In an age where single track downloads rule and consumers pick an choose their favourites, I worry for the future of the album format. It saddens me that some artists have given up trying to make “proper” albums altogether, instead putting together commercially attractive but culturally worthless collections of hits and misses on a simple theme.
To those of my generation – and, before you ask, I’m in my early 30s – carefully crafted, properly thought out albums are still of great beauty. For all the hyperbole, such albums are still rare in electronic music. Sure, there have been some good albums in the last 18 months, but they’re few and far between. This is not to say that there’s a dearth of talent out there; far from it, in fact. It’s just that some artists suit the album format more than others.
On the evidence of this luscious debut set, Ben “Gatto Fritto” Williams is one of those artists for whom the LP is a snug fit. Gatto Fritto was clearly designed to be listened to in sequence, ideally in the comfort of a deep armchair or sofa, with something medicinal – alcoholic or otherwise – nestled loosely between the forefingers. Considered on those terms, it’s sublime. Like his previous exemplary 12” singles for Dissident, Electric Minds and International Feel, Gatto Fritto quietly tiptoes between claustrophobic paranoia and dream-like bliss – on some occasions even within the same track – see the calming yet uneasy “Solar Flares Burn You”.
Like all good albums, it’s a journey. This voyage begins with a duo of evocative, offbeat pop moments, “The Curse” and “The Hex”. Dreamy and druggy, bright and otherworldly, they seem to squint at the sun whilst riding slow motion grooves that draw from disco, Italo and Balearica. What immediately follows is a touch more nightmarish, particularly “The Grinding Of The Brakes”. Whilst intensely beautiful in parts, there’s something rather ghoulish about it’s grandiose Radiophonic Workshop synths and wall of sound production. It sounds like Phil Spector after a night smoking crack.
But then, like the best albums, Gatto Fritto changes tack. The brilliant “Invisible College” – still Williams’ finest moment – offers a complex but cosy collage of nu-Balearic loveliness. “My Ethereal Body” is cascading and cacophonous, breathless and brilliant. Then there’s closer “Beachy Head”, an ever-building climax of electronic wizardry, sun-bright synths and dreamy imagery. All great albums end on a high, and this is no exception. Like the rest of Gatto Fritto, it’s utterly beguiling.