Gabe Gurnsey's new album 'Diablo' is out now via Phantasy on limited edition neon pink vinyl and CD: https://ffm.to/gg-diablo
Close your eyes and listen to Gabe Gurnsey’s latest offering, 'Diablo'. You might be transported to a German autobahn after nightfall, strobe lights flashing in your private imaginarium. Or perhaps to a dimly lit basement, getting your top off as sound cascades off of concrete walls. 'Diablo' moves in unexpected directions, and you quickly realise you can relax and trust it to make you feel extremely good. We’re in a place of giddy echoes, 808 boings, sexy-menacing vocals and soft throbs, with lyrics full of pleasure and desire; like proper rave lyrics, they are in turn filthy, grandiose, devotional, and cryptic.
'Diablo' is the follow-up to Gurnsey’s acclaimed 2018 debut, 'PHYSICAL', on Erol Alkan’s Phantasy Sound. Where 'PHYSICAL' followed the arc of a night out in a linear way, 'Diablo' expands time, slows it down and opens it up, showing a quiet confidence and progression, and making judicious use of Gurnsey’s girlfriend, Tilly Morris, whose role is that of both muse and collaborator. “I wanted Tilly to dominate on 'Diablo',” Gurnsey explains. “I wanted her to have free rein. This album works because of her influence, her input.”
Morris – who was also featured on 'PHYSICAL' – sings on most of “Diablo”s tracks, contributed to the lyrics, melodies, and synths, and her image is the album artwork. An album with such a level of collaboration only feels this good when you can really trust somebody. “This record is formed out of a lot of trust and lust,” Gurnsey says. “And I think it's very honest in a lot of ways, in terms of letting go, in terms of exploring, just in terms of being a bit fucking happy.”
Listening to 'Diablo' it’s striking just how much is being said with so little, its sparse instrumentation offset with simple but devastating arrangements, and vocals that bring the humanity of the music to life. “Tilly’s been really great at assessing where I’m at: ‘Yeah, that's cool. That’s shite.’ We work together. I’ll come up with a melody or an idea for a vocal and then I’ll leave her to it and she’ll just add stuff. We’re both big fans of that manipulated vocal sound.”
Perhaps the biggest change for Gabe is that he is no longer a drummer, a role he thrived in as a member of Factory Floor, whose uncompromising approach to electronic music made them one of the UK’s most energetic live acts. “Physical” still contained plenty of his tough syncopated rhythms, but on “Diablo” he’s mainly programming them rather than stuck behind the traps. “It just didn’t really suit it as much,” he confesses. “It didn't really need it.” Nonetheless, rhythm is still at the centre of his songwriting process. “100% start with the drums – and bass. And then the melody. That’s always the foundation. Get the drums right, and you’re pretty much on your way, aren’t you?”
'Diablo' is an urban record, and you can hear and feel that city-edge on every track, most of them pure dancefloor fire. On ‘Blessings’ Gabe’s vocal channels a post-futurist Donna Summer as the song drives towards Munich’s Hansa studios for an evening rendezvous with Giorgio Moroder. Tilly’s confessional vocal on ‘Higher Estates’ pushes and pulses through the sublime pleasure of urban squalor. The drum-less ‘To Love In A Sea Of Fire’ contains little more than a coruscating bass and synth pads to accompany the lure of Tilly’s sarcastic drawl. Title track ‘Diablo’ sees Gabe and Tilly deliver a disembodied duet, love-sparring like a post-apocalyptic Donny & Marie Osmond – they reprise this routine on ‘So Sweet’ (which is anything but): “I’m breaking at the thought of your love, I’m shaking at the thought of your mind.” ‘Power Passion’ has a touch of wine bar and a hint of Daft Punk and ‘You Remind Me’ is all sharp little squelches, stutters, and swooning sunrise vocals. “Give Me” shifts from demand (“Give me your loving”) to begging (“Give me your loving”) in the sweetest and sexiest way. ‘To The Room’ closes the record with a sinister softness, glimpses through a doorway into other possibilities.
You’ll hear all sorts of influences here, from Peaches, Detroit techno, deep house, electro, Suicide and Eurythmics. It’s a generous stew which shows its appreciation for his forebears without ever being overshadowed by them. “I love the’80s,” he admits. “It’s been a big influence. There’s just something quite melancholy about that era, isn't there?” Let’s face it, most of the best dance music has that minor-key sadness, channeled to perfection by Gurnsey and Morris.
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