Since first emerging in 2014, Neapolitan duo Nu Guinea has been developing a trademark sound that pays due tribute to Italian dance music’s celebrated fringes. Both their eponymous debut 12”, and last year’s similarly assured follow-up, the World EP, drew inspiration from both the Afro-Cosmic sound developed by Daniele Baldelli and Beppe Loda, and the dreamier, deeper end of Italian house during the style’s boom period in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Listen to the handful of tracks they’ve released to date, and you’ll not only hear subtle audio references to the wide-eyed, sunrise grooves of Mr Marvin and Morenas, or for that matter the African percussion which Baldelli and Loda held so dear, but also the kinds of records played in the Cosmic Club – pitched-down jazz-funk, hazy dub, saucer-eyed disco, quirky soundtrack fare and 1970s synthesizer epics.
If anything, their latest project – their first full length – emphasizes these shared Italian dance music influences. As the matter-or-fact title suggests, The Tony Allen Experiments is based around a simple premise, specifically creating tracks built around sampled drum patterns lifted from Afrobeat legend Tony Allen’s numerous recordings for Parisian label Comet Records, an organisation founded by the noted sticks-man’s manager, Eric Trosset. To these notable drum lifts are added additional beats and hits from Polish percussionist Adam Pawel Dziewialtowski-Gintowt, plus Nu Guinea’s own vivid musical creations.
The resultant music may not be strictly Afro-Cosmic in style – it’s rather more humid and breezy than Baldelli’s trademark dense drug-chug – but it certainly inhabits the same creative space. Baldelli and Loda’s original vision featured intense tribal drums, whereas Allen’s drum-work has always been celebrated for its’ distinctive swing and sense of funk. Even so, Nu Guinea’s dedication to a head-nodding BPM and knowing choice of accompanying musical elements – the warm jazz-funk sound of the Fender Rhodes, vivid, period-specific synthesizer lines, the bouncing hustle of electrofunk bass, and the low-slung ethos of dub-disco – undeniably tips a knowing wink to the celebrated late ‘70s style.
Ironically, what makes The Tony Allen Experiments such a delightful listen is not this aspect, but the distinctive fusion of the drummer’s loose-but-tight rhythms, and the almost sun-bright colours of the duo’s hazy, early morning melodies. This is most apparent on the tumbling Bobby Konders synthesizer settings, stretched-out organ chords and muted P-funk influences of “NG Theme”, the fast-paced drums, druggy arpeggios, intergalactic effects and Sueno Latino style piano riffs of “TA-Storm”, or the head-in-the-clouds, Ambient House-goes-Afrobeat shuffle of standout closer “The Sun Returns”.
These, and the superb “Open Paths”, where classic Italian House elements such as loved-up organ stabs and White Isle-friendly piano motifs are effortlessly blended with a punch Allen routine, perfectly encapsulate Nu Guinea’s distinctive retro-futurist fusion approach. It’s one that, on this fine album at least, guarantees spellbinding results.
A3. Open Paths
A4. NG Theme
A5. Statis (Calm Before The Storm)
B2. The Birds Rejoice
B4. The Sun Returns