Entirely remastered from the original analogue tapes and featuring brand new artwork designed by Luke Insect, this Four Flies reissue finally brings back to life one of the most surprising albums from the strange phenomenon that was the Italian library music of the Seventies.
Gianni Safred’s Electronic Designs was released in 1977 on the Milanese label Jump, in their “Music Scene” series, simply as a collection of musical pieces intended for use in television programmes. However, hidden behind a nondescript cover were twelve electronic music tracks revealing a recognizable style of composition; twelve little gems masterly combining experimentation, catchiness and practical functionality thanks to a unified and unique style. Each through a specific mood, these tracks give expression to Safred’s distinctive sound, where irresistible mechanical grooves are over-layered with melodic lines perfectly played on a Polymoog or ARP Odyssey.
A native of Trieste, Safred started out with little swing bands soon after WW2, before eventually playing with great soloists like Django Rheinhardt. Ultimately, it is his background as a jazz pianist that makes Electronic Designs so special. As with other Italian jazzmen who got into synthesizers (above all, Piero Umiliani), Safred’s blend of complex harmonies and (quasi-) bebop virtuoso flourishes, with its obsessive repetitions and refined tone colours, gives a retro-futuristic quality to this library album, whose electronic music is light-years ahead of the ‘pop’ electronic music of the time and, in many ways, anticipates the best stylistic features of early-Nineties dance music.
Safred best expresses his experimental verve – and does a great job in creating the ‘electronic designs’ of the title – in “Mystification”, “City Problems”, “Trapdoor”, “Planetarium” and “Poe’s Clock”, all of which unfold through hypnotic beats and sinusoid or square wave explosions. In other tracks, however, the compositional style is less unconventional, with relaxed yet not banal atmospheres (“Spheres”, “Elastic Points”, “Sacred Interlude”), as well as flashes of irresistible groove inspired by Herbie Hancock’s more pop-oriented work (“Automation Age”, “Jazz Motion Study”, “Bottom Up”). The album’s masterpiece is arguably “Hasty Chant”, a detective-funk ride with an unforgettable theme, which manages to pull all of the album’s various strands into a cohesive whole – as a side note, the allusive and apt description of the song on the back cover reads: «Things are happening».