In the HEARTBREAKERS series, we look at the dance floor tearjerkers that make your night special, whether that's at the height of your high or the plateau. Electronic music has the power to break hearts and this is an appreciation of those songs. This time we asked the Brazilian master of elegiac tech-house and Kompakt mainstay Gui Boratto to give us the low down on the song that gets him weepy every time he hears it over the Funktion-Ones.
I was born in 1974 so I was lucky enough to be able to bask in the glow and glory of the late 80s as they happened. I look back on it as the time I finally got sick of the basic band set ups; the combination of a steady drummer, a plodding bassist, a sturdy guitarist and a singer wasn't doing it for me any more. So I got really into Kraftwerk and bought my first sequencer, a Roland MC-500, and sampler, an ENSONIQ EPS. That was me set.
By the time I was 16 I was using a fake ID to get into the best underground club in Sao Paulo, the Rose Bom Bom. At that moment in time, you were pretty much guaranteed to only hear techno-pop when you went out. I loved it. That was before everything became the fragmented thing it is now, before there was trance or deep house or progressive house or whatever. As a musician, I have to admit that I kind of miss the simplicity of those days, when everything was just nice non-commital techno pop.
One of my strongest memories of that period is hearing "Pump Up the Volume" by M|A|R|R|S for the first time. I was mesmerized by those drums! That piano!
But that isn't the track I want to talk about. That same night, the DJ, a guy called DJ Magal, dropped another tune that had a real and deep impact on me. I genuinely cried on the dancefloor. It had a similar rhythmic feel to "Pump Up the Volume" but it was smothered in these rich, gorgeous strings. Then there was this perfect vocal. That song was Massive Attack's seminal "Unfinished Sympathy," a record that's still easily embedded in my top 10 tracks of all time.
I rushed out the next day and bought Blue Lines lines and I've been a dedicated Massive Attack fan ever since. When, decades later, they asked me to remix one of their tracks, "Paradise Circus," I was honored. So you can only imagine how I felt when a few years on I was also asked to remix "Unfinished Sympathy." The tears flowed all over again when I was sent all the seperate stems of the track. Hearing it like that, the strings bare and alone, Shara Nelson's peerless vocal in isolation, those little scratches and samples from Mahavishnu Orchestra and John McLaughlin's "Planetary Citizen"… it was just wonderful. I can't describe it.
"Unfinished Sympathy" is one of the most beautiful, incredible songs in any genre, in any style, of the past 30 years or so for me. You know when you watch a film, or read a book, or hear a song, and all you can think is "Wow, I wish I'd made that?" This is one of those. A record I will truly never tire of.