Just Be Glad to Be Here
Here it is, people—a dance album without clichés, and a group that refuses to do what they’re “supposed” to do (crank out ready-made easygroove for the masses and their asses) and instead does what they’re supposed to do (create actual real works of musical art that happen to function as dance music, and vice-versa). Meet Dan Ormondroyd and Jon Nowell, who are known as FC Kahuna. Or, rather, don’t, because they don’t indulge in the cult of personality like some others I could mention (Mr. Twin, Mr. Pusher, your lights are on in the parking lot). They just make cool songs that happen to have fit into this great LP. Let’s begin.
“Hayling” opens with churchy organ that soon turns all Sputnik on us; this combination of devotional soul and icy computer noise sets the template for a lot of the music here, and it works splendidly. This track has nothing to do with dance music at all. The beat, when it comes in, is as slow and deliberate as a giant turtle making its way into a packed North London club. The twice-removed vocals of Hafdis Huld (used to be in GusGus, now not anymore) remind us, “Don’t think about all those things you fear / Just be glad to be here”, and it’s splendid advice. I’m afraid of crap music, but there’s nothing here to be afraid of, especially when things get strange halfway through and then return to whatever normal is.
“Glitterball” performs the unthinkable. It’s a propulsive booty-moving device that doesn’t sound played in the least. The sounds (alien ray gun, vacuum cleaner bass, dub orchestra) are undoubtedly technology-based, but they’re somehow organic, too, and the long spacey section in the middle that eschews bass and beat doesn’t lose perspective on the fact that it must, like all good satellites, return valuable information to the humans. This same tension is resolved on many of these tracks, wherein los Kahunas take what they know of DNA and IDM and munch it all together. It’s not exactly Non-Intelligent Dance Music, but it’s smart hard music that is also somehow vital and visceral.
I guess part of it is their selection of guests, which is canny and minimal. Huld also pops up on the title track, which keeps starting up and shutting down like a powerful but faulty glam-rocket, and her Icelandic reserve is perfect for this grinder: “I’m gonna stay with you / There’s nothing else to do”. Again, the tempo is too slow to dance to, at first, but all them beautiful sci-fi supercomputer noises hit you somewhere in the solar plexus and set the stage for the second-half phaser-funk section. They also bring in U.S. country singer Eileen Rose for the spookfest “North Pole Transmission”, which may be the most accurately titled song I’ve heard in many a moon. Waves of blip-hop and dislocated piano coupled with twang . . . but not in the same way that KLF did it with “Justified and Ancient”. A new way, a cool way, and (especially in its last half) a deeply-felt way.
And that’s not even to mention the presence of Gruff out of Super Furry Animals on the closing track, “Fear of Guitars”. (He’s also, presumably, involved with the SFA remix of “Hayling” that forms the penultimate track, but I don’t know how many of the other mad Welshmen are banging around on that one.) But let’s mention it anyway. There is nothing like ending a record with a long enigmatic moodfest full of chiming African-like keyboards, with ol’ Gruff singing three different vocal lines in harmony and disharmony with himself. This used to be the opening track of the album, and I’m ever so glad that they changed the track listing, because it was way too slow for an opener but spot-on perfect at the end, a closer to take you away to whatever planet you fancy.
And just in case anything I’ve said has given you the impression that this album consists of slow meditative songs, let me dispel that right now. “Mindset to Cycle”, the cut that pretty much launched them on the road as original artists two years ago, is just a flat-out disco barnburner, except that they substitute breakdancing-robot noises for the strings that would ordinarily come in to smooth everyone out. “Growler” cooks like Iron Chef Chinese, with calm authority and good taste and just a hint of mixing together things that shouldn’t be mixed but work perfectly—in this case, quasi-gospel vocal samples and police sirens and a buzzing synth line that sounds like a human voice and something else that sounds like Chic in geosynchronous orbit over my heart. And “Microcuts” is a thumping marvel, technodance as hell (“Don’t stop now / Can’t stop now”) and then turning into KraftwerkCanNeu and then turning into early Duran Duran and then, through sheer force of will, dub Newcleus.
I have listened to this record many times in many different circumstances and have yet to detect an instant of cliché, a moment that doesn’t ring true, or anything that I’ve heard too much of before. It’s truly great stuff. The future is, apparently, now.
// Notes from the Road
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