[Punch Drunk; 2010]

Bristol producer Guido came out of nowhere last year with a 12″ that instantly crowned him as one of my favourite up-and-coming artists. Being on Peverelist’s mighty Punch Drunk records was the first thing that caught my attention, along with a loose association between Joker and Gemmy as part of some ‘Purple Wow’ trilogy, but it was the tunes that sold me for good. “Orchestral Lab” and “Way U Make Me Feel” are driven by this sense of synthetic grandeur, both boasting sublime melodies that get piled up in luscious, lurid flourishes. The B-side was my favourite track of last year, and he followed it up with “Beautiful Complication / Chakra.” If “Chakra” didn’t quite reach the dizzying heights of his prior work, “Beautiful Complication” more than made up for it, coming on like some kind of bedroom-bound Terius Nash and undercutting R&B swoon with bow-legged bass.

Everything aside from “Chakra” turns up on his debut album Anidea (mostly in original form) and it still sounds fantastic in the context of a full-length. What’s great (and even a little surprising, given how quickly this record has come upon us) is that they’re not blatantly obvious standouts. “Cat in the Window” has these chintzy synths that slur around the melodies, passing high and low notes back and forth before it busts wide open to take us home on the back of this glorious coda that sounds lifted from some old soul record, horns all sweetly stinging in lonely triumph. It’s a lovely, unexpected touch that lifts the song to a whole new level. “Mad Sax” has this nagging 80s sax sample turning blind circles at its center, but it’s the p-funk synth line and woozy falsetto that worm their way into my heart. Later in the album, “Tango” mixes up guttural bass, languid piano and melancholy horns onto a virtual Argentine dancefloor and “Shades of Blue” seems him at his most downtempo, floating crackling chords out over the shuffling clap of the drums. There’s definitely no sense that he’s trying to remake his first 12″ over and over, and his expanded sound palette makes the album absolutely fly by without feeling like he’s trying to repeat the same tricks that have worked before.

What unites these tracks, and the entire album, is Guido’s deft grasp of melody and the way he structures his tracks like songs. There’s a sense with a lot of this material like it’s been half-built with vocalists in mind, and that’s part of what makes the album version of “Way U Make Me Feel” such a revelation. Immense as it was in instrumental form, with the help of Bristol singer Yolanda it turns into a bona-fide anthem. She turns in an amazing vocal performance, full of fire and swagger, that sounds like the track was always built with her in mind. Although some may complain about the changed version, it’d be hard for anyone to deny how well this works. It loses none of the instrumental’s hypersaturated synth manipulations but gives it a soulful weight. It’s truly incredible. In fact, the pair of vocal tracks are so good, it’s easy to wish that he’d managed to wrangle more singers into the studio. It’s not that the tracks without them suffer, but he’s got this easy, fluid knack for R&B-influenced anthems that I’m hoping he’ll indulge more in future. Here’s hoping for more remixes, or even an Underwater Dancehall style full-on vocal version of the album.

It’s easy in this ever-splintering world of bass music, to get caught up on pushing things forever forward, on tracking trends and bursting the bubbles of microgenres. This isn’t an album that’s intent on surfing any of those waves – it’s the sound of a guy who loves making music bringing out a set of wonderful tracks that demand to be played over and over again. It’s an easy album to fall in love with and it’s great to see one of these new producers delivering such a strong debut album. And although those of us in the southern hemisphere are sliding into the depths of winter, this is still going to sound amazing when I blast it out in the summertime.