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DFA flag US - New York - Full Moon 78 - 02/16/03

DFA Label Overview
LCD Soundsystem/The Rapture/The Juan Maclean

Over a single-handed snatch of time, the number of twelve-inches countable on that same hand, the DFA label ("Death from Above" it reads) has turned the international DJ community on its ear. While in hindsight it would seem so obvious to put punk rock's chocolate in with dance's chunky peanut butter, DFA took these pieces to the bank, their very first slabs resting on the felt-padded decks of connoisseurs the world over, inspiring a whole new wave of trainspotting as hipsters in London, Tokyo, Williamsburg, and Berlin craned their necks to wonder at what this Brave New World beyond "This is Radio Clash" might be. As everything comes back into print for another go-round, here is a brief blurb about what has transpired thus far:

LCD Soundsystem
Losing My Edge (12")

Vying with label mates The Rapture's own 12" turn on the label in that Summer of Lovelectro (or is it "Electro-love"?) for the most crucial track, this takes a simple enough ticky beat and Atari bassline and layers labelhead James Murphy's Fall-like prig sneer on top as he proceeds to namedrop every goddamned hep band name of the last third of the century. Coalescing every legendary: "this one guy's house I went to back in the day where he had every:
A) original German pressing of all crucial 70's Krautrock,
B) original Detroit acid house 12" vinyl,
C) complete BYG/ Actuel and ESP Disk catalog in mint condition, or
D) all of the above,
plus all the obscure No-Wave, Jap-Noise, early Industrial, et cetera, it was insane" tall tale into a most delicious danceable diatribe, you don't have to know or go a-hunting for every name dropped here, but the dirty laundry list of it can be helpful, even if you shudder at the approach of record store clerks. If only they had thought to include a cyanide capsule in the sleeve it would just be perfect. The flipside, "Beat Connection," is a well-paced side of bass pulse, hi-hats, synth gurgles, and a little live drum and timbale action up into the vocals, which lament the loveless nature of the scene. A little Giorgio, a little Arthur Russell, with more mic-to-the-nose lyrics.

The Rapture
House of Jealous Lovers (12")

At the needle drop, this is instant LES/Brooklyn dancefloor nostalgia of the highest order for the hip hip-hugging intelligentsia, reminding everyone as to how to bring punk and dance back together, something that seems to have been lost since the early Danceteria and Tommy Boy days. It seems that all you needed was a cowbell and a plump bass plucking. With rock credentials that reach back to early releases on Gravity Records and Sub-Pop, this group straddles the rock/dance pummel horse now (thanks to James Murphy's precise production) with an ass-wiggling bassline and snapping cymbal hits that recollect the New York eighties as well as the ecstasy-enhanced mind meld of limey hybrids Happy Mondays or Primal Scream. Borrowed nostalgia and name-checking can be used as a criticism against them, either in the Robert Smith cries or the de-politicized razor-whip guitar of Gang of Four's Andy Gill courtesy of singer/guitarist Luke Jenner, but it would mean forgetting the "now" of it all, and how great it really sounded in the clubs this past summer, whether you were in Brooklyn or outer space. Classic.

And the B side does a nice little New Order single action, dropping the vocals and mixing it up into something familiar yet new, with some tasty trumpet burbling for good measure. Even "Silent Morning" is heavily F/Xed and oceanic in its slower beat and harmonic wails. What more do you want from the flip of a classic track, "Erotic City"?

The Juan Maclean
By the Time I Get to Venus (12"), and:
You Can't Have It Both Ways (12")

Were it not for the shiny stallion action of the other two titles, these two offerings from a former Six Finger Satellite dude might not sound so much like future glue factory product. Unfortunately, Maclean is less Isaac Hayes or Public Enemy and more Glenn Campbell on "By the Time I Get to Venus," as the electronic f/x and flanged drums cannot find the pulse of the dance and the raw meat heart of the rock to save its life. Larry Heard it ain't. Even an Ad-Rock remix cannot save it from dying hard. "TG-3X" is more washed out and formless at its inception, almost like an early Orb track, with echoing melodies and long sustains, but in building up to that 808 kick that elevates the whole thing and keeps it there with the sweet tweets and bass throb, all is redeemed.

"You Can't Have it Both Ways" is harder to figure. There is that cymbal sound that has yet to fail me, the arpeggiations and canned handclaps (and canned live whistling), as well as some black-lipstick fraeulein fricatives of "nothing is fake" or "you got a right, tonight" to go with the onanistic Yello grunts, all infallible, but at over nine minutes, it just loses its edge. "My Time is Running Out" goes for that early Aphex Twin sound of rippling synths and dripping drum pad splashes, with watery vocal droplets as well, and it ends the slab on an exquisite note.

The Rapture
Olio (one-sided 12")

Almost a Juan Atkins thump and UFO synth gurgling, but mixing with plaintive piano and alarm fuzz. Luke Jenner's yowl is a more-rarified strain of Robert Smith this time as the percussion pumps up in the mix, over and over and over again, as the words even reiterate, the handclaps and hi-hats pushing through before syncing up again with the piano figures for some dance floor padlock down. Obviously, "Olio" proves the Rapture is beyond one-hit wonder's purgatory.

LCD Soundsystem
Give it Up b/w Tired (7")

But how will producer James Murphy fight off the one-hit wonder tar pits? He surely can't name some other classic bands or sneer as he did last summer, and so instead we have the full return of the simple pleasures of punk rock. The A side is straight-forward, and it is all about paring down, eradicating the past and jettisoning "the things we can live without." "Tired" is even wilder and flailing, with Murphy joined by Pat Mahoney for some loose bashing. The recording coming across like something live from the punkest dive on a boom box, the drums muffled and vocals distorted and lost in the din.

Copyright © 2003 Andy Beta e-mail address

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