Apparently, so certain sections of the music press are telling us, “Italy is the new France”. Quoi? Or should I say che? No, they are not implying that our Roman cousins are about to flout European laws by banning our beef or that Italian lorry drivers are planning to block all roads between Milan and Mount Etna. Rather, they are referring to the nascent, street-credible Italian dance scene which has seen the likes of Christiano Spiller, Jolly Music and Stefano “Stylophonic” Fontana trying to budge the Gallic heavyweights of Daft Punk and Air out of our affections.
In Stylophonic’s case, he is not only being compared to Daft Punk, but also to our very own Fatboy Slim (current marital troubles notwithstanding). After reviewing the current single, If Everybody In The World Loved Everybody In The World, with its intensely annoying and repetitive children’s sample, I was suspicious that such comparisons were more than a little generous to Mr Fontana. Having now listened to Man Music Technology, I am convinced of it.
To be fair, and mercifully, Man Music Technology is considerably better than the aforementioned single and album-closer would have you believe. Stylophonic is at his best when squeezing out all manner of electronic bleeps, squelches and bass-lines, and wrapping them up into mid-paced tracks that have all the diminuendi and crescendi in the right places (Vinylstyloz and Break @ 100 BPM). He is also versatile enough to convincingly pull off more blissed-out numbers (the title track) and even pure funk (Da Symphony).
Where things tend to go awry, at least to these ears, is when he insists on having vocalists come in. Way Of Life, for instance, while boasting some highly innovative electronica in the background, is spoilt by a ham-fisted rapper inanely spouting lines like, “Baby that’s the why I like it”, while referring to “homeys” and, bizarrely, “doo-doo”. Similarly, former single Bizarre Mind is an oomph-filled dance track that really does not need the female vocalist informing whoever that if you “tie me down and lock me up, I don’t mind.” A case of too much information, if ever there was one.
Ultimately then, this is a diverse debut album, that while being of decent enough quality on many occasions, is too inconsistent for Stylophonic to be mentioned in the same breath as the luminaries that he is being compared to. Italy as the new France? Pas encore…