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Gropina - Microcosmo (Paesaggi Records, 2021)

Updated: Oct 18, 2021

The latest slice of excellence to slide out of the Internationally located Paesaggi Records is the second EP from label co-founder Gropina, with the gorgeous music found within continuing to showcase his refined take on dreamy atmospherical Dance Music.

When feeling and experience reside near the top of priorities within a label’s vision, then the results will always speak to listeners on very interesting wavelengths indeed. What kind of response will be evoked in the listener? Does this speak to people on numerous levels, or just one? And it was these kinds of questions that championed the importance of deeply evocative dance music that could, well make you dance, but also make you think, feel and reflect? This duality has been worked up and increased in scope, and has inspired countless producers, labels, and listeners alike to see and feel things just that little bit differently. It also emphasised the power of focusing on the movement of keys and on the use of sound within the slower side of things, which has also spawned another collection of music makers throughout the past and present. In the present day, many labels have looked to combine the numerous genres that place feeling and experience first, and look to incorporate their own take on this most intangible of features into the music that they release. Its music that flows from many places in time, a spectrum of elements that are then moulded and condensed into magical experiences that work on levels aligned to our own emotional and musical frequencies. We as listeners are left to marvel at the riches that can be found in such releases, where mood is elevated to the surface, and if you look behind there is so much more excellence to be discovered amongst the depths. Its music that fulfils as much as it tantalises, satisfies as much as it opens new doors and ultimately provides an encapsulation which appeals to all the senses, no matter where we might find ourselves.

That is exactly the kind of bond that the excellent Paesaggi imprint has curated over the years, with their small but utterly beautiful discography doing much to channel multiple energies and provide a backdrop to multiple contexts. The sound of Paesaggi is rooted in conveying feeling and mood, and within their releases, you find a number of threads combining effortlessly together to help provide a sense of emotional scale and depth. All of their EP releases so far have fed into an overarching ideology that priorities emotiveness, musical diversity. Not only do the music makers present bring something new to the table, they all share commonalities in the audial language that they use, be it the softness of lush chordal arrangements or the breezy meander found within the drumming patterns, it all comes together in such a natural way that you would be made to think they all knew one another in a past life. Its this shared passion for painting a highly evocative series of scenes that has made the Paesaggi story already so intoxicating, with their previous works leaving so much tenderness within the palette as to leaving the listener always wanting seconds, and as such every new release is received very warmly indeed. Both of their first two records are very much worth highlighting here, which include their debut release, 'Mare Aperto' by label co-founder Gropina and 'Desert Theory', which was recorded by UK producer Native Cruise.

'Mare Aperto', with its Rhodesy breeziness and sublime sense of flow, really helps to set up the audial palette of the label, with each track conjuring up a differing sense of immersion via the use of layering, tone and application. The two records did much to set the stage and build an incredibly strong set of foundations for which to build upon, and when the melodic potential feels this elastic and profound, there's most likely going to be room to grow.

The label would release two mixtapes alongside the two EPs, 'Cosmic Empathy' by Wutu, which landed in 2017, and 'Alicudi' (2020) by Manu Archeo, head of the reissue label Archeo Recordings, containing a loose and easy feel to selection all pulled off with the art of storytelling in mind. As beginnings go, there ain't much better, and the momentum which the label has quietly been building up over the past few years has now culminated in the release of their latest record, 'Microcosmo', the second release by Gropina. The feels of the label remain firmly rooted in this release, as vivid and intensely vibrant keys saunter and float within a sea of rhythmic cascades, with each track providing its own take on the label's core identities, be it within more chuggy realms or ethereal swings. One thing is for sure, is that the key work will have you searching inwards, reflecting on the context around us as the most gorgeous of tones float past us on the way towards a quiet euphoria. Well rounded, elegant and effortless, this is a release that owns its pedigree and bears the Paesaggi badge loud and proud, and its a record which we have already allowed to burrow into the furtherest reaches of our minds, its presence welcomed as a beautiful addition to our understanding of just how good melodies and rhythms can be. Simmering, jubilant, and softly spoken, it’s a sound that wraps around the neurones, so with these things in mind, let’s dive right into this mini-marvel, and all the things it has to offer us....

First up comes the title track, and after an initial melodic salvo, we see the beat emerging from up and above the horizon line. The drums are delicate in their tone and placement, with blemishes filling up all the spaces found within the light kicks and snares, and as time passes by the melodic structure on top begins to mimic its beat-laden sibling up top, with flute-like passages - performed on a Quena, the traditional flute of the Andes - intermingled with soft chordal moments that do much to create a serene atmosphere. The frequencies in which these key lines move and flux within is a delight to the senses, as the fluttering passages mimic the hazy morning light, the light winds that calm our nerves as we face the day, and even as they move away during the middle section of the track, we can still see the keys playing out in front of our eyes. Their return comes soon after, as further wave lengths changes occur particularly within the flute playing, which seems intent on delivering a deeply complex sounding sequence which does much to move the mind and the body. The cut sees itself out as it did when it came into being, with the drums waving goodbye as the boat sails off in search of the deep blue waters. A superb start.

Video by @Miscellaneuosdog

Up next comes 'Awumbuk', and this one begins with the didgeridoo-sounding sonics to get us going. The hats signal that something greater is on the way, and as the first round of chords come into view you just know things will lift off from here, and that is exactly what happens as the gliding chordal line comes into view, with the drums lifting themselves up to match the energy. Where the first track focused on the view we see before us, this one takes us up high above the present state of being, with the world laid out beneath us, our body kept afloat by the rising then free falling chordal line, which dominates the back end of the track. In the foreground, we see plenty of activity that acts in perfect contrast to the momentum being presented, as little sequences make themselves be known, either rhythmically or in key form. The additional key line that rides along the coattails of the chords is something to cherish, as it emphasises the fullness of the main sequence and adds just that little bit extra to the progression. The track reverts back to its original structure for a moment, before moving right back into its melodic form, and we are all the richer for it. The chords continue to wrap themselves around our heads, as we bob along to the currents that be, dreaming of something, somewhere, and feeling the smiles lift on our faces. This one is pure joy.

Up next comes 'Natura Naturans', and this one carries over the initial bassy tones from the previous cut, but the drumming structure hints more so to a early- mid 90s groove. The slow and steady beat is rich with elemental density, with the kicks, hats, cymbals and all manner of other aspects helping to create a depth to proceedings, and as the light flute lines and cosmic leaning pads come into view, the energy becomes irresistible. The top ends see all manner of subtle movements occurring, with a contrast being made between the verse leaning sections and the choruses, which see the flute take lead in driving down from a high point and grooving towards the underbelly of the track. The track takes a dip in energy around the halfway mark to collect its thoughts, before moving back into its naturally developing journey, with plenty of sights and sounds to see along the way. This one really does leave you in a haze, awesome stuff. To wrap things up, we have 'Omen', and this one takes things deep down into new spaces and places. The drums are steady yet reserved, with their placement lending much of the focus over to the ominous bass line that crops up at all the right moments, as the light and airy melodic sequence converges with itself up above, lightly tiptoeing around the dubby undercurrent. The ensemble moves along with a nonchalance that we haven't yet experienced with this record, as if it doesn't need to exert itself or be overly bold, it simply has to persist and flex its scope when the time arises. The drums and bass are then allowed to continue onwards into the night, their groove hinting at many differing contexts and scenarios, its sombreness allowing us to imagine, to fantasise and day dream. It’s a fitting end to a record that's taken us through the looking glass of melodic overlays, of tender and emotionally charged stanzas that speak to us not through lyrics or voice overs, but through chordal applications, texturally enriching drumming patterns, and beautiful arpeggios. They might be only a handful of releases in, but Paesaggi might just be on to something here.

To be able to have conjured up such a strong audial identity should be the aim for any label, and if this is achieved it helps to create a bond between the unique music being conveyed and the listeners who happen to come across it and really connect with it. Paesaggi have surely succeeded in this regard, and not just in the immediacy of the music being bought forth, which has so many merits to it, but in the ways in which each release is able to portray a visual and audial message to listeners. On this latest piece, Gropina perfectly encapsulates everything which the label looks to celebrate and then some, with the music he conjures up here riding on numerous frequencies towards a musical nirvana that feels sweet, pure and mystifying. Each track caters for a differing context, from the slow and sultry through to the ever so slightly up tempo, but there's a link that runs throughout which demonstrates his ideals for how the music starts and how it ends. The delightfulness in the interplays between the keys, flute, drums and bass are all astonishing, and the blends on display really do emphasise what can be achieved with understanding the fullest parameters of feel and mood. A gorgeous record, in every shape of the word.

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