PUNCH DRUNKIn recent months it has been impossible to see the name Guido mentioned alone in magazines or other type of paper or on-line text. His name always appears with that of Bristol (as the head of a trio that was renewing the sound of this coastal city and bringing back the laurels of prestige that were once given to Tricky and Portishead), or if it wasn’t with Bristol, it was with other producers like Joker or Gemmy, who share his age, neighbourhood, friendship, and a love for a deformed dubstep sound. But Guido deserved to stand out more by himself because the singularity of his music goes beyond that of a “Bristol school” that has never existed, and also because what he has in common with Joker –who has his roots in grime– and Gemmy –who has his in videogame music—only coincide ocasionally. Guido, whose real name is Guy Middleton, starts from a sumptuous garage / 2step base, full of baroque melodies and arrangements, with airy string arrangements that show a very clean affinity for symphonic music taken to the club electronic terrain. “Anidea” isn’t an album with rage, darkness, or sounds that scratch your ears, or with low-fi melodies with references to 80’s arcades, rather it settles comfortably into the adult sphere of post-rave music.
We had heard it before in two maxis that brought a lot of attention and expectation to Guido: “Orchestral Lab / Way U Make Me Feel,” launched at the beginning of 2009 by Punch Drunk, and “Beautiful Complication / Chakra” a few months later, in what would be his first incursion into vocal music. Here he finally put all the pieces of his creative jigsaw puzzle onto the table, all of the clues to understanding the singularity and tremendous quality of this debut album that sort of strays from the zeitgeist of British bass music –more post-garage than post-dubstep, and without the wonky element being very present– but which takes advantage this way of being different, rich and passionate. Guido has commented in interviews that what he most listened to as a youngster was UK garage (let’s not forget that he is 22 years old now) and that he even composes many of his songs on the piano before working on them with the computer to give them their definitive brilliant electronic texture. The first thing that Guido does is to take pains with the melodies and the structure of the songs, and this is the way they turn out: orderly, with a beginning and an end, without the repetitive structure of a house track, with a luxurious exposition of orchestral resources that never get pompous. It is the balance between the epic and futurism, between harmonious beauty and the arrangement of harsh rhythms that makes “Anidea” a superb debut delivery from a creative torrent that promises to keep flowing for many years to come.
Even when he wants to get rough, like in “You Do It Right,” which is essentially a song with harsh basses and breaks cut in half, closer to Joker’s style than his own, Guido manages to add a touch of warmth in the cracks of the sound, a spark of warm, calming light, like that of the cave in “Lost,” which is a label of its own. There are times that one might fear that “Anidea” will head into the territory of AOR: when he uses soft synthesisers; “Take Me Higher” might be an example, as more than a rush of endorphins, it could be music for ravers who are also stock brokers, or when he pulls out one of his distinctive elements, the sweet, smooth 80’s jazz bar sax for flirting to. But the way that Guido uses it, it never sounds old-hat, but rather inevitably logical: this is where “Way U Make Me Feel” suggests itself as a dubstep-soul hymn (here there is Yolanda’s voice, while the maxi was instrumental), or where “Mad Sax” takes on a more obsessive accent, ideal to heat up a night of clubbing, with a lot of bass drum explosions, epic fanfares and intense crescendos that will have your heart beating right out of your chest.
Speaking of hearts: “Anidea” is made in a cerebral way that speaks very well of Guido’s technical abilities, both with music theory and computers, but what underlies almost all of the songs is a passion that wants to run wild, and that he manages to rein in, as if he were starting to break in a horse. None of the songs get out of control, and there isn’t any excessive orchestration—in “Orchestral Lab” it is just the right amount necessary to create the crescendo with pinches of strings and synthetic metals, and later he lets the beats do the rest of the work. The false sophistication that is identifiable with AOR is also kept under lock and key, well disguised in the lovely “Cat In The Window,” and its string staccatos accentuate a flamboyant sub-bass that can light up a club all by itself when the night is over and it’s time to close down. “Anidea” has much more, because it’s an album with meticulous production, which leaves fragmented bits behind in your memory. You have to listen to it again to see whether the ending, “Tantalized,” is closer to harsh grime or to luxurious garage; the strings and something like a noise guitar solo blend together to create an angry, pushing effect that is unusual. You also have to listen again to thoroughly enjoy the ecstasy of the beginning, the dub symphony in two parts that begins with “Anidea” and ends with “Orchestral Lab.” This is, in summary, a musician’s album; it’s like what happens with Joy Orbison: if you say that he is only a producer, it’s as if you are saying very little of his abilities. He has plenty of talent and he has just shown us the first results of his enormous potential. Now we want more. Javier Blánquez