Gui, your music looks terrific

Gui Boratto on sonic architecture and the beauty of Chromophobia
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johnny@sfbg.com

The first clue that Gui Boratto's Chromophobia is an extraordinary Kompakt disc — a song collection that places the German label back at the forefront of the best electronic music — can be found on its cover art. Since its inception, Kompakt has had a signature clean design style for its releases. Developed by one of the label's three co-owners, Wolfgang Voigt, it's made great use of simple circles and basic color combinations. For Chromophobia, the São Paulo, Brazil, musician called on his friend Felipe Caetano to create a cover. Caetano came up with a beautiful piece of color theory that layers a series of primary-color Kompakt circles over the edges of one another to form a variety of new-hued combinations.

"Our first idea was to do a black-and-white cover, but we decided that was cliché," Boratto says from São Paulo, referring to the title word, a term for the fear of color. "The decision to make the cover colorful was ironic. But for me, chromophobia is like simplicity — the same type of meaning as monochromatism within an architectural point of view."

Got that? The affable Boratto is no club drone whose scope of experience remains as narrow as a programmed and endlessly looped 4/4 beat. He's a married father of one who has studied architecture in addition to music. "I think architecture and music are almost the same thing," he says, his accent bringing an alternately questioning and singsong quality to English words. "They're different means of expression, but they treat spaces in the same way."

In Chromophobia, Boratto builds and creates a variety of attractive spaces, without pretension but with a sensibility perhaps informed by a love of modernist architectural pioneers such as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. "Within the modernism movement, you can find the same ramp used in the garage and in the dining room," he observes. Such functionality could be ascribed to many tracks on Chromophobia, which entwine rhythmic and melodic complexity and simplicity in a manner that can add vivid atmosphere to private interior settings, natural panoramas, and — though not in all cases — the dance floor.

COLOR ME GLAD

A major part of Chromophobia's appeal — apparent from the crystalline descending melody of the opening track, "Scene 1" — is that Boratto knows how to construct a strong simple motif or riff. "My first instrument was guitar, and when I was 10 or 11, I was really into Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin," he says, breaking down his musical background into shorthand. "But in the mid- to late '80s, my older brother lived for a while in the south of France and then in London, and when he came back he brainwashed me."

The glorious results of that brainwashing are apparent in Chromophobia's most-discussed track, "Beautiful Life," on which Boratto's wife, Luciana Villanova, plays the role of a female Bernard Sumner, quietly singing some affirmative words alongside a mammoth guitar line that invokes the unmistakable bass lines of New Order's Peter Hook. "It was really a joke," Boratto says with bashful enthusiasm when asked about the track, which Web sites such as Resident Advisor have singled out for special praise.

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