It's not every day you learn something new about ItaloJohnson, the anonymous project with a long and growing list of untitled 12"s. What we do know is that they're comprised of three people; they make highly functional and sought-after house and techno music with analog gear; and they maintain complete anonymity because they want the music to do the talking (and we will respect that by keeping this introduction as short as possible.) They're rumored to be based in Berlin but they won't confirm even that.
We do, however, know that they have a passion for vinyl, and collected it in their youth. Their genres of choice encompassed everything from '90s hip-hop and trip-hop to intelligent drum & bass, hardcore, rave, and even classical. In this episode of Influences, we're given a little more insight into the music that shaped them growing up, as they compile a playlist of the key records that they all remember listening to. It's a wildly eclectic two hours of music that's a world away from the club-formatted music they're associated with today.
"It is actually quite hard if not impossible for us to write something about the music that shaped us. In the mid- and late-'90s, it seemed that all these different genres were somehow happening under the same roof, and the electronic music landscape felt much more abstract. Ambient, electronica, downbeat, trip-hop, hip-hop, jungle, drum & bass, industrial—there was always something gritty, trippy, and hard to grasp about it. The sources for our music were also quite random, meaning that our understanding wasn't as distinct as today. We found ourselves searching for a certain kind of vibe or aesthetic rather than a specific genre to play in a DJ set. This made us listen without prejudice, and so the music became rooted in our consciousness.
"For this reason, this sound still has such a great emotional effect on us. While we now know how Q-Tip layered his snare drums and how Bukem programmed his drum breaks, the sound that all these tracks share teleports us right back to a time where we didn’t know any of it and also had no clue how anyone could even write this kind of music, regardless of whether we are talking about hip-hop or electronica—this is how powerful this music is! For example, Photek’s "Ni Ten Ichi Ryu" was, and actually still is, one those tunes that was impossible to comprehend, so all you could do is to feel it.
"All these tracks create this emotion. We bought most of these releases in an album format on either vinyl or CD so we would listen to these tracks in full-length, not mixed, and quite often by ourselves, and that way we internalized every single second of it. These very hard to grasp feelings and this spirit of optimism from when we were youths colors our music down to the present day. PEACE!"
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01. Leftfield feat. Roots Manuva "Dusted" [Hard Hands, Columbia]
02. Global Communication "05:23" [Dedicated]
03. Massive Attack feat. Mos Def "I Against I" [Virgin]
04. Crooklyn Dodgers "Crooklyn" [MCA Records]
05. Blame & Justice "Essence" (Jazz Testament) [Moving Shadow]
06. Slum Village "Climax" (Girl Shit) [Good Vibe Recordings]
07. Apache "Gangsta Bitch" (Instrumental) [Tommy Boy]
08. Photek "Ni Ten Ichi Ryu" [Science]
09. Mobb Deep "Trife Life" [Loud Records]
10. LTJ Bukem "Atlantis" [Good Looking Records]
11. John Beltran "Collage Of Dreams" (Outro Mix) [Peacefrog Records]
12. A Tribe Called Quest "Lyrics to Go" [Jive]
13. Shyheim "On and On" [Virgin]
14. Goldie "Kemistry" [Metalheadz]
15. DJ Krush "Yeah" [Mo Wax]
16. Seba "Planetary Funk Alert" [Good Looking Records]
17. Nine Inch Nails "Sanctified" [TVT Records]
18. Biosphere "When I Leave" (Finely Tuned Version) [Touch]
19. Nas "Memory Lane" (Sittin' in da Park) [Columbia]
20. Tha Dogg Pound "Reality" [Death Row Records]
21. Common feat. Erykah Badu, Pharrell Williams, Q-Tip "Come Close" (J-Dilla) [MCA Records]