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Renato Ratier – Black Belt

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Label: D-EDGEScore: 8/10 

Renato Ratier is renowned for being a lot of things. From an international perspective, however, he’s becoming rightly proclaimed as a producer more than simply the brains behind Sao Paulo’s globally renowned nightspot, D-Edge – and, of course, its accompanying label. Much of that is down to some seriously impressive and eclectic recent productions, not least ”Homeboyz” (a collaboration with San Fran trio PillowTalk) and ”Folk Us”, the latter of which came primed with a sumptuous remix by none other than Classic man Luke Solomon.

Ratier’s debut album, Black Belt, recently dropped on his own aforementioned label, and to give it its dues, it’s a more than an adept stroll into the LP domain. In fact, it’s full of wonderful contradictions that almost serve as a metaphor for Ratier’s heritage: at times, it’s colourful and sunny, while at other times, it’s bleak and downtrodden. That, though, is precisely the point, and one adjective that can’t be attributed to the album is ‘generic’. Instead, it’s imbued with an almost tangible personality, with Ratier quite clearly putting his heart, his soul – and every last drop of his many talents – into the project.

And considering he’s about to open a new club in Rio (no mean feat we’re led to believe), that should come as quite the statement. Good examples of the enriching, enticing sound arrive early on thanks to playful, melodic charms a la ”Love Me Tokyo” and the quirky and delicate ”Kissu”. On that one, it’s all about the clever strings – which are as sumptuous as can be.

Jamaicanese” sees the pace picked up considerably, but it then goes straight back to celestial leanings on ”Kozaboa”. What separates Ratier from the slew of other producers turning their hands to ‘diverse’ LPs, however, is the attention to detail present and the steadfast engagement with tempo that sees the album twist, turn and meander throughout. 

There are disco elements too, not least on ”Tea Time”, ”Miss Stereo” and ”Temple Talent”, and while the latter trio all have their own merits, Black Belt is at its most excellent and engaging when tracks such as ”Chakomigo” and ”Keymono” lead us on their bassline-fuelled merry dances. My own highlight is the dark and slightly ominous, ”Fetisshu”, a misty number that’s shrouded in menace and suspense. It’s a trudge into murky territory that might have been explored more on the album, but small gripes aside, Black Belt is a collection of tracks that, as its title suggests, showcase the sound of a man at the top of his craft. 

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