Monday 13 July 2009

Antoni Maiovvi
'Shadow Of The Bloodstained Kiss'
(Seed Records 2009)

"‘Shadow of the Blood Stained Kiss’ is the Antoni Maiovvi score to a nonexistent 1983 Italian Sci-fi giallo starring Barbara Cupisti and Ian McCulloch. In the distant future "Europa," the 2nd moon of Jupiter has been colonized by man. In the midst of this Utopian era a dangerous struggle for power between organised crime and the highest level of government is underway and when Juliet Hardy (Barbara Cupisti), a stunning discotheque singer, becomes witness to a murder the only person who believes her is tough-nosed cyber-journalist, Jason Scott (Ian McCulloch). Together, they unravel more than they bargained for as a sadistic killer runs loose brutally slaying anyone in connection to the crime. Who does this man in black work for and what is the connection between him and an ancient order that have been controlling the known universe since the dawn of time?"

When the press release for a new album reads as above, you know you have something special about to be shoved in your ears. But then again this is Antoni Maiovvi, the alter ego of Geisha frontman Anton Maiof, and so the acceptable parameters of what's normal were eroded many, many years ago. After the sticky majesty of debut album Electro Muscle Cult gained widespread acclaim, this sophomore release was an important one. The current italo and euro-synth revival is continually operating on a thin line between homage and pastiche, with very few artists that have adopted the genre taking the sound in anything even remotely approaching a new direction. Can an artist like Maiovvi - who wears his influences so well but so prominently - offer us anything new above the nostalgic?

Maiovvi has played a dangerous game in releasing what is considered an imagined soundtrack - not only does the composition have to work within it's concept, it also has to be cohesive as an album in it's own right when that element is removed - as well as offer something intriguing within the genre itself. It's a huge gamble that many artists have tried and failed with - but it's one that Maiovvi wins. This is easily an early contender for our album of the year, regardless of the concept - but made all the more awesome because of it. It's hard to describe the joy you feel when you find an album that perfectly crystallises all that you love about music - but Shadow Of The Bloodstained Kiss is one such album.

The elements of it's influence are all present - that twilight period of the late 70s and early 80s where the synth ruled supreme - but Maiovvi has twisted the original sounds of that time into something brand new and exhilarating. The sense of creeping dread prevalent in Argento or Carpenter's finest work bleeds through into the polished chrome and neon of Moroder, but the style has been reinforced with the sensibilities of the new millennium - whilst the vintage synths and undulating rhythms recall Legowelt or Bangkok Impact, the toughened drums and haunting melodies owe more to the sharper, darker styles of Kavinsky. The overall effect works brilliantly on tracks like Plymouth Fury where the elements combine perfectly to transport you to that dark, distant future of masonic cults and sultry chanteuses.

Maiovvi's obvious mastery of his craft becomes even more apparent on Nightmoves and Velocity Central were he commands a pitch-perfect ability to control the dynamics of atmosphere. Both tracks visualise instantly the world Maiovvi is dragging you into, the former reminiscent of the red rain-streaked car ride in Argento's Suspiria but extrapolated into a distopian nightmare, the latter evoking a tense chase into enemy territory that brings to mind De Vorzon's score for The Warriors. Even without the fragments of memory these pieces conjure up, their integrity as stand-alone compositions remains intact. It's a remarkable feat that Maiovvi continues to achieve throughout the entirety of the album.

Stand out tracks include the haunting piano-led Witchcraft which flips around it's central motif a huge bolt-on hi-NRG riff that takes you straight into the heat of the discotheque before some nameless horror unleashes bloodshed on the patrons. Closing tracks The Chase Pt 1 & Pt 2 are still the quintessential Maiovvi compositions - sinister melodies enveloped in pounding drumwork that continually shifts it's shape to keep your synapses stimulated. It's a rare thing to find an album that encapsulates such invention and spirit, and even rarer for one that is shrouded in the contrivance of a concept such as this. Maiovvi not only revels in this contrivance, but transcends it, taking the listener into a whole new realm of pleasure.

5 out of 5 - Essential!

Antoni Maiovvi - The Chase Part 1

FFI : Antoni Maiovvi Website

BUY: Antoni Maiovvi - Shadow Of The Bloodstained Kiss