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Guitar God 

Gui Boratto grinds the ax into minimal techno

Wednesday, May 23 2007
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Regardless of whether a kid is ensconced in Brooklyn or Brazil, a certain strain of teenager dreams of rock stardom. Headphones charged with red-meat riffs, bodies electrified by hormones, their heads swell in a fantastical variant on jamming with, say, that most stalwart carnivore of them all, Led Zeppelin. "Led Zeppelin was the band that made me go into music," techno producer Gui Boratto writes via e-mail from his home in São Paulo. "I was studying guitar and Jimmy Page was my master at that time, like many guitar players at my age. That pushed me to go deeper and to professionally study like a horse."

Jimmy Page isn't the first name you think of when it comes to 21st-century minimal techno and trance, and yet the guitarist informs the dance tracks made by this upstart Brazilian producer. In assembling his own music, Boratto dug Page's oft-unheralded role as a producer, in how he adroitly overlayed countless guitar tracks to devastating effect. Such nuanced craftsmanship reveals itself in Boratto's music, as a series of choice singles can attest. Other DJs noticed as well, with Boratto's breakout hit "Arquipélago" gracing some 10 mix CDs, and tracks cropping up on everything from Get Physical's DJ T Body Language mix to MTV's Gate 2 Ibiza comp.

Boratto's myriad productions come to a head with his full-length debut, Chromophobia, one of the sleeker yet evocative dance records of the year. Aerodynamic as trance is wont to be, Boratto resists the form's easy climaxes and build-ups, instead teasing out the trellises coursing underneath the beat. Anxious anticipation percolates in opener "Scene," while the synth tones grow chatoyant on "Shebang."

Perhaps such attention to structure is belied by Boratto's brief turn as an architect. "In Brazil, music is not a respected career," he explains. "That's why I decided to go on my second option: architecture. After graduation, I worked on the urban area (of architecture) and loved it." That profession lasted less than two years, as Boratto ended up with a full-fledged career in the music industry. Starting as a publicist for EMI/BMG, Boratto dabbled in engineering, mixing, and producing, working with the likes of Steel Pulse, Pato Banton, Gal Costa, and Garth Brooks — his resume even includes work on the The City of God soundtrack. He also created his own productions on the side.

But Boratto returns to the guitar in the end. Although it's compressed, distorted, or fuzzed into resembling inching caterpillars on his tracks, the instrument underpins his recent productions and much of Chromophobia. "I think like a guitarist, the harmonies (and) structures of my tracks," Boratto says. "Even some elements, like the timbre of the vocals I use, it's all from my rock influence." Last year's single "It's Majick" had a twang evocative of a Bond theme, while "Gate 7" b/w "Chains" explored the strings' nominal metallic and ductile properties, knotting such lines into mesmeric trance patterns. The guitar burrows its way into Chromophobia's title track, giving the glossy percussion a much-needed layer of grit, while on the elegant, uplifting lilt of "Beautiful Life," it provides a gentle counterpoint to the slushing drum hits. Perhaps the most trance-like song on the album, the latter track spires around the utterances of Boratto's wife, Luciana Villanova. Her mantra of "What a beautiful life" suggests that regardless of whether its techno or rock, sometimes the song really does remain the same.

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Andy Beta

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