By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
Various Artists, Mixed By Tiga
American Gigolo: The Best of International Deejay Gigolo Records
Tangent 2002: Disco Nouveau
Hey, are you all right? Gosh, that was a nasty spill you took--really looked like it hurt. Here, let me help you up. Say, what is that you turned around and tripped over, anyway? Oh, Jesus--not another new electro compilation! I'm so sorry about that--you've really got to keep your eye out for those suckers, you know? They're everywhere.
Not only are electro compilations becoming as popular in hipster record stores as Now releases are at Sam Goody, most of them: a) are stocked up with basically the same artists, and, in a few more obviously desperate cases, tracks; and b) suck. Sure, it's fun to dress like extras in John Hughes movies and dance to spavined analog synthesizers. Sometimes bleeding the boisterousness out of a style is a good way to start from zero. But until somebody who isn't Adult. or Felix da Housecat works a change on the style that doesn't sound like leftover parts from Kraftwerk or Fad Gadget, you can avoid most of these collections with little worry of missing something. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the exceptions are the discs that approach the genre from opposite ends--one a DJ mix, the other a poppy, song-oriented affair.
American Gigolo, mixed by Montreal's DJ Tiga, is the first U.S. collection from the Munich-based International Deejay Gigolos label, and it's successful in part because the label doesn't just release electro. This allows Tiga breathing room to work in some house and techno as well, most notably Christopher Just's classic "I'm a Disco Dancer" and the R&B-ish "Communicate (Classic Mix)," by Filippo Naughty Moscatello. The usual electro irritants appear--Tiga and Zyntherius's cover of Corey Hart's 1984 hit "Sunglasses at Night" sums up the smug bad taste and stupid fashionista posturing of the style at its worst. But most of these tracks slam. Ectomorph's remix of early-Eighties Tuxedomoon's "What Use" underpins its proto-goth, stomping, stiff-armed keyboard bassline with elastic plinks and poings. And Mitsu's "Skylight" contrasts its micro-cheeps, strobe-light synth swirls, and sublimated vocal samples with full-throttle bass and beats.
The static, tongue-in-cheek sexual charge of nu-electro is probably best encapsulated by the disc's pair of satirical highlights. Miss Kitten and the Hacker's classic "Frank Sinatra (2001)" pushes the high-living clichés of clubland into the absurd: "To be famous is so niiiice/Suck my dick/Lick my ass/Every night in my limousine we have sex/With my famous friiieeends." Even more deadpan is Dopplereffekt's "Porno Actress," whose title character chants "I. Want to be. A porno. Star." in a zombie-like voice over a Colecovision soundtrack. (The song is capped by a three-note keyboard motif suggesting Frogger meeting his final fate.)
The artists on Tangent 2002: Disco Nouveau, by contrast, regard electro with a sense of romance, rather than as hot and sleazy one-night-stand material. Adult.'s "Nite Life" gets across both the giddiness of clubbing and a tongue-in-cheek distance from it, as do tracks from Susumu Yokota and Lowfish. And "Make Me," by veteran electro revivalists DMX Krew featuring Tracy, is great pop trash like it oughta be: the Kylie Minogue record you only wish she'd made with Stock/Aitken/Waterman. It might never get on the radio, but don't be surprised if you find yourself falling for--or over--it anyway.