Various Artists: DFA Compilation #2

Various Artists
DFA Compilation #2

Most of the time, hearing electronica-identified artists claim that they "want to start using real instruments" is a red flag that their music is about to get deeply uninteresting. But James Murphy and Tim Goldsworthy, the New York production duo better known as the DFA, seem to like live instruments for the same reason they like synthesizers: for their tonal quality and the multiplicity of possibilities they represent. The more you listen to this astounding three-disc compilation (two CDs of unedited tracks, and some that were DJ-mixed by Goldsworthy), the lines between analog and digital--between multi-instrumentalist rock-band vet Murphy and Mo' Wax cofounder and ex-UNKLE member Goldsworthy--seem less and less clear.

Well, good. What DFA Compilation #2 does best is make any niggling about subgenres and musical roles--musician vs. programmer, track vs. song, rock vs. disco--almost irrelevant. The amazing, elastic "Sunplus," by Japan's J.O.Y. (featuring former UNKLE member KUDO, and Yoshimi P-We of Boredoms), sounds like Swiss post-punks LiLiPUT practicing their trade during England's second summer of love. The DFA remix of Delia Gonzalez and Gavin Russom's "Rise" resembles prime New Order with dirt under its fingernails. Pixeltan's "Get Up/Say What" moves like Bush Tetras' "Too Many Creeps" with a case of the squiggles. And the remix of Black Dice's "Endless Happiness" by Eye (also of Boredoms) is about the prettiest noise-jam imaginable.

The "Crass Version" of "Yeah," by Murphy's LCD Soundsystem, moves from a shambling dance-in to a 303-led acid freakout while the vocals' don't-give-a-fuck sloppiness make !!!'s Nic Offer sound like he's auditioning for middle management. That song would have been the dance track of 2004 had Compilation #2 not saved the best for first. After playing "Casual Friday," by Black Leotard Front (a.k.a. Murphy, Gonzalez, Russom, and Christian Holstad), three times in a row and stopping myself from making it four, I've decided it's the greatest 15-minute disco record of all time. (Runners up: Donna Summer's "Love to Love You Baby," Paperclip People's "Throw.") It hearkens back to the DFA's first great production, the Rapture's "House of Jealous Lovers"--only instead of giving an indie rock band the club-mix treatment, Murphy and Goldsworthy sound like they took hold of the West End Records house band circa 1981 and decided to art 'em up. There's an incomprehensible lyric about confronting somebody at the office; a pealing, glassy synth wriggle that announces each sonic shift; and the funkiest, sexiest, blessedly loosest pronunciation of the word bonjour on public record; not to mention an ending that pays explicit homage to Sleezy D's apocalyptic early acid-house hit, "I've Lost Control." Neptunes, Basement Jaxx, Timbaland--your turn.

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