DFA's Larry Gus on the Italian Prog Oddity that Changed His Life
"Quit Your Job, Walk Straight into Uncertainty and Jump From the 64th Floor Without a Safety Net" -
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 that get us all misty eyed. Ahead of his soon to be released on DFA LP I Need New Eyes, we asked avant pop superstar Larry Gus to tell us about an Italian prog oddity that sends him into a Borgesian labyrinth of the heart. It's certainly the strangest entry in the series yet, and already one of our firm favourites. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do.
The sound of a thousand voices, the perfect stop-start breakdown, all accumulated experiences filtered down to 32 bars of an extensive percussion freakout, liquid basslines and perfectly constructed chord sequences.
Listening to music, once you're in the process of writing songs and making records, is never the same compared to what this procedure was before all that. Well, at least that's how it works for me. The truth is that I still get the strongest emotions only by listening to music, and it can still make me cry immediately — most of the times out of joy.
But there are always times when other feelings creep up. I start comparing myself with the artist, and most of the time I get out of this comparison with a rich overcoat of bitterness. and then I start breaking down the production and composition techniques of the song as a way to overcome my incompetence, thinking that this analysis can smooth things over. And this never stops! It never ever stops! And most of the times it doesn't help much either.
I get out of this process only when I am listening to musicians that, at least in my mind, are on a very very different, extremely advanced level, and I know deep in my heart, with a sense of relief, that I can never reach those depths of expressiveness, however hard I work.
I have a very specific example that can be translated in the world of literature. I like reading a lot, and although not a writer myself, I can understand some authors, I can justify their influences and where they're coming from, I can break down their references and then apply such analytic techniques on their work. But at the same time, when I am reading someone like Jorge Luis Borges, I know nothing. It feels as if I start looking straight into a scary and black void, and suddenly all feelings start emerging, but most of the time I cannot put into words and describe what those feelings are, they are always new and unknown.
I can be objective and judgmental about many things, but not when it comes to Lucio Battisti. In a very specific way, "Anima Latina" (plus the album of the same name) literally changed my life. I was in Barcelona, I was a computer engineer, aspiring to be a music technologist, and after exposing myself to it, I quit everything and proceeded to try and be a full time musician. No-one can ever be 100% sure about his/her choices, but at least it is always exciting to make them under extreme emotional duress. In fact, I am still living inside the aftermath of those specific choices.
"Anima Latina" starts as an acoustic ballad, it proceeds as a weird mid-70s Italian soft rock nugget, and it ends with an extreme choral crescendo of percussion and synthesizers. Towards the end, there is an extremely unexpected time shift, involving the choir melody. At first, it was a 4 bar melody, but then Lucio just takes the exact same notes and doubles their time, having as a result a slow down of all harmonic parts. It feels as if this huge void is looking right into your eyes, and that's the exact moment where all unknown feelings emerge. In my case, those feelings materialised in the exact words "Quit your job, walk straight into uncertainty and jump from the 64th floor without a safety net".
I've been always claiming that I aspire to make an album, based only on "Anima Latina" (the song), where I will be extending each separate structural element of the track into a new song. But, but, but, as I mentioned above, there are all writers in the world, and then there is Borges. So, I can really spend all my life thinking and trying to persuade myself that I can do this, that I can try and reach those levels of greatness, but truth is that I will never be able to even try to approach it. These are heights that are unreachable, and my petty, faint-hearted and inhibited existence, can only limit itself to what it's doing best; admiring, envying, obsessing, analysing and then sending the human head that is attached to it straight into the toilet. And then flush."
Larry Gus' I Need New Eyes is released by DFA Records and [PIAS] Cooperative on October 2, 2015. Larry also plays Rough Trade East on the 13th of October. You can get more information on that gig here. Why not have a listen to Larry's "A Set of Replies" to get you in the mood for the rest of the record: