Imagine you’re a hardcore gabber fanatic with an imaginary instant hoover sound button going off in your head whenever you do something noteworthy – in a kind of thug life meme-like fashion (just replace gangstas with Human Resource). You’d probably know the so-called hoover sound was first used in Second Phase (aka Joey Beltram and Mundo Muzique)’s Mentasm, released in 1991 on the notorious R&S Belgian label – at least according to Simon Reynolds’ Energy Flash, everyone’s bible if you talk about rave culture. Or, maybe, that the tradition originated in the Netherlands pretty much in the same period (multiple discovery, anyone?) thanks to Human Resource’s Dominator, featuring a basic Roland Alpha Juno built-in patch and published on Jayant Edoo and Patrick van Kerckhoven‘s 80 Aum Records, the sonic ingredient being plagiarized so many times it led the HR crew – legend has it – to release the mocking track Sick (Dominator is Dead) one year later only (soon to be joined by James Brown), trying to kill the hoover for good. But what if everything you think you know is actually wrong? WHAT IF Gabber was already there in the early years of 1900?
DJ Balli aka Riccardo Balli (Bologna, Italy) is the founder of the Italian label Sonic Belligeranza and its two subdivision + (plus) and – (minus) Belligeranza, born to mirror and sustain his musical interests as dj and producer in the field of breakcore, experimental turntablism, and extreme noise. One of the true heroes of 90s Italian Underground, he’s responsible for some of the most shocking and sacrilegious episodes of conceptual / noise music ever recorded, other than being an enlightened writer focusing on the fracture dancefloor electronic music experienced after the initial rave years (and much more). Composer and long-term fan of hardcore electronic music, he’s always believed in the intrinsic subversive power of up-tempo, ‘not-intelligent’ dance music as opposed to the most pretentious, self-important, byproduct-of-the-ancient-rockstar-system electronic scene. A LOT should be said about him, his books, his performances, the Sonic Belligeranza iconoclastic attitude and everything that regards DJ Balli and everything near him, but it’s not the time nor the place (for that purpose you can take a look at this overarching article by Niccolò Cevenini on Gurugùzine: Italian readers only, sorry!). Today, we’d like to talk about his encounter with the many-faceted, exotica Italian outcome called ArteTetra (recently praised by Simon Reynolds himself) he met on his path early this summer and in which he found the perfect platform to express his borderline take on music. Tomorrow, October the 14th, the world will meet DJ Balli’s last effort called SVELTO, the Hakken Tuner, recorded with the precious contribution of Futurist Giacomo Balla, out on International Cassette Store Day as a part of the Functional Tools 4 a Better House Living series’ first batch that will also include the ‘Musica Lavapiatti‘ tape by Shit and Shine. We’re glad to share with you the entire record you can stream via the bandcamp player at the end of the article.
Right here below, instead, you can take a look at the exclusive tape trailer we put together couple of weeks ago using the cassette’s original tunes as soundtrack, and starring – of course – the almighty DJ Balli, who gets to trace back his origins directly to the Futurist Giacomo Balla, thirst for speed and pyramids (wait for the trailer). The video, coming with English subtitles, also features PREVIOUSLY UNSEEN FOOTAGE shot in 1996 during one of the legendary Number One (Brescia, Italy)’s Hardcore Warriors nights’ finale. Did we mention the fact that SVELTO is a hardcore gabber record? Yeah, you heard us, not those fancy, horrible mainstyle revival stuff, we’re talking real (weird) shit here: let’s finally acknowledge back the power to subvert the status quo that has always belonged to stupid, ruthless and violent music. Following up, a thorough track-by-track SVELTO commentary DJ Balli provided us so that you won’t miss any of the references being made.
“In the past years, we’ve seen many cool albums released as they were, just beautiful music artifacts with no particular purpose rather than pleasing the most trained ears in the underground scene of music listeners and cassette tapes aficionados”. So reads ArteTetra’s Functional Tools 4 a Better House Living‘s press release. Going on quoting: “After a big research involving a copious amount of people including musicians, housewives and household management’s scientists, Artetetra, in collaboration with the bolognese crew of Islandsexp, ended up with a catalogue of music that serves both as a pleasing acoustic experience and as a tool for a more productive and functional house-working: this music is designed to instantly make you work on a specific subject, channeling the energies and improving your simple and ordinary performances. For this new tape-series, we get back home from the exotic lands of Quinto mondo and enter your kitchen to infiltrate into your daily routine“. So, as you’ve been able to read, the latest concept developed by ArteTetra deals with automated gestures, precisely as hardcore gabber’s maniac hakken dance does: SVELTO aims to create a new version of it that is based more on the upper limbs rather than legs, perfectly fitting the act of dishwashing.
Through the cassette format, DJ Balli – in a SVELTO-mediated telepathic communication with the famous Futurist Giacomo Balla, as already pointed out – explores the correlation between the hardcore gabber aesthetics and the most important Italian avant-garde art and music movement of the 20th century, seemingly sharing several features between them. And he does that referring to a set of precise aspects of Futurism he can indict as major influences for the hyper-super-fast gabber music style (among them: the passion for speed, aggression, and technology). The result is something defined by the artist himself as a Hakken-tuning-machine, as clearly stated in the video trailer you had the chance to see.
- A1 – Hakken in Freedom
- A2 – Gabberina Luminosissima
- A3 – ZANG TUMB TUMB GABBA GABBA TUUM interlude
- A4 – ChickenFIAT
- A5 – Dishwasher cycle #1: Gabber Pyramid
- A6 – Filippo Dominator Marinetti is dead (Bonus Track)
- B1 – 4/4 Bass Drum, the World’s Only Hygiene Mixtape (previously web-released here)
SVELTO opens up with Hakken in Freedom, featuring Filippo Tommaso Marinetti‘s words praising Novelty, Originality, Optimism and – right where the distorted kick lies – Velocity. The words are manipulated and arranged in a cut-up fashion to highlight the track’s rhythmic progression turning it into a desecrating march and intertwining them with a killer synth and Giacomo Balla / Luigi Russolo’s Macchina Tipografica samples. This is the very personal DJ Balli’s homage to paroliberismo (literally meaning words in freedom, hence the title) that is also summoned in ZANG TUMB TUMB GABBA GABBA TUUM interlude (named after Marinetti’s sound poem), transferring it to the ordinary gabbaboy‘s dance. Gabberina Luminossima features a female voice announcing a deadly match between several Futurist poets and painters, followed by a 180 BPM ride that despite its high speed feels rather delicate thanks to the usage of trancey synths and opera-like singing samples. ChickenFIAT‘s title refers to the disgusting Pollo Fiat Futuristic recipe: a roast chicken, cooled, cut open down the back, filled with red zabaglione dotted with round silver comfits, decorated with cooked cockscombs and served on a steel tray. Old FIAT cars and Gallinero samples appear here, together with glitched voices and sounds that participate at crafting a rather outstanding and unforgettable piece. Quoting DJ Balli’s words, the track “features the very taste of industry itself: steel; the flavor is delivered by a handful of ball bearings tucked into the bird’s shoulder, a simple act of seasoning that turns this dish into the ideal synthesis of Futurist ideas about advancement in technology (the more, the bigger, the better) and the development of culinary arts that eschews plagiarism and demands creative originality“. A 999 minutes hakken dance session is scheduled after the meal!
Dishwasher cycle #1: Gabber Pyramid is built around the Schubert’s Die Forelle sample that also happens to be used by these Samsung machines at the end of each washing cycle; the track messes with distorted kicks, claps, noises, and melody as much as a sonic blender would do. The chaotic, energic mixing is linked to an exclusively Italian underground scene born in the mid 90s and called Hardcore Warriors, its name coming from the periodic party thrown at Number One’s Sala 2 where resident dj and Italian hardcore godfather Claudio Lancinhouse (the second Italian dj to ever drop hardcore gabber after Cocoricò’s DJ Cirillo) shared the controls with European and American guests [note: we’ll be offering you more contents in the near future, just get in touch with us if you’re interested in the topic]. Suddenly, after the Schubert jingle, the program is over: but before changing the side, there’s still time for a bonus track. Filippo Dominator Marinetti is Dead takes the very same Human Resource’s Sick (Dominator is Dead) piece of mockery we mentioned before, dilates and distorts it to declare the death of Gabba Futurism by obsessively repeating the two words as if they were a mantra, basically writing an essential sonic compendium of what hardcore gabber is: hoover, kick, samples.
The already gigantic set of references DJ Balli gleans from literally explodes when it’s time to consider SVELTO’s B side 4/4 Bass Drum, the World’s Only Hygiene mixtape. The almost 25 minutes long selection covers all the hardcore gabber basic moments (mostly out of Paul Elstak’s quintessential Rotterdam Records) mixing them together with numerous Futurist art samples, starting from the very mixtape title that draws from Manifesto of Futurism, section IX: “we will glorify war – the world’s only hygiene – militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of freedom-bringers, beautiful ideas worth dying for, and scorn for woman“. The tracklist goes as follow:
- Bald Terror & Marinetti – Rotterdam & Definizione di Futurismo: if you were allowed to listen to just ONE gabber tune, it should be Rotterdam by Bald Terror (aka Holy Noise‘s Paul & Richard plus MC Ruffian), hands down. Rough (ruff!), simple, effective, yet experimental, also featuring unforgettable synth openings: the initial scream-like sound laceration simply rip apart every damn dancefloor it’s being played on, right now as well as it did back in the days. To put it into this YouTube users‘ words: “it’s like amphetamine is hiding in the music track” / “noisy synths sound like hard drugs“. Rotterdam is the track par excellence that middle-aged guys would leave nostalgic comments to: its effect even doubles if you pair it with a Marinetti’s Definizione di Futurismo reading;
- Marinetti & Euromasters – 700 km all’Ora & Amsterdam Waar Lech Dat Dan: another tragically unforgettable and genre-defining record coupled with some Musica Futurista excerpts;
- General Noise & Russolo – Rotterdam Subway & Risveglio di una città: the third track, starring recorded sounds of Milanese early 1900s trams setting off in the morning (Risveglio di una Città), Rotterdam subway’s jingle and General Noise’s Rotterdam Subway anthem, defines a correspondence between two separate (both in time and space) instances of urban environment, being the city the stage where both Futurism and gabber occurred;
- German Division & Balilla Pratella/Balla/Depero – Concerto Grosso (Futurista): at this point you can enjoy another shocking hardcore techno experiment put on record in 1992 (called Concerto Grosso by Jörg Dewald, Thomas Wedel and Thorsten Adler aka German Division) that combines baroque music and 165 BPM beats, jointly manipulated by DJ Balli and Giacomo Balla (via the aforementioned telepathic communication) introducing to the user the not-so-well-known Manifesto of Futurist Musicians;
- Sperminator & Marinetti – No Women’s Allowed (Ladies Room Mix) & Manifesto di Fondazione del Futurismo (Punto IX) +
- Liza ‘N’ Eliaz – CTRL 3: as you may have noticed, Futurists despised women (“we will glorify war  and scorn for woman“). In a pretty similar way, Rotterdam original scene was inclined to discriminate between music for pussies (or homos) and for real men only, the hardcore stuff. This is what No Women Allowed (the infamous Sperminator track appeared in 1992) is about, and what Balli takes for his own purpose to offer a caricatural portrait of that despicable attitude that ultimately led the Gabber scene to half-split and develop actual soccer-style extremist fan clubs. Hardcore dancefloor is for everybody and there’s no room at all for gender discrimination: better yet, let’s erase the gender notion for good such as the Belgian intersexual, androgynous Queen of Terror Liza ‘N’ Eliaz hardcore / speedcore seminal dj, producer and label owner did back in the 90s, before her tragical departure by lung cancer in 2001;
- RTS & Marinetti – Poing (Jump A Little Higher) & Parole in Libertà: POING POING POING POING POING POING
- Ingler & Marinetti – Walking Into Adrianopoli’s Bombardment: the very last moments are reserved for Laurent Hô’s Walkline with overlapping contributes by Marinetti’s Battaglia di Adrianopoli, closing the record with a 200 BPM kick bombardment.
But then, where do all these references leave us? And what are SVELTO’s actual meaning and function, other than preparing us for a more efficient and delivering dishwashing technique? SVELTO is a crazy, weird record (DJ-Balli-style, we’d expected no less) that investigates the relationship between Futurism and hardcore gabber, in an effort to claim back (to the Left, to the Left) the intrinsic subversive power of one of the most underrated and marginalized (in a way, esoteric) electronic music genres – yet among the most ruthless, relentless and violent ones: pure sonic terrorism. SVELTO does this wildly, but not in an unsubstantiated way, comparing two crazy cultural movements that eventually ended up being incorporated into the right-wing (fascist) scenario, at least at a pop culture level. But how to engage the delicate subversive operation? Balli already addressed the subject in his pivotal How to cure a Gabber essay you can entirely read here, tuning into the task of “developing paradoxical rhythmic strategies of music therapy , breaking the water-tight compartments of psycho-musical genres” – and, of course, engaging with a prolonged and draining dishwashing upper-limbs hakken dance. By all means, let’s not forget where to stand: UNITED GABBERS AGAINST RACISM & FASCISM. – VELOCITA’!
Buy the tape here. Support Sonic Belligeranza here, and ArteTetra here. SVELTO artwork by Emanuele Luppino. Take another look at our SVELTO trailer right here. To see and hear DJ Balli in action when he’s not being haunted by a long-dead futurist follow these links (1), (2), (3), (4).
P.S. Ah, the instant hoover button actually exists: now you can always bring it with you. BZZZZZZZZZZZZ
Born in Brescia, Italy in 1989, after his Master Degree in Engineering for Comm. Technologies & Multimedia he moved to Turin where he currently lives and pursues his PhD. Among his interests: new technologies, music as unbiased form of social/cultural expression, Guy Picciotto.