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  • Filed under: Review
  • 01/25/2012

Tony Lionni Higher Ground EP

With the abundance of collaboration, crossover, experimentation, and ceaseless genre subdivision in modern music, it's sometimes nice to know exactly what your going to get. Since 2008, Englishman and Berlin resident Tony Lionni has delivered a stream of steadfastly straightforward cuts on the deeper side of techno and house, and his latest EP, Higher Ground, is no exception. Like many of the 12"s Lionni has released, Higher Ground is essentially a record for DJs, especially those catering to crowds gathered at the after-afterparty. His tunes are perfect for house heads looking for a steady beat and simple melody, professional partiers pacing themselves for hours of revelry, and those whose late-night affairs with MDMA have rendered more complex music entirely too overwhelming. The mix-friendly tracks may not make for ideal home listening, but their lengthiness and predictability are ideal for a resident selector settled in for a long night behind the decks.

The record's title track is a slice of no-fuss, no-gimmick deep house. Beginning with a heavy techno kick, Lionni gradually adds a looping vocal snippet and chords before focusing on a meandering synthesizer solo that slowly fades into a mixable minute or so of hand claps and repeated chords. The song is solid; nevertheless, in all fairness, its lack of a build-up, climax, or even a catchy hook—not to mention to wandering nature of the song's primary synth line—could prompt some to pass over the tune, or quickly forget it after a spin or two. Even with its shorter length, Moomin's remix of "Higher Ground" does little to ameliorate the situation, as his delays, fluttering horns, and disembodied vocal snippets only exacerbate the general sense of spaciness.

On the other hand, Lionni's other creation on the EP, "Forever Is a Long Time," strikes gold with its upbeat, disco-flavored groove. Despite clocking in at eight minutes—it's the longest of the three tunes on Higher Ground—and its similar lack of an overt climax or hum-along hook, the locked-in bassline on "Forever is a Long Time" sports a striking, ear-catching bounce that's difficult to deny. The drums are vintage disco, with an emphasis on the handclaps, and Lionni keeps synth pads warbling in the background while looping a catchy short vocal sample throughout. Particularly nice are the song's sparse piano chords; applied economically, they only come in once every four measures, occasionally with an extra flourish. All in all, "Forever Is a Long Time" has enough energy to fit nicely in just about any house set, but lends itself particularly well to a long mix on a long night.

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