System Olympia - Under My Eyes (Slow Motion Records, 2020)
Through a year of excellent releases, System Olympia sees out 2020 with her perfected blend of blissed out keys and stomping rhythms hitting the sweet sensual spot in our minds one final time.
Music can be highly reflective at times, both of the person who made it or the emotional or physical space we find ourselves within. A soundtrack forged by passion and perspective, channelling itself into our impulses, our desires and our imagined zones of ethereal travelling, constructing a world that brings us back to a specific place at a specific time where we felt a certain way or acted in a particular manner. As we always discuss here on EG, the power of the synth in moving our minds and bodies is a well trodden path of powerfully conveying emotions and moods without words, with a seemingly limitless network of tones and tempos which all chime to certain rooms and soundscapes, defined by their sonics, melodies and atmospheres. Ambient makes us contemplate, Detroit techno helps us dream and meander the city streets, deep house narrows in on the overtly emotive sides of the mind, and so on and so forth, with all manner of genres aligning themselves very neatly with the kind of direction we want to go forth with today. For some music makers, its about covering the bases and contexts, not just sticking to a certain line of inquiry but instead making many, as if querying the many thoughts that run through their minds and in turn release music that covers many places, people and experiences. It becomes, as mentioned before, a soundtrack to our own daily notions, where many things are possible of happening, from the moment we wake up to the late night chats we have with partners or friends, this kind of music remains very much in the background of all we do, able to pinpoint the many interchanges and shared experiences we might stumble across. It makes the music highly relatable, engrossing to a point where we feel so involved with the progressions, tones and feels, with us continually being able to find our own spaces within the tracks, its humanistic side utterly infectious to the touch and feel. To craft these kinds of narratives takes not only a sense of flair and expertise with hardware, but the emotional side of proceedings has to be injected into the process to, to boldly and vividly craft emotions and colours that have real depth and substance to them, every note played and every transition pulled off with meaning and purpose. It becomes an introspective exercise in both the listener and the person who made the music, as from their side we see someone bearing their heart to us as each bar and stanza comes floating by, and it makes us look inside ourselves and explore how the music makes us feel. Its a kind of special bond that forms usually with our favourite kinds of music, but on occasion we come across a new artist who from the off does much to form that kind of interconnection with the listener, enthusiastically painting a picture as vivid as the physical and emotional context in which the album was created, inviting us into a world that contains so much tenderness, venerability and emotion. We simply inhibit a frame of mind when we listen, one where a symbiotic relationship between emotion and hardware has crafted something truly special, a space for us to move in and get to know time and time again, one that compliments our adventures and the down time, from the coffee in the morning to the excitement of the night.
For a while now, Francesca Macri has been forming these kinds of bonds with listeners, with a style that remains broad but continually interpersonal and emotionally charged. Releasing music primarily under her System Olympia moniker, Macri has crafted through her plethora of excellent records a tender and softly spoken universe, but one that pulls out all the stops when needed to charge the crowd up into a frenzy, which occurs as often as soundtracking the moments we share with those close to us. Its a sound that remains very much hers, with the audial character one that blends elements of house, italo, EBM, New beat, boogie and downtempo, all laden together either in sequences within a cut or over the course of several experiences that speak volumes to us and the world around us. Macri is certainly highly capable of taking us to spaces that allow us to view and experience things a little differently, like holding up a window into an imagined mind that is part hers and part ours, crafting a space between like within a venn diagram that remains shared by both. Its perhaps due to much of Macri's music speaking of desire, sex, emotion, friendship and heartbreak, that means it connects to us all on some level, as we too experience these things in our daily lives, and Macri is so very good at channelling her own experiences through her finger tips and into the music that is born as a result. Its a world that is painted so well by her, one that contains all the feels and tones you could imagine, inviting us to explore our own consciousness just as she has when crafting the music, something that comes across significantly within her tunes. Her sound is one that chimes to the rhythms of human experience, be it within a social setting or alone, catering to all our desires in exploring all manner of escapism within music, to become one with the vibe around us and the places we look to inhibit and become one with. Her discography reads like a mind map through all manner of places and emotions, weaving impeccably between places that remain in our minds from the past, now bought forth for our benefit, to relive those moments of excitement and feel, with some of our favourites including the gorgeous meanderings that take place on the live recording record 'Rising/Setting', that arrived in 2016, and remains one of her most compelling audial narratives yet; the gorgeous proto 80s boogie inspired 'Dusk & Dreamland' EP, one that truly reminds you of driving around in that Mercedes Benz, that arrived in 2017; the emotional rollercoaster that is the 'Odessa Takes' record, that weaves between so many differing soundscapes, with the record arriving earlier this year; and finally, the utterly compelling series of experiences that unravel before us on the 'Delta Of Venus' LP, that remains one of the year's best in our eyes. All of these records move along on differing wavelengths, inspired very much by the shared emotional ranges of the genres previously mentioned but collated together into audial experiences that remain very much her own, a style that intelligently links together elements from a wider musical universe which are then channelled directly into Marci's personal musical vision. High on feel, melody and experience, its the kind of music you give yourself over to, a highly visceral storyline that surely aligns itself with your own experience at some point, and that remains just one of the many things that make her music so very special. If you have the time, its well worth checking out her works, and who knows, you might find yourself getting wrapped around a narrative that reflects your experience too.
And now we arrive at her latest offering, 'Under My Eyes', which is her second release on Italian label Slow Motion Records. Much like her previous release on the label, these sounds revolve around the emotional gains to be experienced from the Italo and New beat side of things, drawing influence from the dubbed out bass lines and big room chordal arrangements which make the heart sing and soar through the clouds and back down to earth again. On this new release, the tempo remains at a fast pace, never dipping below max heart beat but each track tells a different story, as a myriad of beat structures prop up gorgeous melodic features that set a differing tone and feel each time. Its an adventure through the annuals of place and time, as we are transported to an imagined club somewhere on the rivera, or to a deep basement somewhere, but no matter where or when, we are taken on yet another compelling journey that will have the mind racing and the heart pounding like never before. So, without further delay, lets get right into this.....
First up we have 'My Lincoln', a joint venture with producer DXJX, and from the very off we get right into it. The gorgeous sweeping pads dip slightly with each placement, creating an additional sense of dynamism as they move through the progression, which remains one of total emotional encapsulation within our heads. The drums arrive soon after, propping up the chordal line and providing a nice contrast to the richness that unravels on top, with an bass line arriving soon after which adds further to the momentum going forward. The track then goes through a sonic spectrum of sorts, as differing filters and effects are factored into the soundscape that sees all manner of tonal exercises going on which do much to add intrigue and interest, and before long we arrive back into the main crux of the progression once more. The track takes one more dip in energy, leaving the chords to be appreciated in all their glory, as a vocal line clearly speaks over the pads, before it all slams right back into place, lifting us off our feet as we rise higher and higher towards euphoric places. Another repeating key line adds further to the rhythmic feel we are locked very tightly into, aiding in our ascent towards the stars, as we close our eyes one final time to draw from the power of the keys as the cut plays itself out. Glorious stuff. 'Jade Stones' arrives next, and the keys kick things off once more on this one. The bassy tones provide a foundation of groove, as the drums then align themselves underneath with the classic spaced out feel of the kicks and the snares, with cymbals making up some of the space between. A vocal line then calls out across the top end, signalling the hats to up the tempo, and before long the cymbals add further to the evolving percussive structure. This then calls into action the beautiful key sequence that weaves and worms its way around the varying structures, providing a wonderful sense of energy that keeps the pulse running at a very high rate. The vocal line acts as the transitionary element within the track, guiding the other layers through their paces and indicating when things to drop out and come back in. The track lowers its energy to provide focus on the key sequence, one that fills out the space with ease and feeling, moving us through the motions to new heights and realms of understanding. The drums then build themselves around the sequence, quickly building up steam as the original bass line swings back into view and the full picture is now complete. Its a track that locks you into its groove with ease and pleasure, taking our conscious on a real trip through blended rhythms and melodic sequences that work alongside each other so very well. Excellent!
Up next comes 'Nessuno Mi Ferma', and this one begins with the drums and the vocal line in the driving seat. The vocal line speaks over a wonderfully balanced beat, where the cymbals and hats are crisp and expressive and the kicks remain deep and focused, and as the words spoken come to an end we are greeted with the deep and beefy chords that call out across the sonic tundra. Their placement comes at just the right moment, transporting us once more to a highly emotional state of mind where the smiles are all round and the mental escapism is there for the taking, as the track moves between the full chordal arrangement and the more dubby section where the bass line rises right to the top. The varying elements then take turns in making up the melodic structures of the track, with a lot of interchangeability occurring that keeps the mind continually moving onwards with engagement and passion. The track takes a little dip in energy, but only for a moment before whisking us away one final time through the most blissed out of atmospheres. Lovely stuff. Finally, to wrap things up on this wonderful EP, we have 'Lo-Fi Space Cowboy', which features Elliott Yorke, and things begin off with the swinging drum beat providing all the space in the world for greatness to occur. Sure enough, the subtle bass notes begin to pop up within the spaces defined by the diving drumming pattern, and before long these features are joined by beautifully full and expressive chords, which start off on one level before abounding to becoming highly dynamic, acting in tandem with the drums to created a connected experience which works so very well together. The little variations in chordal touches, the cascading key sequences that move from up high to the foundations underneath, all add something in their own little way, helping to craft a world that has so much to look at and admire. Its a final statement of intent from a record which glides through the varying places which we have shared moments of delight and joy together, a uplifting movement through the differing spaces and places that have been filled by our emotions before, all soundtracked by the beautiful music that System Olympia is able to conjure up. Simply irresistible.
Francesca Macri certainly has a knack for crafting soundscapes of the highest quality, ones that are famed for their diversity in touch and depth of emotional and human experience, with this record no exception to the rule. From the very first second to the last note, we are locked into a weaving and diving experience that draws so much from the relationship shared between an impassioned individual and their hardware, with each note, chord and beat acting as one in connecting to the deepest emotional impulses found within all of us. An ode to the dance floor and all the magic that can be conjured up there, it exemplifies Macri's ability to bring her signature sound to all manner of styles, be it directed for home listening or in the club, she always delivers on an atmosphere inspired by inner reflection and the experiences bound up with emotion. An outstanding release, and certainly one of our favourites from this year.
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