At its heart, electronic music still holds the DNA of some very weird ancestors. Way back in the day when Moog synthesizers were a novelty and sampling had to be done by hand (with magnetic tape!), those few, brave producers who dared to experiment with electronic techniques created some profoundly odd music. Remember the Silver Apples or Wendy Carlos? Hell, the Beatles’ “Revolution #9” had enough bizarre to inspire generations of sonic terrorists all by its lonesome—maybe the single most influential track in the Beatles’ catalog, odd as it may seem.
A lot of electronic music seems to have forgotten how integral the weird used to be. Now that we’re used to dance music, and even the more far-out IDM has been more or less accepted by the critical establishment, it has become increasingly rare to encounter anything that actually inspires the same strange shock as the early electronic music. This is especially true for folks like me who have to listen to copious amounts of the stuff as a matter of course. I don’t want to plead pity—God knows it still beats digging ditches—but one of the worst parts of being a critic is the sensation of having seen and heard everything.
And then a disc like this comes around and makes it all worth while. Certainly, there’s nothing too shockingly new here, but the amassing of such a concentrated variety of interesting and different tracks and juxtapositions makes this an oasis in a desert of repetitive dance mixes. So often, even the best efforts of top-name DJs can seem rote—but Suck My Deck is at the very least interesting from the beginning to the very end.
Let’s begin at the ending: this has to be the first time I can remember ever seeing The Stranglers used in a DJ mix. “Love 303” is a reggae-infected groove built on a lazy beat and a staggered bassline. It makes a perfect segue into the Superpitcher mix of M83’s “Don’t Save Us From The Flames”, by way of a slightly dubby interlude. You may be wondering, incidentally, why Lazarus finishes him mix with the same track that Sasha used to conclude his recent Fundacion mix—and the answer is that both discs hit the street within a week of each other. Unless you’re one of those annoying purists who think that once a track has been used once it can never be used again, it’s a perfectly reasonably coincidence. Great track, in any event.
The Stranglers are preceded by Holden’s “Lump”, which ramps down from the electro-infused Ewan Pearson mix of Alter Ego’s “Beat the Bush” into a more stridently cerebral glitch sound, like Akufen without an obvious 4/4. Audio Peru come on like the world’s most accomplished 60s garage band, welding a psychedelic rock sound into something that comes off focused like an acid house laser-pointer. Trentmoller’s “Physical Friction” is the most typically microhouse track on the disc, which is hardly a bad thing considering that it’s a sleek example of that sexy genre.
Freaks’ “Tweakers” comes on like classic acid house with bits of Gene Krupa’s DNA spliced into it, and ends some four minutes later with something more reminiscent of Remain in Light-era Talking Heads. The I:Cube mix of Phonique feat Alexander East’s “99 & A Half” is one of the more bizarre tracks on the album, sounding for the life of me like a DFA production of Steve Reich’s Drumming ensemble—dig that crazy marimba, man.
The highlight of the first part of the disc is the absolutely phenomenal Ricardo Villalobos remix of Thomas Dolby’s “One of Our Submarines”—where the hell did this track come from? It’s simply amazing, is what it is, welding Dolby’s new wave melody and surprisingly emotive vocal to a shit-hot microhouse scaffolding. It sounds like astronauts from the future coming down from the sky to land on your roof. Finally, Break 3000 begin the mix with the cinematically odd “Flash 1”, an exercise in odd syncopation that manages to summon the same kind of weirdly ominous vibe as the old Doctor Who theme—a fine portent of the next hour-plus.
I’ve gotta give props to Lazarus for producing such an excellent disc. Simply on the basis of making me sit up in my chair and pay attention, this mix deserves high honors. The fact that most of the novelties on display here are also genuinely interesting examples of maverick musicianship only sweetens the deal. Most mix CDs have a regrettably short shelf life, but I have I feeling I’ll want to come back to this one every now and again.