Ron Morelli, Spit

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[Hospital Productions]

Spit is L.I.E.S. founder Ron Morelli’s first release under his given name, so it’s liable to whip up more hype than his work under aliases like Bad News, Two Dogs in a House, and U-202. Beyond the fact that Morelli is a worldwide commodity now as a DJ, the lack of an alias, and the record’s release via a different label — Dominick Fernow’s Hospital Productions, typically a haven for noise — also signify that Spit‘s productions are more personal, offering the producer detached, somewhat, from the label on which he’s built his name.

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Morelli is well-known for his love of Chicagoan ghetto house and the crunchy, New York “graffiti techno” promoted by the likes of Adam X and Frankie Bones in the 1990s, and both of these influences are central across Spit. Several moments here could work on a dance floor, in particular the urgent stutter of “Crack Microbes,” but in the context of the album, their potential is not immediately apparent. The distortion that so often catapults such tracks into peak-time intensity is used here as a kind of enervating force, evidenced on the tensile lurk of “Modern Paranoia” or the downcast drift of “No Real Reason.”

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Morelli’s dulled synthesizers do routinely poke to the fore, however. “Fake Rush” comes pretty close to a Steve Poindexter/Paul Johnson/et al. tribute, with its blunt drums and excessive flanging, but its middling melody drags its intensity down. Picture one of those Chicagoans producing with a case of clinical depression. This atmosphere is enhanced by seedy vignettes like the droning, blustery opener “Radar Version” or the pairing of an unstable arpeggio and the TV-next-door on “Director Of…” The artist has said the record’s title comes from stepping in prostitutes’ spit on the street and the implications of tracking it indoors. This particular scenario is not entirely obvious, but Spit does capture a nebulous sort of street life grit, one which brings to mind films like “Ms. 45,” “Cruising,” or “Death Wish,” in its vision of a violent, old New York that seemingly alternates between permanent dismal November and sweltering, suffocating midsummer. On the whole, the record sounds like Morelli channeling the feeling of being at the end of his rope.

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