Massimiliano Pagliara, Focus For Infinity

[Live At Robert Johnson]

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Onetime Daniel Wang protégé Massimiliano Pagliara hasn’t been especially prolific since his 2008 debut, having released just a handful of productions in the interim. Nevertheless, he’s evidently written enough to put his name to a sprawling first LP called Focus For Infinity, for the Live At Robert Johnson label. Pagliara owes something stylistically to Wang; both are devotees of clean-cut cosmic disco, and their tracks are often driven by coy vocal refrains and squiggling synth lines. Most of Wang’s best moments, however, are about loopy, repetitive tension, a characteristic rarely present on Focus For Infinity. Pagliara’s compositions are expansive slow-burners, and even the more uptempo tracks here feel unhurried. Moreover, the LP is arranged according to BPM, its swirling synth work belying a nonchalant climb to house tempos.

“Nightflow” encapsulates this approach. Its first half is all elongated Balearic acid, not so far from the work of Brennan Green, another former Balihu artist. After four minutes the track breaks into a sumptuous vocoder lament, and the acid is reduced to flecks above a pumping rhythm section. It’s fitting that the track sits midway through the album, because its structure implies a kind of redirection; the vocal comes in like a wave of thought after a zone-out. Elements from that track pop up elsewhere in different variations. “After” merges similarly non-confrontational acid with taut disco guitar. The chief interplay on the gliding “Harmonize” is that of its robotic bass line and robust synth pattern, harmonic and textural elements flickering in the background. And the electro-tinged “A Wrong Chance” balances a drained synth melody with some faint vocoded murmurings.

Apart from the aforementioned vocoder usage, the vocal tracks here run the gamut of modern disco motifs, from gleaming diva-ish strutters to stoned, beachy mumbling, especially on the slower numbers. The latter tends to be more successful: the slinky “As The Night Breathes” combines half-asleep male and female vocals with a starry arpeggio, and its detached romanticism is a clear highlight. On the other hand, the flamboyant vocal on “Fade The Light” is unabashedly bright and loud. Sigrid Elliott’s appearance on “Gonna Get Your Love Gonna Find You” works mostly because it’s the album’s least sluggish track, but the lyrics are still quite a mouthful. Focus For Infinity manages to be diverse and yet clearly remains Pagliara’s work. Some of its elements may be old-hat in 2011, but its fluid pacing and lack of fluff keeps it an engaging listen. In this way, it seems a proper companion to Gatto Fritto’s recent self-titled LP on International Feel — neither reinvents nu-disco, but instead cleanly focus on unifying the genre’s best bits.

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