Since joining the label back in 2018, Hear & Now have quickly become one of Claremont 56’s most prolific and consistent acts. The Italian duo impressed with their debut album Aurora Baleare – a drowsy, mood enhancing masterpiece – and then went one better with 2020’s Alba Sol, a seductive and sun-kissed set that incorporated more nods to Hear & Now members Ricky L and Marcoradi’s 1990s deep house roots.
The pair have once more struck sonic gold with their third album, Milvus, a set whose colouful chords, unfurling melodies, warming instrumentation and sun-soaked vibes were mostly laid down during the various pandemic lockdowns of 2020. If it’s vivid, picturesque and immersive musical escapism you’re after, Milvus delivers and then some.
The album’s clear White Isle-friendly intent can be heard on opening track ‘Bassa Marea’, a yearning chunk of horizontal brilliance in which guest musician Marco Evengelista’s emotive flugelhorn sounds spar with slow-motion, eyes-closed electric guitar solos over billowing ambient chords and a tactile, thickset bassline. The pair’s ability to craft high-class, saucer-eyed Balearic soundscapes is a theme that’s returned to several times across the album, with ‘Abisso’– another near beat-free slab of touchy-feely dreaminess – standing out.
Ricky L and Marcoradi’s love of evocative, pitched-down excursions is another recurring theme. For proof, check out the chugging weariness of ‘Zanziblu’, where a lone whistle drifts across waves of heady chords and metronomic beats, the dub-fired Balearic reggae shuffle of ‘Coccobello’ and the bright aural colours of gentle title track ‘Milvus’, whose cascading piano motifs, echoing harmonica motifs and chunky dub disco grooves are as appealing as they are infectious.
While the prevailing mood is perhaps even more horizontal than their previous albums, Hear & Now have not completely abandoned the dancefloor. Two of the set’s standout moments are those where the pair actively explore their early ‘90s Italian dream house roots.
There’s the rolling haziness of ‘Levante’, where more emotion-rich electric guitar solos and ear-catching whistling softly spar with pulsing pads, club-ready house beats and chiming synthesizer motifs, and the breathlessly brilliant ‘Baiadriatica’, whose stirring, sustained opening chords should always be described as “rush-inducing”.
Rich in jangling piano riffs, fluid keys, squelchy bass and glistening guitars, the track is little less than a glorious 21st century update of the dream house sound first made famous by the likes of Sueno Latino and Key-Tronic Ensemble. Like the rest of Hear & Now’s absorbing and emotive third album, it’s a stunning, sunset-ready delight.
A1. Bassa Marea