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Madteo - Noi No

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Artist: Madteo

Album: Noi No

Label: Sähkö

Review date: Jan. 7, 2013

Madteo - "Rugrats Don’t Techno for an Answer"

Matteo Ruzzon is a wanderer. It has always been thus: Though he was born in Padova, Italy, he moved to the States and was briefly in Texas before settling permanently in New York and, specifically, Queens after high school. He got exposed to Fugazi and Pantera in Texas but became an intern at hip-hop label WordSound (Spectre, Scarab, Prince Paul, The Bug’s first LP, etc.) in the mid-1990s before stumbling across dub, house and techno. He was a partier long before he was a producer. Even his conversations meander without regard for form or content in a gravelly enthusiastic baritone, as myriad interviews can attest (if you’ve got the time).

It makes sense, then, that his latest album Noi No both sounds the way it does and comes from the label it does. Turku, Finland’s Sähkö is probably best known for releasing Mika Vainio’s Ø material, stuff from Pan Sonic, and Jimi Tenor. Like these artists, the man known most commonly as Madteo cloaks his music in a distinct ambiance. What’s amazing is how it works: From Golden Age hip-hop to radio R&B to classic house to the darkest, dankest Berlin techno, Noi No coagulates in an unexpectedly easy way in part because Madteo went through Sähkö’s catalog before experimenting with his own sound to better attune himself to the template, but also because he’s smart enough to use his ears and not just his hardware as a way of moving forward. Which was the crux of this album’s creation: How best to marry Madteo’s typical sampling with the more organic creation Sähkö is known for?

Noi No is the rewarding result. Jumping into “Rut-a-Round” will tip you off to a number of sonic reference points, Ø’s Heijastuva and any number of field recordings blurring together. “Dead Drop (When I Saw You That Nite)” is ostensibly similar and there’s nary a hi-hat to be found in the first minute, Ruzzon’s ominous vocal looping until, as if out of nowhere, the kick finds itself and a 4/4 thump suddenly grabs hold.

Despite this being one of the few moments where drums provide the momentum to the track, it’s somewhat ironic that this is where the album finds its footing. While songs carry heft on the low end, what’s going on elsewhere in the mix – from the vocals to the samples that help construct the beat – better reveal Madteo’s capacious talent and history. Direct lines can be drawn to classic house on “Dead Drop” (which also subtly nods toward his Workshop output), but you can also hear the warped dub and techno of contemporary producers like Lukid, Shed and (especially) Actress in that intro every bit as well as on tracks like “Vitruvian Nightmare” or “Ratskeller.”

“Gory Glory” takes it one step further and literally reclaims the vocal from Boddika & Joy Orbison’s famed “Dun Dun” to position it as a sort of mumbling backbone. His early influences aren’t so far away, either – Drake’s perfected bridging of hip-hop and R&B worlds lends an additional reach to “Rugrats Don’t Techno for an Answer.” The vocal – recognizable even on a first pass as being from “Marvin’s Room” – is punctuated with a Juicy J ad-lib for one of the most fractured interpretations of hip-hop I’ve heard in the last year. Madteo collaborator Sensational also appears as a phantasm of an emcee on “Change We Could But Didn’t,” which reminds me a lot of vintage Anticon. or k-the-i???’s more out-there output.

“I hate hype,” Ruzzon cautions on that RA podcast from late last summer. “Don’t believe the hype, man.” But it’s not hype if it’s justified, and with Noi No, Madteo moves (always moving) from a capable producer with a knack for landing on the right labels at the right times to an artist in his own right, no strings attached. Find the time.

By Patrick Masterson

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