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Populous is the project of multi-instrumentalist/producer Andrea Mangia, a musical nomad whose work, which ranges from shoegaze-tinged pop to sounds from around the globe, is defined by its dreamy atmospheres. Mangia's early albums, such as 2005's Queue for Love, blended hip-hop, soul, and reggae elements into hazy, chilled-out electronic soundscapes, but his horizons broadened as the years passed. On 2008's Drawn in Basic, he combined the influences of My Bloody Valentine and Raymond Scott into spacey electro-pop that predated the boom of like-minded artists in the 2010s. By that time, however, Mangia had already moved on to using his passion for musicology to create boundary breaking and border-crossing albums like 2014's Night Safari. Mangia rang in another decade of music with 2020's W, which championed women's musical artistry in free-flowing ways that played to Populous' strengths. Mangia was born and raised in Salento, a region of Italy where traditional music is based around tambourine rhythms, and the concept of creating music with rhythmic foundations stuck with him over the years. As a boy, he listened to as many different kinds of music as he could, from the Close Encounters of the Third Kind soundtrack to Motown, classical music, metal, hip-hop, and more. At university, Mangia studied musicology and played in a noise-rock band while also making delicately layered electronic music as Populous. When he was 20, he sent a demo of his music to the innovative German electronic music label Morr Music. Not long after, Mangia signed to Morr and made his debut on the label with November 2002's Quipo, a moody collage of hip-hop beats and intricate samples. On Populous' next album, May 2005's Queue for Love, he embellished these elements with soul, jazz and reggae influences that reflected the popularity of those sounds in his hometown of Lecce, Italy. Mangia then teamed up with New York-based MC Short Stories, aka Mike McGuire, on the 2006 single Breathes the Best and again on 2008's Drawn in Basic, an appealing blend of dream-pop and vintage electronics. Remixed in Basic, which featured reworkings of the album's tracks by Teebs, Harald Bjork, and Opiate, appeared in 2010. Following Drawn in Basic's release, Mangia took some time off from Populous. With McGuire, he formed the IDM-pop project Life & Limb, which released its self-titled debut in late 2012. He also revisited Girl with the Gun, his electro psych-pop outfit with Queue for Love vocalist Matilde Davoli and drummer Andrea Rizzo, and issued 2014's Ages. To prepare for his return to Populous, Mangia immersed himself in music from around the world. Envisioning a dreamlike exploration of nocturnal landscapes, he created Populous' fourth album Night Safari. Incorporating African chants, Brazilian music, and Krautrock, as well as contributions from Cuushe, Digi G’alessio, and Giorgio Tuma, the album arrived on Bad Panda Records in September 2014. Mangia's sonic travels continued on June 2017's Wonderwheel Recordings debut Azulejos, a set of songs fashioned from field recordings and vintage albums he discovered while living in Lisbon, Portugal. For May 2020's W, Mangia took a slightly different tack: For its celebration of feminine and queer musical energy -- including his own -- he folded elements of house, vogue beat, and digital cumbia into tracks featuring Davoli, Lucia Manca, Kaleema and other female artists he admired.
© Heather Phares /TiVo
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