Italian house music has always moved in fits and starts of productivity and recognition. Peaks in the past saw artists such as Jestofunk topping the charts around the world, but after a slump in the early '00s, a new wave of producers has been carrying the torch for a country with a long history of four-to-the-floor.
"We recently had the coming back of the '90s house scene, and I think those were the most flourishing years in Italy," says Fabio Corcos, label boss of Bosconi Records. "We had a huge black hole between the '90s and 2010 production-wise. Nothing so special, except maybe Marco Passarani or Donato Dozzy."
Corcos is well placed to comment. The label he runs from his home in the Tuscan hills north of Florence has a stated intent of representing the best in Italian house and techno. Corcos himself grew up immersed in these styles, DJing under the name Fabio Della Torre.
On a balmy Sunday afternoon in June, Bosconi HQ is hosting a group of the label's artists and some friends from the area. The decks are set up to face the jaw-dropping undulations of the landscape below. A handsome spread of panzanella, prosciutto, pappa di pomodoro and cacio is laid across the table, and the Chianti is flowing. The setting is vital to the story of Bosconi: Corcos threw parties here as a teenager, and in doing so forged friendships that fueled the label's development. He also named Bosconi after the olive farm surrounding his home.
The core of the label is producer and A&R man Rufus Niccolo, Martino Marini (AKA Mass_Prod), Andrea Giachetti, Antonio Pecori, Stefano Meucci (who plays live as The Clover) and Hervè Corti and Marco D'Aquino, who produce individually and also together as Life's Track.
"I don't feel very different to Rufus or Hervè," says Corcos, who is keen to make clear that A&R decisions don't come from him alone. "Maybe it's because we're friends and we influence each other, but it happens naturally."
Before these characters entered the fold, Bosconi began with a meeting between Corcos and Ennio Colaci, a tireless producer prolific across many genres. Corcos had just returned from years studying and immersing himself in the booming Berlin techno scene, while Colaci was involved in a multimedia art project called Minimono. Before long the two used the project as a banner for their productions, starting out during the most fruitful years of minimal techno.
Initially Minimono was most closely linked to Telegraph Records, the Parisian bastion of skewed micro house. Their early output showed a love of hyper-edited, microscopic samples and surreal atmospheres; when Corcos and Colaci began Bosconi, they instinctively reached out to artists such as Bruno Pronsato and John and Barbara Thomas, who contributed to the label's first releases.
From these early days of the label, the Bosconi sound has evolved to embrace a richer palette of house music, informed by a classic approach but searching for that extra kink that elevates a standard club track. This has often meant a move away from sleek productions towards a more rugged approach, reflecting the wider dance scene's move towards analogue production. UK maverick Altered Natives and Detroit duo The Oliverwho Factory widened the label's remit while staying true to its focus on house music. "Keeping an eye to also what is happening outside of your country is really important actually for me," says Corcos.
"We are 'the new' for him," Fabio says on their working relationship. "Even though there are many new labels and we don't consider ourselves the new, for him we are fresh, maybe."
This notion of "new" is especially pertinent in a country where the dance music industry is fraught with hurdles. The profile of Italian house and techno producers has not been this healthy for some time, but when asked about the state of the club scene on home turf, Corcos focuses on issues that are not so apparent from beyond Italy's borders. "What disappoints me about the old house DJs is that they stopped putting their effort into the music and they are just using their old circuit to still get money. People who have got a lot from the music should have given something back with purer ideas than just business." This reflects what Fabio considers to be the institutionalised hierarchy of an Italian club scene that keeps a select few afloat on a steady income without allowing space for a younger generation of artists to break through.
"If you want to be an international artist and play in Italy," Corcos continues, "you have to have an Italian booking agency because there is a circuit and this circuit is controlled by the agency. I understood many things in the record business, but this is something I really don't want to understand. These bookers are really fighting against the music."
Bosconi, however, has always tried to develop new talent, which is no more apparent than in the emergence of Hervè Corti and Marco D'Aquino's Life's Track project. Making their debut in 2011 with a pair of singles on Bosconi, the youthful duo display an instinctive grasp of hardware-driven production and a fearless way of using such equipment that demonstrates the importance of ideas over the methods.
"Mass_Prod was always listening to the stuff of the very young guys more than the already known artists," Corcos says. "For example, he did a good job with Marco D'Aquino. He worked with him in the studio, and then Hervè was a friend of Marco, so at some point if you give everything for the label then it's coming back and it's creating a sort of little movement."
Now Life's Track are sitting on some 30 productions, with releases on a plethora of labels in the pipeline. As Herva, Corti has become a firm fixture of the Bosconi family, while also branching out to Delsin. His solo output moves away from the impulsive jams of Life's Track and instead delves into different tempos and styles, produced with a hyper-detailed style built for headphones more than soundsystems.
Displaying the confidence of a young, prodigious talent, Corti mixes the same way he makes music. As he shares the decks with his label boss at the party, he cuts and chops between records with a cocksure attitude and creative flair.
Really, though, Corti's music is far more mellow and measured than you would expect from a young talent. His album Meanwhile In Madland was a sprawling opus of downtempo vignettes and fractured house abstractions, setting a new standard for Bosconi's Extra Virgin sub-label.
Originally dealing in more organic matter derived from disco re-edits and live instrumentation, Extra Virgin is a gentle alternative to the dance floor focus of the parent label. And now Bosconi is branching out in the opposite direction, with the more abrasive qualities of its Squirts offshoot. On a simple level, it's more techno focussed than the beating house heart of Bosconi, but Fabio is keen to explain that the future direction of all aspects of the label has always been left open.
"Squirts was born of the idea of being a techno sub-label because you have to propose something, but it already turned out to be something else," Corcos says. "It will be another platform where we can experiment with more aggressive sounds, not strictly techno but also maybe a little experimental or ambient."
While Squirts comes to light with coarse, textured workouts from Corcos and hitherto unknown producer Hash, Bosconi is dealing with its biggest project to date. The Bosconi Stallions boxset collects all the label's embedded artists, along with a few timely additions from the new vanguard of Italian producers. Marking the first half-decade of Bosconi, it also represents a coming of age, with both artists and label collaboratively striving towards musical progression.
"I didn't want to tell the artist to do something that was not in their nature," Corcos says, "but of course everybody has his own style. It's Nicholas and [Nick Anthony] Simoncino's first release on Bosconi, and I feel like they almost gave their freshest approach and this is really what I was looking for."
There are some surprises on the compilation. Altered Natives turns his hand to atmospheric techno, while Nicholas opts for a powerful, dubby house cut. It's tracks like these that realise Corcos's dream of running a label that pushes artists to delve that little bit deeper for creative gold.
"Artists have to be free to do what they want," Corcos says, "but artists can also lose themselves at some point. I remember when I was doing tracks for Telegraph, they were really giving me focus, and so I wish for Bosconi that the artist will recognise and put himself into discussion for something that he really believes is good in the end."
Download: RA Label of the Month 1307 Mix: Bosconi Records
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Rondenion - Beginning Of The Ring [BoscoEXV005]
Rufus - I Was Back From Nigeria (Crowdpleaser remix) [BoscoEXV001]
I.F.M. World Is Changed [Bosco014]
Mass prod - Don't Be Anger [Bosco008]
The Oliverwho Factory - Together (Altered States mix) [Bosco016]
The Clover - Feelings [Bosco010]
Rondenion - Like A Child [BoscoEXV005]
Altered Natives - Heavenly Melodies [Bosco013]
Minimono - Little Liars [Bosco006]
Alex Picone - Dry Scream [Bosco024]
Quitèfrùt - Absoluca (P&D remix) [Bosco003]
Corcos - Reliable & Immature (Gari Romalis remix) [BosQRT003]13. Ricardo Miranda - No Sound [Bosco017]
100Hz - The Field [Bosco004]
Fabio Della Torre - Thrilled (Eduard De La Calle remix) [Bosco020]
A Guy Called Gerald - How Long Is Now [Bosco021]
Life's Track - Life's Track 04 [Bosco015]
Riccio - Dreamin' [BoscoEXV004]
Le Macchine - Eternal Sample [BoscoEXV012]