Various Artists: The DFA Remixes, Chapter 2

Various Artists
The DFA Remixes, Chapter 2
DFA/Astralwerks

Since (at least) 1979, when first-generation no-waver James Chance re-cut "Contort Yourself" along a disco bias under the pseudonym James White and the Blacks, dance music has been the peanut butter to art-rock's chocolate bar. The two genres' intersection has been forgotten and rediscovered repeatedly since—see Family Recordings' 12"/'80s compilations for a crateload of evidence—and it's once again a hot parcel of musical real estate. Since releasing the Rapture's "House of Jealous Lovers" in 2002, the label/production team DFA (James Murphy and Tim Goldsworthy) has been central to this explosion, with output from Murphy's own band LCD Soundsystem and like-minded New Yorkers Black Dice and the Juan Maclean.

Not surprisingly, outside acts want a slice of the duo's club-friendly sound. Like last March's Chapter 1, which versioned the Chemical Brothers, Blues Explosion, and Le Tigre, the present volume's source artists comprise chart acts with a need to stay current (Nine Inch Nails), rockers with minimal dance-floor cred (Junior Senior), and acts with ties to the label (Hot Chip, who appear here with the uncharacteristically ambient "Colours"). DFA often strip everything but vocals from the originals, replacing the rest with a few instantly identifiable sonic signatures. Coruscating keyboards, delayed to blur the underlying groove, are Goldsworthy's department, while Murphy brings the rock: looped but live-sounding kit drumming and bass. (It's decidedly bass guitar; the lack of a synthetic bottom marks their style off from current hip hop/R&B.)

Within these parameters, DFA manage a reasonable amount of variation, though their track-to-track level of invention is inconsistent. "Slide In" surrounds Alison Goldfrapp's vocal hook with a funkier-than-usual clavinet bottom and a toybox worth of low-tech percussion. Their take on Nine Inch Nails' "Hand That Feeds" is another standout, though maybe not in the way the client would have wished, as on-the-beat female breathing and Space Invaders-era laser-fire set off Trent Reznor's mouth-breathing doltishness in sharp relief. Elsewhere, though, you can hear the duo's inspiration flag, as on the last few beatless minutes of Tiga's "Far from Home." Taken at a sitting, the formula behind this clutch of previously released 12"s can begin to sound, well, formulaic.

 
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