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Prins Thomas

Live at Robert Johnson Vol 2

(Robert Johnson; US: 12 May 2009; UK: 11 May 2009)

Prins Thomas, who just released a fine little album earlier this year with frequent partner Lindstrøm, is the second long-form selecta this year to celebrate a decade of Offenbach’s Robert Johnson club with an eclectic mix of dance cuts. Thomas, like much of the post-twentieth century dancefloor milieu, tends to favor repressed or taunted sounds, aggregating music’s punchlines-neobalaeric, prog-fusion, Italo-disco- with the hottest new techno or disco tunes to put them all on a level playing field. As such, he finds no difficulty in seamlessly intercutting just about whatever he chooses into his deejay sets. 

This attitude is very much befitting of the earliest disco nights, which would drop in the odd danceable track from any number of sources as the genre continued to develop out of a nascent state. Prins Thomas delights in this miscegenation of styles, with an almost perverse glee at traversing this course through the apogee of obscurity, deriving here libidinal support from Norwegian indie band Kare & the Cavemen, closing interstitial gaps with1970s psych-organ grinder “Generation” by Anarchic System, and inducing gyrations via the post-rock motorik of Trans Am. Trans Am has certainly earned a place under the strobe light, though “First Words” off 2007’s Sex Change may not have been the obvious first contender for a spot at Robert Johnson. The track adapts itself marvelously to the mix though, pushing the pulse off-kilter at its moment of tension-building before Thomas returns it again for Map of Africa’s Madchester-esque “Wyatt Urp”. 

As can be the case on 27 track mixes that fit on a single disc, many of the tracks are merely adhesive suture and thereby don’t really stand out or prove anything worth checking out further. Other tunes stay with you. Unfortunately, it’s Prins Thomas’s own remix of James Yuill’s obnoxious emo affirmation tape “This Sweet Love” (“Be the greatest man in history / The greatest man that you can be / Just be.”) that’s the biggest and most unwelcome show stopper, catapulting the listener queasily from outer space back to blandly acoustic-guitar-laden earth. 

Live at Robert Johnson Vol 2 avoids dynamic matting for the most part, stopping only occasionally for a cheeseball guitar solo (Low Motion Disco’s “Love Love Love (Still Going Mix)”) or a novelty synth-funk dance craze that never was (Dogs of War’s 1977 French boogie “Le Stress”) to keep things spicey. The album really reaches its stride in its final quarter when Prins Thomas’s selections begin to fecundate the kind of fertile neon brood he creates with Lindstrøm, reaching an absolute zenith in the triumvirate of Matthew Jonson’s gorgeous and euphoric “Followed by Angels”, the Samos’s psych-rock and arp “Alpha Storm”, and Sebastian Tellier’s “Sexual Sportswear”, which is like a Wendy Carlo-curated church-mass-turned-relay race.


Timothy Gabriele is a writer who studied English and Film at the University of Massachussetts at Amherst. He currently lives in the New Haven, CT region with his family. His column, The Difference Engine, appears regularly at PopMatters. He can be found twittering @Wildcorrective and blogging at 555 Enterprises.

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