Mike Simonetti - "The Third Of The Storms (feat. Sam Sparro)" (Capricorn Rising)
Mike Simonetti has been a force in underground music since the mid-1990s, when his Bayonne, N..J label, Troubleman Unlimited, put out timely releases by Unwound, Black Dice and the like. In 2007, he helped build a bridge between the kaputt post-hardcore scene and dance music with a new label, Italians Do It Better, and a zeitgeist-capturing compilation called After Dark. While not an aesthetic I get a lot of mileage out of, IDIB has great taste — they released that wonderful Invisible Conga People 12” back in 2008. And its regular contributors — Chromatics, Glass Candy — have grown more interesting over time. Simonetti’s debut artist-album, Capricorn Rising, continues in the house style with twist: it’s a collection of glossy italo studded with Aquarian occultism, served up with punk roots intact.
What I mean by punk roots in this context is bucking dance-album orthodoxy. And with Capricorn Rising you get an EP that’s far from a collection of dancefloor slammers. It’s proggy in its thematic unity, but has club-ready numbers, too. You could almost call the EP’s mantra (sung by Sam Sparro) — “When the stars align / We’ll be ready when the time is right” — a motif in the classical sense, creating album-length unity. The EP takes place in the unhurried expanse of that first track, “The Third of the Storms” (an instrumental version of which rounds out the 12”), and its impression never really fades — and it helps that “Aculpoco” reprises the theme at the midway point. Where dance albums tend to focus on variety, Capricorn Rising feels more like a 40-minute song, broken up by moody digressions like “Dust Devil,” a sinister vamp that sounds primed for a Dario Argento soundtrack.
Taken alone, the second track (“Song for Luca”) is a disco pumper, but in context, it melds with the EP’s starry-eyed, nonspecific spirituality. The EP’s sequenced in a way to emphasize symmetry: theme, disco song, an interlude, a reprise, another interlude, another disco song, theme. There may be deeper meaning to the structure, but that’s on some Kenneth Anger magick level that might be more an aesthetic matter than an alchemical one. That the sound is both retro and part of an established italo revival contributes to the sense of eternal return — a consistency that’s reminiscent of, say, that Lindstrøm’s Where You Go I Go Too. Krautrock is invoked as a model for journey listening rather than a stylistic template.
For someone who’s mostly operated behind the scenes, Capricorn Rising is an appropriately unique, curatorial way for Simonetti to introduce himself as a producer. It’s not a taste-making exercise but a self-actualizing one. If you’re the type of listener who’s down for a tarot ride into the rafters and beyond, Capricorn Rising will strike a chord.