As one of the artists whose breakout success made waves in 2012, Madteo is a good case study for the shifts in music that defined the last couple of years. Matteo Ruzon has actually been on the map since 2007 with releases for sought-after labels like Meakusma, Morphine Records, and Workshop, but the intentionally fragmented, dirty, and unflinching experimentalism of all his music kept him at the periphery (one would suspect he was quite happy there). Rather suddenly following his 2010 Workshop single, name producers like Anthony “Shake” Shakir, Marcellus Pittman, Hieroglyphic Being, Kassem Mosse, and DJ Sotofett began lining up to remix his work, and drops on ultra-hot (and ultra-hip) UK imprints like Hinge Finger and The Trilogy Tapes helped to propel him out of the shadows and into the spotlight. That’s not to say his sound changed amidst all of this; the messy collision of house, hip hop, and crate-digger samples gleefully mauled and cut to pieces remained as strange as ever, but a blossoming fascination with all things raw brought it to popular attention. Now releasing his second full length album, as inscrutably as ever on the legendary Sähkö imprint, Ruzzon closes his biggest year yet in fine style on one of his more cohesive efforts to date.
While Noi No is typically diverse, the overall dark ambience of the album connects its separate pieces together quite a bit more fluidly than the often-jarring jumbles of tracks that make it onto Madteo singles. Judging from his recent past, it’s likely that the curatorial decision of which tracks made it onto the album was at least partially the choice of the label; all of his many releases this year show the stamp of the imprint that released them somehow, and it’s easy to surmise that Ruzzon is a producer whose prodigious output is as scattered as it is strange. Sähkö allows him more leeway than before to explore the abstract side of his art, which results in a record composed mostly of experiments in pure sound with scattered, highly experimental house tracks providing a bit of motion here and there. On the more concrete end, we have first and formost Dead Drop (When I Saw You That Night), which actually boasts a straightforward house rhythm and, discounting the long, disorganized intro, might even appeal to DJs. About three more tracks show a skeleton of house compositional ideas after repeated listens, but it would be overly generous to say they have dancefloor potential. The repeated chords of Gory Glory, the subbass thump of Tutti, Maledetti, e Sempri, and the squelching electronic zaps of the Drake-sampling(!!!) Rugrats Don’t Techno for an Answer all reveal themselves as the ideas of a deranged house producer after awhile, but the rhythms that are indeed there take a decided back seat to his more esoteric aims. Connecting these together are a series of either ambient or very downtempo pieces of mostly very minimal content: a tortured vocal sample, hazy textures, and surprisingly clean production details that fall not far from what would be expected of the Sähkö catalog.
What makes such bizarre music entertaining and interesting after several goes-around is the fact that, while certainly outside, Ruzzon never falls into the trap of taking himself too seriously, and that his ideas, no matter how weird, are also clever enough to reveal additional, amusing details for those who try to pick them up. As noted, the sound design is actually quite impressive here: an almost-certainly digitally sampled and manipulated web of sounds subjected to dramatic, smart effects treatment and combined with evident musicality. Vitruvian Nightmare is a striking example of his hand at this; combining a jazzy, distorted bassline with heavily filtered, hanging noise and delay or beat repeats every so often, it’s clear that there’s a musical mind at work behind the combination even through the damaged source material. Like most other producers, he has his tricks that he leans on heavily and occasional tossed-off ideas that sometimes wear out their welcome, but when he applies himself and his full artistry to the sounds the results are striking. Typewriter taps slowly, elastically mold themselves around a suggested house bassline, or a teased out, confrontational vocal sample concerning the topic of originality ends with a laugh-out-loud quote about “The Wall Street Urinal.” It would be hyperbolic to call Noi No defining or a work of genius, but it is the most accomplished and best put-together statement yet from a producer who is quite obviously sharpening his craft under very close scrutiny from critics and labels. It’s unlikely that Madteo will ever consign himself to being predictable, but based on the evidence here listeners have plenty to look forward to from one of house music’s most fascinating loose cannons.