A few years back the Kitsuné Maison compilations were the musical equivalent of clandestine meetings with Johnny the shoeshine boy from Police Squad! or Huggy Bear from Starsky & Hutch. If you wanted to know what the word on the street was, they were the people to see. Crossing Kitsuné‘s perfumed Parisian palms with a few crisp Euros would’ve got you the skinny on Crystal Castles, The Drums, La Roux, Hurts, Chew Lips, Parallels, and Friendly Fires long before your neighbour had even outstretched a sleepy hand toward their Mickey Mouse alarm clock. You snooze you lose. Alas snaked-hipped hoards soon gathered and sure enough it wasn’t the hip place to be anymore, evident by the spiralling ropiness of recent editions. So what could Monsieur & Madame Kitsuné do but hail Joe Le Taxi and set sail for…L’America!
Mon Dieu then as this stars ‘n’ stripes Kitsuné is similarly blighted by the too-cool-for-skool nonchalant blandness that has diluted their flavour. Frances Rose’s “Vampire” is razorsharp cheekbones, expensive shoes and sullen pouts but Mannequin-soul’d. St Lucia’s wide-eyed “Before the Dive” haunts the no man’s (b)land between France’s Phoenix and Supertramp to yawnsome effect and Poindexter’s “Helpless” is likewise genteel, well-mannered, and…dull. It’s enough to invoke a purple-pant splittin’, chair-smashin’, barbaric Hulk frenzy. Ditto Emil & Friends - not to be confused with the similarly monikered Cannibal Corpse – who dish up amiable enough “MGMT-do-Afrobeat” froth but it’s all way too “Cream tea and scones”. You got anything ‘stronger’ Vicar? Y’know, something with a bite?
As with all Kitsuné spreads there’s a half-measure of electroclash floor fillers. Tragically, they’re mostly cobblers too. Gigamesh’s “Your Body” knocks at the door resplendent in gold MC Hammer pants, ready to par-tay like it’s 1991. This is naturally massively embarrassing and he should be swiftly despatched to his quarters with no supper and a Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley box set. White Shadow strike the old skool revivalism with more aplomb on “If You Like It” revamping Kevin “Inner City” Saunderon’s ‘87 Detroit techno sound with a skilful splash of Gospel soul. Elsewhere Oliver’s “Walk With Me” forecasts blinding bursts of Balearic sunshine but ultimately delivers a posing pouch for the pretty vacants. XXXChange’s “F*k Yeah Ace of Hearts” could never live up to that gonzoid title but at least offers a buzz shot of bonkers Electro-rave Convulsion Therapy. Computer Magic’s “Help Me” also shows signs of life, fusing Prince 1999-era machine funk with ‘hot-but-possibly-wacko’ vocals. The less said about Giraffage’s effort, though, the better. This tiresome outbreak of Alvin & The Chipmunks’-voiced R’n'B pastiche surely deserves a Bill Murray in Caddyshack riposte, “In the immortal words of Jean Paul Sartre, “Au revoir, gopher.”
If you make it this far you are indeed a hero who deserves some kind of reward for bravery in combat. VOILA! If you feed the twinkle from Cyndi Lauper’s “All Through the Night”, the bounce of Crystal Castles’ “Crimewave”, one single teardrop and a mirrorball into the Weird Science computer…one KABOOM! later DWNTWN’s “See My Eyes” would appear. Poptastic glamorama ridin’ a rollercoaster chorus so rainbow-romantic it’s suddenly summer, forever. Childish “Oh do grow up!” Gambino’s material is usually a rum bunch but Them Jean’s spooktastic mix of last year’s “Heartbeat” deserves hearty applause and a high five. Haunted 4am piano, 4/4 beats and ghosts in the machine soul, it’s wonderfully trapped betwixt the midnight netherworlds of the Weeknd and DJ Shadow. Mysterious elegance! It seems NY’s Heartsrevolution have been threatening to drop their début album Ride or Die since Adam & Eve sought dietary advice from a talking snake, and once again they’re drip-feeding through Kitsuné. Bravo then that “Retrograde” reaffirms they might be worth the wait. “Ready! Freddie! Mercury! Retrograde!” Hurrah! It’s their usual loopy manga-apocalypto but rockier, rawer. All Daisy Chainsaw guitar, jungle drums drenched in Iggy Pop’s bloodlust, it’s a riot in a box. The pick o’ the bunch though is Selebrities’ “Regret” which in this Maison, dances alone under a spotlight with a massive placard saying “SAVE ME!”. Self-described “Voguish Summertime Goth” it’s regal ancestry is the Wake, the Sundays, New Order, yet freshly amour’d with the blissed-out dreamin’ of M83. Maria Usbeck’s poetic, light-as-perfume pining spins hypnotic, blissfully lost in music. A genuine moment of sweet sincerity amongst much perfecto-posturing. Swoon-city, USA.
Overall the sleepy hollows and tumbleweeds of Kitsuné‘s America again suggest the once vital compilation’s greatest wonders are slowly slipping into their rear view mirror. Yet if you’re the stubborn, heroic type there are certainly a few sights here worth crossing that perilously rickety rope bridge for, and for them alone America is still worth a (short) visit.
// Notes from the Road
"Philip Glass, the artistic director of the Tibet House benefits, celebrated his 80th birthday at this year's annual benefit with performances from Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, Brittany Howard, Sufjan Stevens and more.READ the article