From the Cradle to the Rave
The first record I ever bought just because of the band’s name was The Dead Kennedy’s Holiday in Cambodia. That worked out well for me, although a provocative band name doesn’t always yield great music. However, Shit Robot writes a stunning collection of songs rooted in the London Acid House scene, but updated to accommodate a few modern stylistic shifts. Now, most DJs just play other people’s music, and their skill lies in uniting a disconnected set of tunes via clever beat matching plus a knack for getting the freshest cuts to come from the basement mix studios churning out electronica. But with Shit Robot, DJ Marcus Lambkin writes all the cuts and sings most of the vocals along with some help from some other turntable notables. “Tuff Enuff” is the oldest cut and the first Lambkin wrote. It features a simple 8-bit-flavored synth line that loops along with his under-sampled vocals. From a classical composition view it’s extremely simple, but when it’s embellished with the occasional swishy sound effect, it becomes a solid piece of dance music that keeps the focus on the floor and not on the drum machine. The second cut, “I Found Love on the Disco Floor,” is similarly constructed, but adds an element of ironic humor with the title/chorus adding the melancholy of Peggy Lee’s “Is that all there is?”
Alexis Taylor (Hot Chip) adds a smooth female perspective on dancing and dating for “Losing My Patience” as does Nancy Whang (LCD Sound System) on “Take ‘Em Up.” Guest male vocals include Juan McLean on “Grim Receiver” and Ian Svenonius on “Simple Things.” The first gives us the old school bop-a bop-a-bop-a speed throb, and the latter a spoken word accompaniment to a later phat chords sound. There are nine solid tracks here, but there’s a bit of irony as well — what the disc lacks is a danceable arc from slow to fast and back to slow. While individual cuts begin to approach that soaring dance peak, the disc is fairly flat tempo-ed, and what Lambkin and Shit Robot need is a separate DJ around them to pick songs and mix the flow to control the audience. It’s solid musicianship I’m holding in my Winamp-ish hands, but it’s just one part of an evening’s rave. What’s needed is a competing jock to spin Shit Robot’s mix in a club. Good thing no one has to back announce the band in that throbbing darkness.
DFA Records: www.dfarerecords.com