Anthony Naples changes colour from psychedelic on ‘Chameleon’ to propulsive on ‘Club Pez’
We’re not going to lie, this was solely intended to be a review of New York producer Anthony Naples’s latest album, Chameleon. But as fate would have it, lo and behold the arrival of Club Pez, his latest EP. Both are released on his label Incienso. So now this is sort of a think piece on Naples and the evolution of his music, but also still a review. The habit to drop EPs out of the ether is not unusual for Naples, who followed on the breakout success of his 2012 single Mad Disrespect with a string of extended plays. The sound of early Naples is pretty distinct; loungey, sort of sepia tinged retro house music that placed a firm focus on rhythm. Mad Disrespect, for instance, breaks the house mould about sixteen bars in by kicking into overdrive with hi-hatted double-time percussion that screams “techno!” For the most part this hat-trick would be the thing Naples invested in most on subsequent EP’s, building a reputation for blowing up the boundaries of house music. This would culminate in 2015 with his debut album Body Pills, half of which such as tracks Ris, Pale, and Changes was the most non-Naples he had ever sounded until that point. These tracks, particularly Ris, would introduce us to his genrefluid potential, existing in a strange space between ambient, shoegaze and noisecore.
Chameleon is arguably a continuation of the stylistic exploration that Ris set up. The album is anything but house music. Rather, it’s a collection of psychedelic, fuzzy compositions that pull from shoegaze, dub and post-punk but also jazz and world music. Crunchy guitars and decaying drums are poured into pools of sonic textures and electronic noise. Primo opens with fuzzy ambient clangs that become a percussive backbone for languid synths and softly fluttering, reverb heavy cymbals. Chameleon (the track) pulls from psych-rock with its syrupy analog drum beat is accented with trippy, decaying guitar strums and an urgent lo-fi arpeggio, while Pera takes a tribal drum beat and layers over loops of oscillating synths and decayed vox melodies. There are moments that more closely resemble the ambient ambitions of 2018’s Take Me With You. The Bug, for instance, is all ebbing synths and glowing washes of sound, slowly building itself in and out of focus as phrases expand and recede in space. Full of Stars is sans percussion, building itself instead on a pulsing loop of static sound around which spacey, buoyant synths bounce. The dub influence is fairly strong as well. Massiv Mello has a jazzy sort of cadence to it, giving Naples a canvas on which to explore methods of delay and distortion on his guitar strums. I Don’t Know If That’s Just Dreaming closes Chameleon with a trip-hop style analogous breakbeat and elliptical, glowing synth modulations on a track that feels destined for the yoga tent at the music festival. The album is a complete departure from his signature house formulations, but an excellent display of sonic dexterity in that this sort of indistinct, swirling psych style is brilliantly executed.
Standing in stark contrast, the Club Pez EP diverts Naples back to the dancefloor with five, long running pieces of dance music. But this isn’t the dance music we’ve come to expect from him, or really any type of dance music he’s made before. It feels as if he’s taken the penchant for doing the unexpected found on Chameleon with him to the club. Who would ever have imagined Naples making gqom? Yet on opening track Bonk, gqom’s signature bouncing bass modulation and rhythmic pattern is unmistakable. Then halfway through the track changes face, evolving into a chorus of buzzing and ebbing synth sounds and exploding with a multitude of textures. The rest of Club Pez feels mainly informed by techno, taking shape in pounding loops of regular time beats and futuristic synth warbles. Drops and Pez Anthem use techno’s structure, but throw in more dynamic beats that shift every few bars without dropping the pace. Uni Vibe is a minimal techno offering that sees Naples take a walk in Villalobos’s shoes for the day, and by the time closing track Solero kicks in, we find ourselves at a basement rave. A trance influenced tech track full of modular progressions and sketchy synth phrases, Solero is easily the most late night underground that Naples has ever sounded.
Apparently, following the release of 2019’s Fog FM, Naples had spooked himself with the idea that he’d played things too safe. It would seem that anxiety is to thank for the one-two punch of Chameleon and Club Pez, and for Naples’s newfound investment in versatility. Like the namesake of the former, it appears this new phase of Naples will be one of ever shifting colours. Taking in Chameleon and Club Pez one after the other, his sonic identity actually feels entirely distinct. Though completely different in sound and approach, the production on each of these records is unmistakably the work of the same artist. Considering this, Naples has the freedom to go as far from his “signature style” as he wishes, and can rest easy knowing that it somehow all sounds pretty genuine and anything but “safe.”
Listen to the title track from Chameleon and Solero from Club Pez below.
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