[sic] Magazine

Nicola Testa – Wanderland EP

Nicola Testa is a star in the making. I first stumbled upon him at a showcase evening where the main draw, for me, was the utterly fantastic Oslo Deadtrash Project . Four or five other acts left me cold that evening but Nicola became the surprise package. He was quite fabulous but it has been a long wait to see any recorded output. Finally the Testa silence is broken by Wanderland.

The music of Nicola Testa is electro pop with a strong Eighties vibe running through. It is arty, it is theatrical and it is danceable. Nicola’s music brings people together and gets them moving. Personally I cannot separate the memories of the show I witnessed from the listening experience. Maybe you had to be there? Well let me take you. Nicola made his stage entrance like a cat. In a heartbeat he’d seated himself behind his keyboard and, flanked by two masked girls (providing strings and backing vocals) he belted out a gentle ballad. All very nice but I was totally unprepared for the next part. Nicola must have his own fanclub. I know this because they were right in front of me. So when Nicola left his seat and asked us all if we were ready to dance, the place erupted. We swayed, we surged, some young ladies engaged in what I can only describe as Lupine dance moves. It was like a masquerade ball – ridiculous, yet thrilling in equal measure. And Nicola himself worked the stage – fluid, kinetic and with a confidence that bordered on arrogance. It was a performance I will never forget.

This EP does a great job of capturing the Nicola Testa sound. ’Home’ kicks things off and I’m pretty sure that we may have danced to this that night. Programming is to the fore and Testa lets the track build and build for ninety seconds before letting us have the call-out hook. ‘Cells’ has more of a Robbie Williams stomper feel at the beginning before moving ever more toward Dépêche Mode territory. ‘Look’ is fairly generic and may owe a little something to ‘You Spin Me Round (like a record)’ by eighties one –hit wonder Dead or Alive . ‘Sour’ is the standout for me. This one is a little more subversive, both lyrically and compositionally. Before looking at the CD sleeve I’d assumed ‘Sour’ was entitled ‘Feed’. Play it. You’ll see what I mean. The sequencers nod somewhat towards ‘Personal Jesus’ but leaving it there would be an injustice. ‘Sour’ is something of its own.

The EP ends with ‘Agony’. This one is downtempo. ‘Agony’ is a Nicola Testa confessional and the song is revealing on so many levels – the change of pace, the soul-baring content, even the switch of environment. (Testa shifts us from the nightclub to Broadway theatre hall) A nice way to wrap the EP and if you listen closely you’ll hear the sound of a shutting door at the final moment.

Showy, strutting, smiling – the ultra flamboyant Nicola Testa is a star. Ready and waiting, he belongs in the West End, Broadway or Vegas. “Starman”, I called him, after the showcase performance. There is even a touch of Bowie in there. Andy Bell too, if you recall Erasure , and many more icons besides. With sequins and sequencers, Nicola is a Liberace rebooted for the 21st century. He’s Rocky Horror, he’s Venice in Peril, he’s Plushenko with a microphone and he’s a jester with the faintest tear behind the mask. Yes, his songs may be infused with the merest hint of melancholy but you’ll have to invest something to find it. Before that you only need ask yourself one question.

Are you ready to dance?

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