Much in the same vein as the earnest would-be intellectual stilting the atmosphere at an after hours house party, Intelligent Dance Music (for all its worthy pseudo philosophic concept and eagerness to validate an expansive musical genre with the academic gravitas of orchestral composition and the niche credibility of vanguardista subcultures) seems sometimes to have forgotten that middle bit.
The bit about, you know, dance.
Cough syrup-and-ketamine dubstep, the glissade of coalescing techno rhythms or the awe inspiring glassy soundscapes of field-recorded, frequency modulated, Logic-twisted, sidechain-syncopated, Abisynth-tickled masterworks are a very fine thing indeed. But sometimes it's nice to drop the thinky stuff and put on a record that makes people dance. Or alternatively, put on a professionally-mixed compilation and pootle about behind a Macbook pretending you're actually a lot hipper than you look.
put on a professionally-mixed compilation and pootle about behind a Macbook
Kitsune's Soleil Mix offers no pretence toward consciousness-raising or envelope-pushing. An hour's worth of slick summery dance music, drawing from indie-pop remixes, eurodisco and unreconstructed pop. The album showcases some of the Parisian label's new talent, but also taps into established acts' material.
What shines is the selection of tracks, dropping a vocal-heavy series of tunes into the type of mixtape that would more often feature happy house music in which vocals appear as looped hooks. Instead, there are full verses and songs on the compilation, expertly segued by label boss Gildas Loaec and collaborator Jerry Bouthier.
Blissfully summery for the most part, Soleil Mix plunders three decades of dance music for inspiration, from the Inner City kettledrum vibes of Jupiter's 'One O Six' (A.N.D.Y. Remix) to the Gary Clail-esque modulated arpeggios of Gigamesh's 'Your Body' (JBAG remix). It's a pleasant surprise to hear Adamski featuring on a 2012 compilation (proving that his musical career has outlasted Seal's after all), with the suitably anthemic 'I Like It' (Attar! remix) drawing heavily on Bizarre Incorporated's legendary dancefloor-destroyer 'Playing With Knives'.
A standout vocal section forms the middle third of the compilation (of twenty tracks) featuring French band Housse De Racket, a Roxanne Clifford-vocalled Metronomy, Kitsune's own Rufus and a Moonlight Matters remix of Charlotte Gainsbourg's 'Anna'. 'Talk to Me', the Rufus track, is a gem of a popsong from the Sydney band, combining elements of oldschool rave with 80s synthpop and straight-up rock lyrics. On a compilation featuring Friendly Fires, (whose 'Hurting' is remixed by Tensnake towards the end of the mix) new band Rufus out-do the festival favourites at their own game.
Elsewhere on the album, highlights include (unwieldy title warning) RAC's 'Hollywood' feat. Penguin Prison (Felix Da Housecat remix). RAC's production syphons some of the sense of fun that is Norman Cook's contribution to pop (mentioned because there is a definite something in the guitar chords/beats/keyboard lines that recall's Cook's remix of Cornershop's 'Brimful of Asha').
a deft landgrab of dance music's history, applied to new talent
If there is a pattern emerging, it is that of a deft landgrab of dance music's history, applied to new talent. That could end up derivative and charmless in the care of lesser curators/mixers, but Bouthier and Loaec create something greater than the sum of its parts. Finding a way to segue the plaintive vocal of The Rapture's 'Sail Away' (looped over an Italian piano-house breakdown provided by Cut Copy) into the pensive techno (Tricky Disco anyone?) of Hey Today's '83' should be difficult. Here it works.
Summer. At the very least we have a soundtrack.
On Kitsune Records, July 2nd.
Launch Party: XOYO, June 23rd