Electronic artists often situate themselves in relation to music history – new techno looks nostalgically at the early days of 90’s rave, while modern house toys with the warmth of funk and disco. But few modern acts seek inspiration in the early 19th century. This is the path chosen by Italian duo Underspreche, whose debut album for JD Twitch’s Optimo Trax label enters into dialogue with Carl Maria von Weber’s 1819 waltz Aufforderung zun Tanz.
The line of logic that links a classical waltz to a modern techno album is satisfyingly simple. The title of von Weber’s piece translates as ‘Invitation to the Dance’ (from where this album gets its name in Italian), its music telling the story of a “Knight who invites a lady to dance in a salon of a fairy palace,” in the words of Underspreche. On their album they transpose this idea to modern clubs, serving hybrid techno shot through with operatic vocals and grainy strings that bring a candlelit quality to the dance.
Though Underspreche have few releases to their name (all on Optimo Trax), the rhythmic versatility and adventurous sampling of their early tunes suggested they’d be up to the task. The cocktail of Invito Alla Danza’s eight tracks offers a handful of key components mixed in different ratios. The choral vocals thread the breakdowns most elegantly in Vicino A Te and Flash Of Inspirations, while the pair’s talent for intricate percussion is most obvious on The Lady Of The Knight and Invito Alla Danza, ornamented by vibrant, twitching synths and flutters of Spanish guitar.
The songs are busy but consistently impress in their juxtaposition of unlikely elements. This holds true when the pair make stylistic departures, like the growling abstraction of In Turbine, the unexpected glitch-disco of Sequins Sequence or the basement techno of closer Mi Luz Es Distinta, which contrasts an aggressive acid churn with pads of startling softness. The fact that these departures work so well indicates that the quality of this album rests in the talent of its producers, rather than its ambitious concept. Who else could confidently write a great tune that evokes both futuristic dancefloors and renaissance ballrooms?