As I was going over Marco Passarani's back catalogue recently, I found myself thinking, "Ah right, he's in Tiger & Woods and he used to make IDM." When he got his start in the '90s, Passarani seemed fixed on the future. He released records inspired by the emerging sound of Detroit techno and, later that decade, the alien electronics of labels like Warp. But over time, Passarani's focus drifted to the past. Tiger & Woods, his popular edits duo with Valerio Del Prete that mined boogie and disco, is the most obvious example of this, but listen to Sullen Look, his last album from 14 years ago, and the majority of the music since—a deep love of '80s synthesizers and classic drum machine rhythms is obvious.
W.O.W., released on Vladimir Ivkovic's Offen Music, is similar in spirit but a little different in execution. Passarani apparently scaled his studio down to a portable setup that he also used for his live show, enabling him to write on the move. This has given his music a subtle new level of simplicity. The tracks here are rarely overcomplicated. A single idea is often presented and then investigated. There's an upbeat mood throughout that seems to suggest a fast and inspired production process. This style yields plenty, with lots of pretty synths and arresting melodies, but it sometimes falls a little short when it comes to rhythms and drums.
Those melodies are rarely prettier than on the opening tracks. "Coldrain" has a gentle, break-of-day quality to its synths, while "Cydonia Rocks," which has more dance floor thud, pairs two silky phrases to gorgeous effect. The wide-eyed, mid-'90s vibe also runs through "Drumy Dream," which, until it becomes too knotty in its second half, is a bright and breezy electro cut. We get a bit of bite elsewhere on the album: "Get Down"'s chunky groove made me think of the Maurice Fulton banger "Jump Bugs," and the basslines on "Minerals" and "Talk To Me" both double as spiky melodies that propel the tracks forward. But for the most part Passarani is exploring a state of nostalgic bliss.
Your appetite for retro drum sounds might determine if you like or love W.O.W.. For me, the cumulative use of similar patterns and timbres began to grow slightly tiring towards the end—the first couple minutes of the closing track, "Strings Fair," being a case in point. (Granted, the synthesizers also lean old-school, but there's enough richness and variation to keep things interesting.) But for others, I can imagine the drums will be a welcome complement to this melodic journey through the '80s and '90s. Passarani described W.O.W. as his "zen garden of ideas," and although I'm not 100% sure what he meant by that, it's an apt metaphor for the simple beauty that characterises this record.
A2. Cydonia Rocks
B1. Drumy Dream
B2. Get Down
D1. Talk To Me
D2. Strings Fair
Format: 2 x 12-inch Vinyl LP
Label: Offen Music
Catalog: OFFEN 010
Released: January 2019
Genre: House / Electro / Techno