On first rinse, Pronsato’s compositions sound like several other seemingly similar producers, and to be honest, I wasn’t that overwhelmed. I was whelmed, at best. But a closer listen through good headphones revealed the qualities that really make this album outstanding: the delicate treatment and arrangement of samples in the mix; the motley batteria of percussive elements whipped into quirky, funky shapes with the careful skill of a musician; and more than anything else, the dynamism of the compositions, their swerve. Unlike so many groove-based electronic producers working today, you cannot predict how the track will sound at the end (or in the middle) by listening to the first sixty bars. This is sadly not the case for the overwhelming majority of tracks (or mere tools) pumped out each month.
Comparisons with a few other superficially analogous producers might draw out the distinctions. The first few tracks ‘(Slowly Gravely’ and ‘What they Wish’) sound not unlike some of the VST horrorshow mnml on Onur Özer’s recent album Kashmir. Like Özer, Pronsato’s compositions are full of ‘personality’—you don’t have to second-guess yourself and ask, ‘Is this the new Özer/Pronsato, or the new M_nus record?’ But unlike Özer, who sometimes sounds like he was doodling with the presets on his softsynth until he found the ‘spooky’ horn noises he was looking for, Pronsato’s unease is drawn through carefully constructed complications of baroque complexity, not the emotional tonality of an unsubtle but effective sound effect symphony. Pronsato’s works are also (again, unlike Özer) emphatically compositions—they’re dynamic, they move, evolve, and unfold, telling a story in the process, through layers upon layers of sounds over time, where each is allowed its voice. They don’t just ‘sound cool’, they speak, they say something. And to me at least, this makes all the difference.
The all-out percussive tilt (emphasising sampled drums) of tracks like ‘At Home I’m a Tourist’ and the vinyl-only ‘Gato Y Medio’ might also attract comparisons with Narcotic Syntax or some of Gabriel Ananda’s work on Bambusbeats (‘Trommelstunde’), but there is a maniac glint at play here that is often lacking in James Dean Brown’s sometimes overly ‘wacky, zany’ productions, and Pronsato plays drums with much more of a bent stick than those wielded on Ananda’s much straighter steamed-up piston whippers.
I could also draw comparisons with Dandy Jack’s work, or some of Ricardo Villalobos’ more introspective brainfunks, but I think that would be overworking what should now be obvious: Pronsato has created something genuinely fresh and exciting with this album, something that sublimates and outdoes most other similar works idiosyncratically, stylistically and artistically, and something that will outlast the barrage of limp dreck released in 2007. It’s only January, but I can say without hyperbole that this is easily going to be one of the albums of the year. Why Can’t We Be Like Us took two years to produce—it shows, and it was worth it. Take as much time letting these complicated mechanisms unwind in your earspace and you should feel rewarded with an equal magnificence.