Napoli has long been one of Italy’s most musically vibrant cities – a metropolis famed for colourful, atmospheric and vivid dance music, with a rich and diverse sonic history stretching back to the disco era. For the last 36 years, it has been home to Gigi Testa, a bona fide local hero whose work not only draws inspiration from Neapolitan music of the last four decades – think Pino Daniele, Tullio de Piscopo, Tony Esposito, James Senese & Napoli Centrale, Nu Guinea, Mystic Jungle Tribe and rising stars such Fabio Fattore, Daniel Monaco and Raffaele Attansio – but also high-quality deep house and African music in all its forms.
Testa remains largely unheralded outside his home city, where he’s long been a regular fixture behind the decks at events such as Neuhm and at renowned audiophile club Basic, despite winning plaudits for a string of singles and EPs on his own World Peace Music and Freedom Dance imprints. Now Testa has become the latest artist to contribute to the Rush Hour Store Jams series, delivering a four-track EP that takes his self-proclaimed world music-meets-club music approach in kaleidoscopic new directions.
Inspired by a mixture of 1980s, post-boogie African music, the sounds of the Caribbean, Testa’s love for dance music from New York and his own Neapolitan musical roots, the Esoteric Paradise EP is an entertaining, each-catching collection of cuts the effortlessly blurs existing musical boundaries. Rich in synthesizer and drum machine sounds, it should delight all those who love melodic, tropical-tinged electronic music.
Testa sets out his stall with the EP-opening title track, a squelchy slab of electro-fired musical joy whose dreamy pads and synthesized marimba melodies recall the mid-80s work of legendary South African musician Hugh Masekela and the delay-laden proto-house jams of the late Boyd Jarvis. He opts for a deeper, sweeter, and more laidback sound on the gently jazz-funk-tinged warmth of ‘Blue Ocean’, where layered percussion, ethereal chords and morning-fresh melodies catch the ear, before doffing a cap the spacey electrofunk and obscure Trinidadian synth-pop records on the wonderfully picturesque ‘Guayaba’.
Testa’s own love of house music comes to the fore on future Balearic dancefloor classic ‘Moments in Time’, a sublime fusion of cowbell-driven club grooves, sun-splashed guitars, jazz-funk bass and alluring new age chords. Retro-futurist in tone but pleasingly hard to pigeonhole, with electronic and acoustic instruments high in the mix, it offers a fitting finale to an endlessly entertaining EP from one of Napoli’s most talented producers.