Book ReviewsDatacide 19

Unique Forms of Continuity in Hakken: Riccardo Balli’s Sbrang Gabba Gang

When confronted with the multifaceted work of Riccardo Balli, a parallax shift is in order, for DJ Balli is an undercover philosopher—an anthropologist in disguise?—whose output never is what it might seem at first. Just for a taster: a Tweet can actually be an extratone record (DJ Balli / Ralph Brown – Tweet It!, Sonic Belligeranza), a DJ set a contemporary art performance (Slipmatology), a live radio drama a séance (Frankenstein, or the 8-bit Prometheus, Galleria Più).

Indeed, by a strategic change of perspective, what could apparently be classified as a mere ‘book’, would soon be seen for what it really is, a ‘mixtape’, a collection of different ‘objects’ (in the despicable lingo of today’s social media-driven techno-determinism, it would be ‘content’), tied together, DJ-style, by a coherent Leitmotif: that of gabber’s uncanny similarities with Italian Futurism.

War, speed, violence, technology, are in fact the main ingredients people tend to associate with the infamous Dutch hardcore techno scene known as gabber, as well as the divisive avantgarde art movement of the early 20th century. With a procedure that is at once Gestalt switch, metamorphosis, and mashup, Riccardo Balli turns into Italian Futurist Giacomo Balla, and a descent into a maelstrom of dodgy subcultures kicks off.

Sbrang Gabba Gang, Balli’s fourth book (fifth, if we consider Frankenstein, or the 8-bit Prometheus quite a different… creature from the original Italian version, Frankenstein goes to holocaust) stuffs Futurism’s manifestos with cognoscenti-friendly gabber references, props them up with surreal, incongrous shenanigans by the OG Futurists themselves—Italians would be excused to think of Mario Monicelli’s Amici miei here—bolts them with various contributions on the subject, and lets the reader make sense of the resulting cadavre exquis.

As with his previous literary efforts, Balli’s prose really works best at its most grotesque: an Italian precedent is hard to pinpoint, but I would probably go with Paolo Villaggio’s Fantozzi (Rizzoli, 1971). It is also worth adding that Balli’s remix technique, deployed here in the acute plundering of Futurism’s manifestos, is probably more enjoyable when turned to actual literature: Mary Shelley’s masterpiece—the subject of his previous two books—was a perfect fit, hands down.

What Sbrang Gabba Gang really lacks is a bird-eye view of the phenomenon of recontextualization of gabber’s history and aesthetics in mainstream pop culture, something I appreciate might not be Balli’s preoccupation here, but could have contributed to the conversation nonetheless (for that, I would point the reader to Kev Nickells’ Hardcore Till I die, Cesura // Acceso 2014). In a previous outré essay of his, Riccardo Balli was suggesting How to cure a gabber (a reference to fellow Bolognese Franco Bifo Berardi’s How to cure a nazi). With Sbrang Gabba Gang, one is left to wonder if the gabber has cured DJ Balli?

Francesco Fusaro

Sbrang Gabba Gang was also featured in the first episode of The Molehill Report on our Noise & Politics YouTube channel (segment starts at 2:34)

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