This is just a-m-a-z-i-n-g! 100% RIYL SOPHIE, Plastikman, Ennio Morricone, TCF
Persona marks the return of trance angel, Lorenzo Senni, blessing Warp Records with their best release of the decade so far; a scintillating, syncretic hybrid of his PointillisticT Build Up Fetishism augmented via straight edge HxC roots - a sound best termed as Rave Voyeurism.
The Milanese artist’s follow-up to the conceptual couplet of Quantum Jelly (2012) and Superimpositions (2014) forms a logical, meticulous expansion of their teasing themes, tweaking the formula to simultaneously reconcile and reaffirm his original, teenaged impetus with his contemporary self, affording a more vivid reflection of Senni as an artist and a closer realisation of his noumenal thrust in the process.
Where those previous releases navigated the finest line between instinct and counter-intuitive rationality with a masterful impulse control, the orchestral flourishes and elaborate, vaulted chord arrangements of Persona appear to reveal a more personal truth, one which draws links with EDM and up-to-the-second dancehall, while also confessing indelible influence from his early years as a SXE HC youth, and the way in which he’s consolidated those values with his intuitive appreciation of late ‘90s hard trance music.
If you’d proposed this as a viable mix of approaches back in the late ‘90s, there’s little doubt that you’d be laughed outta town. But, as Senni’s experiences as the only completely sober one among gurning gabber pals at late ‘90s raves have served him, Persona proves, much in the same way as his Hot Shotz bandmate, Powell’s debut album, or even the recent V/Vm album, that once mutually exclusive bedfellows can make for the most fascinating, playful hybrids, providing it’s executed with sincerity and craft (and a modicum of genius).
That paradoxical nature of an SXC raver's disciplined restraint and moderated ecstasy is core to Persona. Its six tracks skilfully dance along the blade of his Roland JP8000 Supersaws, pruning minimalist gestures and hooks into effortless pirouettes and abrupt jump-cuts that subvert and clip trance's upward linearity in favour of a deferred sense of gratification learnt from straight edge subculture.
Between the tongue-dancing pizzicato licks of Win In The Flat World and the sky-clawing lust of Forever True, Senni's gurn control is impeccable; whether poised and virulent like the exquisite Rave Voyeur or curdling the crowd's sweat with the metallic zing of emotiva1234 and hacking deep into the pleasure centres with extreme enthusiasm in One Life, One Chance, whilst leaving a moment of heart-melting thizz suppression in Angel.
Ultimately it's a reminder of a time before trance and makina were watered down to progressive house for wider markets, or the era before HXC was co-opted as Emo. And in that respect Persona dovetails with the efforts of PC Music and SOPHIE as much as TCF, Plastikman or Powell in its meticulously realised, undying need for something more visceral, vital, new, which has been forgotten or often lost in translation with modern music's cycles of death and rebirth.
Coupled with Ed Atkins unnervingly poignant CGI artwork depicting Senni's Rave Voyeur protagonist - A Ray Cappo of the rave? - and a sleeve design referencing Daniel Sansavini's iconic artwork for Japanese SXC releases, Persona is entirely symptomatic of the 'floors current quandaries and, likewise, one of the most innovative and life-affirming insights to the imagination and machinations of dance music in 2016.