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Donato Dozzy - 12H Music Album Reviews

Donato Dozzy - 12H Music Album Reviews
Clocking in at almost 100 minutes, the Italian producer’s latest is a muted effort that was originally designed as a sound installation for a bridge in Rome.

For over 15 years, Italian producer Donato Dozzy has masterfully ranged from tech house to trance to straight techno. But at his core, he is a minimalist, gleefully finding the strangest, most archaic element to zoom in on, turning any mole hill into Monte Bianco. His beatific ambient techno collaboration with fellow producer Neel, 2012’s Voices From the Lake, took as its starting point a single incident, a live set to be performed at Japan’s infamous Labyrinth festival. And in the past few years, Dozzy’s zoomed in even further, relentlessly exploring every imaginable facet of the mouth harp, the 303, and Anna Caragnano’s singing voice across full-length albums.


So it makes a certain kind of sense that a single object lies at the heart of his latest epic, 12H: the Armando Trovajoli - Music Bridge in Rome. While plans for the structure date back to 1929, the bridge was only completed in 2008. It’s the lone steel bridge that runs over the River Tiber into the historic center of Rome. This release on Lorenzo Senni’s Presto!? label is culled from material that Dozzy recorded and assembled for a sound installation designed for 24 speakers that ran the length of the colonnade of the bridge. 12H clocks in at almost 100 minutes, at times evoking the immersive, exquisitely detailed ambience of Voices from the Lake, but without the same breathtaking vistas and sumptuous peaks.

The set opens with Dozzy in resplendent, shimmering ambient mode, all body-dissolving washes, tingling small bells, electronics that mimic the sound of frogs at night, and slow-moving arpeggios. Other elements pop up, like running water and clattering wind chimes, before “12H.3” introduces a gentle pulse and quivering synth line, only to have it splash back into gurgly water sounds and electronics.

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A magnificent highlight comes on “12H.5,” which could be a leftover from Sintetizzatrice, his collaboration with Caragnano. The track painstakingly layers her gossamer breaths, building a sigh into a skyscraper. As that piece dissipates, the first smattering of percussion finally enters, nearly 45 minutes into the album, the hand drums pinging about the stereo field like a gentle tribute to E2-E4. Usually when drums enter Dozzy’s mixes, they elevate the proceedings to an unimaginable new high. Here, they don’t really add much in the way of emotion or release.

The throbs of “12H.8” soon get submerged by field recordings of insects rustling in the distance. The metallic thrums and acid stabs that punctuate “12H.9” are texturally intriguing, though they too soon fall to the wayside. We’re left to wonder what it might have sounded like had Dozzy pushed a few elements further or higher (as when Dozzy dropped a masterful techno rework of “12H.5” as a single earlier this year), rather than let the strictures of minimalism tamp everything down. The sounds of bridge traffic dovetail nicely with 12H’s kosmische-esque closing track, but like most urban congestion problems, it just takes far too long to get there.


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