Andrea: Due in Color

Munich’s Ilian Tape label is a family affair. Its founders are brothers Dario and Marco Zenker, and dance music runs in their blood: Their aunt, Dorle Zenker, ran the iconic nightclub Ultraschall, ground zero for the city’s techno scene. The label’s tightly knit core roster, in turn, resembles a kind of chosen family; a number of its artists, like Skee Mask and Stenny, have released exclusively on the imprint. Turin’s Andrea also belongs to that list. He came on board in 2012, after meeting the Zenker brothers at a gig in his hometown, and he’s since become one of the label’s most prolific artists, racking up eight EPs and one album that encapsulate the breadth of Ilian Tape’s distinctive, homegrown sound. 

Though the label’s origins lie in the minimal and dub techno of the late 2000s, over the past decade it has gradually mapped out a dynamic zone where techno, jungle, drum’n’bass, electro, dubstep, and bass music freely commingle, and even the most heavyweight club tracks are imbued with an aura of elegance; there have even been a handful of purely ambient releases. (Daniel Avery has described the label’s signature as “broken beauty.”) Andrea’s productions have encompassed all those sounds, but his new album, Due in Color, goes further; neither strictly ambient nor conventionally dancefloor focused, it feels like an attempt to hybridize club potency and ethereal atmospheres.

Andrea’s debut LP, 2020’s Ritorno, was steeped in the lush textures of Detroit techno and ambient jungle, and it came bookended with a handful of purely downbeat experiments. Like RitornoDue in Color begins with a pair of gauzy mood-setters flush with luminous synth pads and acoustic textures—tapped ride cymbals, tactile snares, possibly the sound of dripping water—run through gargantuan reverb. And I mean gargantuan: like, cathedral-in-a-cave-in-a-canyon huge, the kind of reverb that would turn a nightclub soundsystem into soup. The tracks’ burly dub and drum’n’bass rhythms suggest a muscle memory of dancing, but the proportions are all off. Andrea recorded most of the album while clubs were shuttered in 2020 and 2021, and it feels like he is surveying an imaginary space, separating the idea of clubbing from the actual thing. 

The first half of the album pursues that concept across a succession of drum’n’bass-fueled tracks that turn the genre’s hallmarks inside out. Some of Andrea’s EPs are among the label’s most bruising releases, but on “Remote Working” and “Silent Now,” the drums are all but swallowed up beneath waves of layered synths and gelatinous bass. The impression is one of drum’n’bass frozen in amber, every intricately detailed strand of rhythm floating suspended in a honeyed glow. “Lush in End” pushes deeper into the viscous depths, burying jungle rhythms beneath heaps of glowing distortion, like Tim Hecker remixing Shed.

The album’s second half moves into more explicitly ambient and downtempo territory. The swinging “Chessbio” evokes the jazzy feel of Carl Craig’s “Bug in the Bass Bin”; the more muted “Hazymo” breaks out the shuffling breaks of vintage Ninja Tune or Mo Wax. “Dove Mai” is a beautiful fusion of heavyweight bass with vaporous synths, but the twinkling piano and wispy pads of “Am Der,” in contrast, feel slight—too pretty, too sentimental. Occasionally, it feels like Andrea is letting all that voluminous reverb do too much of the work for him, filling in gaps where, perhaps, a more idiosyncratic idea might have been allowed to take shape. But at its best—for instance, with the gorgeous pads and mammoth sub-bass of the closing “Return_Lei”—Due in Color offers a unique proposition: the dreamiest ambient music, given the massive scale and physical presence of an earthshaking club soundsystem.