Athletic's fantastic game at Old Trafford put the city of Bilbao on the world map; but before the legendary 2-3 match, another northern Spanish man had already left his mark on the UK. Aitor Etxebarria, otherwise known as El_Txef_A, entered the group of young promises of European (deep) house with his first release on Hypercolour, “She Kissed Me First”. It was an elegant 12” - featuring remixes by Minilogue and Holger Zilske - that collected his previous efforts, released on different labels as loose tracks and remixes. In 2010, El_Txef_A’s efforts were starting to bear fruit; he was in bloom. Today, two years later and with his first album out, there's no doubt: Aitor's got it. His music stirs up emotions and captivates, in a fine maze of love and light. “Slow Dancing In A Burning Room” is an LP on which virtues are more important than shortcomings.
For El_Txef_A, house has always been life. In the north of the Iberian Peninsula, hard techno is usually boss - but for him the focus is pianos, silky textures and passionate vocals. In this instance, the latter come from Bisconti and Hannot, sometimes drawing from the long tradition of male vocal house ( “Rise And Fall”, to similar effect to John Talabot and Pional's track on the also recent “ƒIN”). More often than not it provokes a phantasmagoric impression; thanks to the manipulation of the speed of the original recording, always downward, until he gets a dragging and low effect, like on “A Place To Fall Apart” and “In”. Aitor claims that one of his major influences is Japanese artist Kaito, creator of a passionate and exuberant body of work, in which the concept of love (love on a cosmic level) is what guides a sound that borders on immense and humid tearfulness. Judging from what we hear on “Slow Dancing In A Burning Room”, El_Txef_A has taken note. Although, unlike Kaito, he doesn't sound epic and almost trance-like - he manages to make every piece of the album tremendous. The aforementioned “In” perhaps sounds more like what Moby did on his mythical “Play”; but Aitor skilfully steers clear of easy and sentimental downtempo fodder, introducing the cello and piano arrangements subtly, in order to make a real impact rather than delivering a few extra bags of sugar with some otherwise not so vigorous tracks. None of the effects are forced, and sometimes he even refers to classic and unjustly forgotten records on which electronic music managed to reflect, with modesty, the richness of the human soul. For example “Love Potion” is reminiscent of the early tracks by Leila, on her album “Like Weather” (1997), short and to the point, full of soul and endorphins.
The more you hear the album, the more convincing it becomes. The first impression is that it has a slight amateur touch, as if it weren't fully elaborated upon. But that actually gives the music more character: it has a layer of mist and faded colour, which goes well with the album artwork, on which we see the figures of two children in a field in spring, separated from the viewer by a barb-wire fence. This idea of nostalgia at a distance can also be heard on the slow-motion piano house tracks like “Broken Bridges” and “Save The World”. They emit a kind of sepia and pastel coloured garage-house, like Boards Of Canada jamming with Robert Owens, on which Hannot shows he's able to give people goosebumps just by opening his mouth. In short, El_Txef_A has banged his fist on the table. He has proven that his recipe works and that, in order to get everyone's attention in today's saturated deep-house scene, it's better not to copy the leaders but to come up with something original. In his case, it’s a sound somewhere between Chicago in the early 90s (faded, after getting a once-over with bleach) and downtempo to dance to with tears in your eyes.