An Italian artist now living in Ireland, Lerosa appeared on the outer realms of the radar with his blunted take on deep house, which saw him snapped up by labels such as A Touch Of Class and Real Soon. They were imprints with a very specific remit in warm, fat sounds handled with care and control, pre-figuring the resurgence in analogue production but also borrowing from the austerity of the minimal sounds that were so prevalent at the time. However, among these comforting and direct house cuts that Leopold Rosa was crafting, you would stumble across the occasional nugget with a quicker tempo and a more abrasive demeanour. Even in the house music he makes, you can tell Lerosa is a man with a passion for electro as envisioned by the Detroit past masters, and on this EP for the burgeoning Apartment label he indulges that passion entirely.
It’s well informed and about as rootsy as electro could ever be without covering Cybotron, and there is a certain elegance to Lerosa’s music that sets him apart from the rest of the pack. “Combat” kicks the EP off with a gently modulating arpeggio that quickly gets bolstered by a no-nonsense beat punching out a stiff call to arms, while the bass synth prowls around the lower frequencies with a restrained menace. It’s the pads that create a unique ambience, plying off-key chords that create a subtle shift from harmonious balance to an icy tension.
That icy mood gets extrapolated on “Titanium”, arguably the centrepiece of the EP. Commencing with a beautifully mellow false start, it’s only seconds before a mean-spirited arp comes bowling in with a darkside slant that would settle nicely among the grit of Underground Resistance. There’s a pleasing lack of fuss to the way the different rhythmic elements get fed into the mix, eschewing drops and build-ups in favour of natural progression as the intensity ramps ever upwards. The track really comes into its own though when that initial false start comes back to haunt, cooling the tempers of the track with delicate synth flourishes to create a thoroughly sweet n’ sour end to proceedings.
On the flip, “Slavery” continues the full-throttle assault by unleashing some utterly mean acid business into the mix. Coming in heavily filtered to start with, it’s not long before the visceral 303 line gets opened up and the action truly begins. In true acid form, the same phrase maintains throughout, leaving Lerosa free to tweak to his (and our) heart’s content. It’s a simple formula, and it’s certainly not groundbreaking, but it’s executed immaculately. That leaves it to “Decisions” to slow things down to a steady 4/4 thump, while the sounds themselves remain decisively in the dense realm of toughest Detroit. Once again we’re faced with a fulsome bassline that sneers with malice, but then the track lifts with more lilting arps and pads that divert the vibe away from sinister realms into a space altogether more uplifting. If it weren’t for the gritty rhythm section you could almost call it fluffy.
You could never argue that Lerosa is reinventing the wheel with this EP, but then you’d have to be a very brazen artist to lay claim to a sound that has a history of thirty plus years to it. Instead, these four tracks come on as a simple expression of love for a particular style of dance music, delivered with the passion and respect that it deserves. What lifts the release above simple cookie-cutter beats is the atmospheric quality, exploring a duality between nice and nasty without ever sounding contrived. It may sound like a simple trick but very few ever manage to nail it.