REVIEW Toto Chiavetta ‘Harmony Somewhere EP’ [Innervisions]

Less than a year after the release of his highly acclaimed double EP, ‘Underground Mental Resurrection’, Catanian DJ/Producer Toto Chiavetta is back on Berlin-based electronic music label and underground-scene heavyweight, Innervisions in full force and with no reservations. Succeeding the label’s wunderkind, Trikk’s Vilara EP was no easy task for Chiavetta. Both A & B sides of IV79 penetrated loudspeakers and dancefloors alike, deeply and mad, months before its release. Underground music geeks and Innervisions fanaticos mumbled and speculated, were moved by ‘Dzukulu’ and ‘Harmony Somewhere’ by way of label trifecta, Dixon/Ame while insiders hinted relevance to an old spark, but the emergence and convergence of ‘Harmony Somewhere’ comes somewhere so distant, almost cruelly vague, yet compelling and so refreshingly complex.

At the foreground of ‘Harmony Somewhere’ is ‘The Core’. Set off by a few seconds of jaunting and very deliberate silence, Chiavetta jumpstarts off of the anxiety of taking a wrong course, a dead end, the other tunnel. A soul-cajoling infusion of percussive elements, a technique very much a tenet of Chiavetta’s signature style is distressed and at the same time garnished with shutter sound effects, which could’ve easily sounded, no pun intended, cheesy but in this case, does not. There is something about the 5:42 minute encore, tense and restless, sympathetic and laud at D Major, enigmatic and compelling as it is unrelenting and uneasy.

By track two, Chiavetta claims his grounding, more confident in his rapport with listeners, navigating course from the core via ‘Transit Euro Express’, an experimental train, deja vu to one of electronic music’s most legendary and revolutionary musical masterpieces of the century, which has railed and derailed in and out of productions by a whole gamut of forward-thinking, often rebellious artists, from Dr. Dre to Milli Vanilli, De La Soul to Afrika Bambataa. Drawn out, robotic vocals, borderline saccharine melody and catchy synth rhythms: the typical candle-lit rendezvous between human and machine. Transit Euro Express’ build-up, ignited by Chiavetta’s proficiency in afro-house techniques is more organic and less soapy than Kraftwerk’s post war torn Germany born rally for counterculture and progression, but it also seems to have its own agenda. 2018 isn’t entirely self-assured and conflict free either, we are all in one way or another, in search of ‘Harmony Somewhere’.

Toto Chiavetta collaborates with Afro-House vocalist Idd Aziz in some of the most striking minutes of the EP, just under seven to be precise. Kenyan-born and Norway-based, Aziz fits into the musical journey perfectly, lending soulful vocals that are smooth, subtle and soothing, and when pinned immediately against track two, is a breath of fresh air, or rather fresh water pummelled by roaring tribal elements. ‘Dzukulu’ starts of fierce – hip-battering drums and riveting percussion raise temperature from the get-go. Machines don’t reign the corridors of the Congan watercourse, from which the surrounding forests thrive off of, it is the decorous strike of the drum pinging the deferential strum of the heart beating, and just that crevice somewhere, where harmony exists and governs.

The scavenger hunt for ‘Harmony Somewhere’ has begun to make sense since ‘The Core’, but it is in the title and concluding track, ‘Harmony Somewhere,’ where listeners come to terms with a degree of comfortability with the vitality of vulnerability and the optimism in transience. The onset of Chiavetta’s concluding track is a hustle, a hodgepodge of synthetic sounds feigning in a whirlpool of bustling soundstructures. Layers of percussion, lambasted by enzymatic rhythm that caress one ear while aggravating another intensify into a nail-biting state of aural narcosis. However, a hypnotic murmuring of ‘Harmony Somewhere’ drags the curtain inward into a resolution which transmits all anxiety and verve into an outward and full-compulsion lambada between body and music. Another Kraftwerk semblance? Must be ‘Harmony Somewhere’.

A perfectly layered and carefully structured set of four solid musical compositions, Chiavetta’s ‘Harmony Somewhere’ EP starts off as a vast concourse of soundscapes, amplified by emotions but elegantly concludes into an exquisite musical journey sutured by the very chaos that makes it beautiful in the first place. If it wasn’t Toto and his command of such deft finger would IV80 have worked? Perhaps not. But it is, and so we have ourselves a masterpiece.

For those who have immersed themselves into Chiavetta’s EP, heartily and emotively enough, there comes a sense of displacement, a lull, a hollowness with parting ways with the congruity he has italicized and the euphoria he had managed to carefully handcraft and sow throughout the EP. But just at the egress, ‘Analog Suite’, first of the dancefloor favorites from IV74, gets refurbished as Chiavetta’s own reinterpretation, ‘Analog Suite II’ – a bass-heavy, multi-dimensional and brusque, substantial use of 6:24, and ultimately a dancefloor number that can hook and sweep at any time.

At the tail-end of his adieu, Chiavetta entrusts the encore of his previous album in the hands of friend and labelmate Bruno Deodato. Deodato, better known as Trikk drops the perfect cameo through his private dub of a Dixon-favorite. ‘Nothing Really Matters’, frightening and mundane, melodramatic and earthy, was one of 2017’s makers and shakers. Its 2018 reconstruction is perfectly balanced and hopeful in all possible ways change can transgress. Through the two bonus tracks, nostalgic mementos, Chiavetta flashes back and summons his fidelity, asserts a grasp with the past, reserves a sense of intimacy and professes an ode to consistency, and simply, bestows those who have given confidence in return, two exquisite tracks that aide an EP which has already nailed it, to nail it home, and nail it hard.

Toto Chiavetta’s ‘Harmony Somewhere EP‘ was released July 27th 2018 on Innervisions.

Review by Marie J.