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Live at Robert Johnson

(Live at Robert Johnson; US: 20 Jan 2009; UK: Available as import)

Naming your dance club Robert Johnson is a bold proposition. For starters, the famous bluesman of the namesake died penniless, underappreciated, and overly disregarded, which is not likely a future any futurist would wish on their electronic music establishment. That the club in question is located in Offenbach, a suburb of Frankfurt, miles away from public transportation doesn’t fare well for it in this regard.  In addition, the name presupposes that the bold sounds emanating from said space will transfer and translate the spirit of an insurmountable legacy to a wildly divergent style of music. After ten years at it, the now world-famous Robert Johnson is celebrating its decennial by releasing four audio documents of these attempts, with the first coming from rising Parisian star Chloé.

Chloé’s mix is not afraid to traverse that time period. It boldly avoids being stuck in time or space, its most vintage track being Larry Heard’s classic Chicago house anthem “Spinal Tap”—11 years old now.  The mix starts oddly with Gundrun Gut’s lethargic organ-fueled “Rock Bottom Riser”, whose unusual chord progressions and asynchronous, practically-unsung vocal harmonies belie a lack of confidence in the seeming uplift of the chorus “I am rock bottom riser/ I owe it all to you”. This is cemented by the transition to the warm tones of DJ Koze’s “Mariposa” which fades the vocals out as if they were negligible, or boring, which they kind of are.  The mix begins to pick up steam immediately after though. By the time it reaches its midterm act with Samim and Michal’s elliptical and obsessively detailed “Circles”, which includes sly references to “It Takes Two”, “Pump Up the Volume”, and probably a dozen other things, the party is really cooking. Overall, the mix doesn’t necessarily make the case that dance music of the past 10 years is as Robert Johnson as Robert Johnson would have you believe, particularly when compared to the ten years that preceded it. But for the unacquainted, you’ll be more likely to believe it than before you heard this disc.


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 fmaily. His column, The Difference Engine, appears regularly at PopMatters. He can be found twittering @Wildcorrective and blogging at 555 Enterprises.

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