Raiders of the Lost ARP

4

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Mario Pierro is one-half of MAT 101 and Jollymusic, two aliases he shares with co-producer Francesco DeBellis. As Raiders of the Lost ARP, he flies solo, creating Detroit-style techno that tends to bring the Italo-disco referents -- buoyant keyboard work, plump rhythms, ringing melodies with European flair -- to the fore. Following a handful of 12" releases on Plasmek, Pigna, and Nature (all members of Italy's Final Frontier family) 4 is Pierro's first full-length, a set of tracks that are nearly all new. Like Carl Craig's Landcruising, Model 500's Deep Space, and Morgan Geist's The Driving Memoirs, Pierro builds an album around the theme of road travel. Ambient recordings of parking garages and revving engines don't factor in, but the linear flow of the album and the track titles suitably get the theme across, along with the driver-friendly nature of the propulsive, scenery-complementing sounds. The easy electro-glide of the opening "Arrival" wins out by a fair margin as the album's high point; the effect of the rest of the album isn't nearly as immediate, but the steady, stately shifts of tone and rhythmic bases eventually crawl under your skin with repeated listens. Beat-wise, Pierro proves to be more flexible than most of his current contemporaries, and his synth patterns are adept whether they're carrying a ripe melody or lurking in the shadows. The unapologetically huge-sounding "Module Detach" is the biggest surprise, owing more to the Gap Band than anyone else, with muscle-bound synth-funk riffing. On "City Lights," door-slam drums are offset by glowing synths and a sinuous bassline worthy of Geist's Metro Area. After the intended closer, "On and On," sends you on your way, the album seems rich enough, but listeners are advised not to disregard the untitled bonus track -- it's actually "Highway," a dancefloor charger on par with As One's "Epic," originally from 2003's 3 12."

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