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Album Of The Week

Supertoys Last All Summer Long: Lorenzo Senni's Scacco Matto
Ryan Alexander Diduck , April 23rd, 2020 08:01

Scacco Matto, Lorenzo Senni's first album for Warp Records, is like a superfast hypercar – but what would James May think about it? ponders Ryan Diduck

Photo: John Divola

I’m of two minds about the new Lorenzo Senni album, and I’m giving it a marginal recommendation to anyone who wants to just stop reading now and go listen to it. Listen you should, at least once, as a treat. And more if you like.

Scacco Matto, Senni’s latest effort for the Warp Records imprint, puts me in the mind of a brash sports car, something like a Lamborghini or whatever Richard Hammond has pinned to his wall. Jeremy Clarkson would love it and say “Yes!” and “Power!” and “Speed!” while giving it a good romp around the racetrack. James May would find it all a bit unnecessary.

Senni’s project is an ongoing update to the classic trance form, like a 1990s Porsche that’s been retrofitted with modern electronics. Clarkson would love Senni’s revisions; May might say that he preferred the comfortable charming clunky-ness of the original model. Clarkson would admire the braggadocio, the machismo; May would think it’s a tad indecorous.

Maybe it’s a generational thing. But I had a proper old-man moment with this record on first listen. I’d downloaded the album onto the laptop that’s hooked into the big sound system in the living room. And in the time between pushing play and when the music began (about a nanosecond) I had forgotten all about pushing play on anything at all. The staccato attack of sharp sonics scared the absolute shit out of me. I jumped out of my skin, wondering where the hell this intense noise was coming from.

It took me at least a moment to remember that, yes, this was indeed the album that I had deliberately just put on for a listen-through. (I’m 42. And if you’re younger than 42, just you wait…)

Senni presents not so much a cohesive album here, but rather a series of studies on a form, like Domenico Scarlatti’s sonatas. But not like Scarlatti’s sonatas. More like Marc-André Hamelin’s revisionist Omaggios to Scarlatti. Senni produces music with alternating measures of respect and irreverence. But the results lack emotion. Scacco Matto’s production values are modern and bright. But they don’t move me to move, which I suppose is what dance music — even de/reconstituted dance music — is for.

I feel just awful for artists releasing music right now. The entire landscape has changed so totally, so irrevocably. We will all have to wait some time before hearing this music played out in a club or performed live at a festival. It makes me wonder if and when and how these kinds of events will happen in the future. Scacco Matto occupies an odd position in this precise historical moment. It’s an album that was made for a near future that, on the most fundamental level, did not come to pass. It’s an orphan of the recent past, an instantaneous anachronism.

Whether or not you want to have this new Lorenzo Senni in your life depends very much on whether you are more like Jezza Clarkson: big, loud, brassy; or akin to Captain Slow: traditional, mild, mollified. With the situation as it is currently, Scacco Matto will be constrained to soundtracking your rave-in-isolation for the foreseeable. We will only determine in time how it plays in the real world, whatever that world looks like, whenever we can get back to the important things in life: hands-up exuberance; reckless abandon; getting off our faces in public; dancing together. Scacco Matto is the latest model of hypercar that’s currently confined to the showroom. It’s been wind-tunnel-tested, but will it perform out on the track?