in new lines of melodic sequences that do much to carry the momentum onwards, wrapping our heads within its majestic grip as the transitions smoothly operate between differing structures and arrangements with such ease. The rhythms are what its all about on this cut, as we sweep through differing melodic sequences that characterise the view, touching on all aspects of its beauty as we are swept away on a cloud of wondrous vibes. Stunning stuff.
'Toxicology Room' comes next, and the melodics start things off here. The chiming two chord progression loops and weaves around the sub base, providing a rhythmic foundation for all to follow in its footsteps, as gorgeous piano keys twinkling up high and the kicks arrived deep below. The overall picture is one of summery warmth, taking into account all the seasonal variations and tones that might come our way, and before long we arrive into the crux of the progression, as the drums switch it up and the keys respond in kind, creating a dubby feel that really hammers home the mood, the middle of the set that needs that burst of energy to keep the blood pumping. The track quickly progresses through differing structures, as the dubby section ends and the emotional slow burner part begins, as the piano begins once more and the chiming chord progression really lets loose on us. There's time for one final saunter through the core rhythms, a final display for the hands in the air, as the morning sun calls our name through the mist. Up next comes 'Switch Back', and the drums lead the way during the intro moments. They are quickly joined by the four chord progression that wraps itself around the percussive groove, as the bass line adds further feels underneath, with the first switch up coming in the form of the chordal stabs that demand our full attention when they arrive. The original chordal backdrop arrives soon after, along with a full on vocal sample - one of the few used on the record - that really lifts the track to fully blown euphoric spaces. The breakdown sees a gorgeous key line added into the mix, which then becomes the focal point of the track moving onwards, with the drums returning and responding to the free flowing nature of the key solo, with the final third of the track concerning itself with keeping those feet move and the hearts truly on fire. Such a beauty. Up next comes 'Synthetic Rhythm', and the glitchy embrace of the chords greet us on this one. The percussive features and kicks aren't far behind at all, and as we start to nod along to the arrangement we are greeted by the most perfect of chordal lines, everything about their feel is just wondrous, and like that they move away to give space for the pounding bass line, helping to lock us into the groove in its entirety. The backdrop of hues returns, with additional key lines adding further euphoria on the right hand side, with the full picture something to really marvel at. The breakdown sees the introduction of a guitar solo, that really fuel the Balearic vibes, with the full picture returning very soon indeed, but its the guitar that returns once again that really fuel the dream like state we find ourselves in. In a collection of melodically compelling tracks, this one really stands out.
Up next comes 'Spick and Span', and here we find ourselves greeted by the bass line to kick things off. The drums are much more chuggy on this one, moving through the gears with a heightened sense of progression, with the sweeping chords arriving on top as a delicate key line carves out a space for itself in the mid section of the track. After all that dream house, its refreshing to arrive near the end and find ourselves within familiar sounding rhythmic tones but in a completely different melodic environment, where the arrangement is immediately more complex and intriguing, with piano lines weaving through the left as the lead key line carries us off into the ethereal plains of existence. Its a wonderful deviation, and one that works so very well in the context of the record. To wrap things up, we have the big one, 'Holy Dance', which wraps things up in a nice little bow. The intro is as rich and full as ever, with the vocals and keys doing much to push the progressions and tones onwards and upwards, with the full crux of the rhythmic section taking us away one final time to a place filled with warmth and love. This is a record constructed to help us move and feel, all of which is conceived impeccably by two maestros at the top of their game, leading the light for the genre in which they inhibit with an absolute blinder of an LP that highlights their extended thoughts and ideas on the matter. Simply glorious.
Dream House has the power to move, groove, and vividly paint a picture of a time and place, and the mood associated with that warm feeling of serenity and euphoria. Neri and Baroni were masters at this craft, demonstrated frequently throughout their EP releases but truly realised in full on this record, one that contains an over abundance of class and feel, where the sunsets remain endless and the smiling faces never leave our side for one moment. The transitions that operate within songs keep the momentums fully operational, and its the little touches that work alongside the established troupes of the genre which make the experience so playful and enjoyable to interact with. We become enamoured very quickly with all they have to say, the visual manner of the music drawing us closer into a beautiful world filled to the brim with experiences, textures and colours, an environment that you will find yourself returning to time and time again. Simply glorious stuff.
Check out the record here: