Saturday, 29 June 2013

Feature| Rico Zerone's 'The Joy of Sleazy Listening' & Miami-House's Evolution

In 2011, Drive was released to huge critical acclaim. Utilising multiple underground 80s inspired synthpop groups in its soundtrack, the film quickly became known as much for its sonic landscape as its visual one. Forward to May last year, and the opening of chiptune/80s electronic label Telefuture painted a clear sign of the influence Drive’s soundtrack had, whether it was directly responsible or a well-placed barometer in the middle of artistic shifts.

The 00’s have been in throes of late-postmodernism culturally, a constant churning mesh of nostalgia driven by patchwork referencing and constant retrospectives. Hotline Miami burst onto the indie game scene in October of last year, further outlining this often-laboured point. Blending Miami Vice visuals with pixelated Tarantino-esque violence, Hotline… continued the trend of 80s inspired modern electronic music, causing, again like Drive before it, as much respect for the sonic as the physical, with artists like M|O|O|N and Scattle becoming hugely revered as a result.

Fast forward another six months and Rico Zerone’s second release for Telefuture, and ninth release altogether, continues this retrospective obsession; that neon laced sound of palm trees and Miami nights (a movement I’ve affectionately dubbed ‘Miami-House’).  Thematically, ‘The Joy of Sleazy Listening’ covers a lot of ground, often more than its contemporaries. ‘Apéritif’ has an ocean freeform funk, ‘Too Late’ a near waltz serene flow and ‘Eyecatcher’ is all calypso tinged health and safety video vibes. It all adds up to a rose-tinted view of music’s past and its involvement in the present, a continuation of the Miami-House canon, and one Rico Z has breached countless times before, but never so valiantly.

Now, for some actual grit on the release: whilst as a whole the music is fantastic, it is also unmistakably cheesy, sometimes so cheesy it made me feel physically ill. That criticism aside, if you can get over the primary nausea, underneath is a selection of outstandingly composed tracks covering a huge range of emotions and genres (in fact the aforementioned Miami-House title doesn’t do the scope of this EP justice). Whilst ‘Charisma’ is too sickly sweet to stomach and ‘Solitary Dance’ quickly becomes tiresome, the other six tracks are all fantastic.

The reason for my opening and extremely strenuous point concerning the not-so-new-but-increasingly-focused trend of the Miami-House sound is this: ‘The Joy of Sleazy Listening’ sounds like the next stage in the movement’s evolution. Whilst before the Rolly Mingwalds and Jasper Byrnes of the world seemed content with mere funk and disco foreplay, Rico Zerone has dived fully into the genres of the past, surfacing with an ample collage of the 70s and 80s, and hopefully Rico’s deviation is a sign of coming progressive regression. Should you listen to this album? Yes. Soon it could be a definitive statement of a quickly expanding ideal, and even if it’s not, at the very least it’s an extremely potent example of postmodernism working to the advantage of the listener.  

Favourite Track: Too Late