HEAR & NOW
Hear & Now's 2018 debut album Aurora Baleare was undoubtedly one of the most magical full-length excursions to appear on Claremont 56 to date; a drowsy, mood-enhancing masterpiece full to bursting with tactile grooves, blissful guitar motifs, dreamy aural textures and seductive, slow-burn melodies. The culmination of two years of work by longtime friends Ricky L and Marco Radicioni – a pair of experienced deep house producers whose solo careers stretch back to the 1990s – the album was as finely crafted as it was musically stunning.
Two years on, the pair return to Claremont 56 with the hotly anticipated follow-up, Alba Sol, a similarly seductive and sun-kissed set that is every bit as beguiling as its lauded predecessor. Once again built around the pair's trademark blend of colourful synthesizer melodies, ear-catching improvised guitar motifs, soft-touch grooves, enveloping chords and fireside-warm bass, the set's eight tracks are vivid, vibrant and as memorable as watching the sun rise over the Mediterranean or Adriatic seas.
This time round, listeners can expect a few more nods towards the kind of glassy-eyed 'dream house' that was once one of Italian dance music's greatest exports – think Don Carlos, Sueno Latino, Keytronics Ensemble etc. – and synthesizer-heavy 1980s new age ambience, though the duo's trademark sonic template is evident throughout.
These influences can clearly be heard on "Larus", where jangling piano riffs, mid-80s new age synths and cascading David Gilmour style guitar solos rise above thickset chords and sparse beats, the eyes-closed, arpeggio-driven goodness of "Acqua Tronica" – which also features some of Marco's funkiest guitar playing to date – and the head-nodding haziness of "Danza Delle Onde". They're there, too, within the mid-tempo rush of "Litorale", an emotive and life-affirming mixture of metronomic beats, fluid piano solos, retro-futurist synths, locked-in bass and pads so sumptuous you almost want to reach out and grab them.
While the subtle evolution of the duo's sound is evident throughout, Alba Sol also contains a swathe of tracks that echo the slow-motion hedonism of their earlier work. Closing cut "Pioggia Sil Mare", for example, is a beguiling and brilliant foray into kaleidoscopic ambient house territory rich in in slowly unfurling musical motifs, while "Polvese" chugs along on waves of stretched-out electric guitar notes, echoing percussion hits and the sort of stoned bass that was such a feature of Aurora Baleare.
Then there's the album-opening title track, a gloriously epic, joyously blissful number that first wowed listeners on the recent Claremont Editions One compilation and already feels like a downtempo classic. It brilliantly sets the tone for a sophomore set that's arguably even more wonderful than its stunning predecessor.