[28 March 2014]
DFA records ain’t dead. Yes, the Rapture recently broke up, Hot Chip’s last album was released on Domino, and of course LCD Soundsystem is no more, but that doesn’t mean DFA doesn’t have some producers primed for dancefloor releases. Take Shit Robot for example. The profanely named Irish artist (also known as Marcus Lambkin) has been releasing singles with DFA since 2006 and now he’s released his second full length album, We Got a Love, a rather mixed bag of oddball disco tracks.
Lambkin’s beats and production do a solid job throughout the album. On We Got a Love, he creates subtle yet danceable songs. The background on “The Secret” is inescapable and “Space Race” is a straight up futuristic banger. The main thing holding Lambkin back are his choice of guests. The features here make the cardinal sin of electronic music: never let the guest overtake the song. It happens much too often on We Got a Love. Lidell Townsell has an excellently soulful voice, but his never ending repetition of “I wanna know if you know how to jack your body” becomes tiresome and annoying after six minutes. The usually stunning Nancy Wang has a subpar role on “Do that Dance”, but Luke Jenner’s take on “Feels Real” takes the cake. The former frontman of the Rapture gives a wonky falsetto that ruins the rubbery bass work that Lambkin lays down.
Lambkin does find chemistry with a few of his guests, most noticeably Reggie Watts. The surreal comedian gives humor to “The Secret” along with a great ending vocal performance that perfectly blends with Lambkin’s ascending synth line. Watts appears again on the title track, and he makes pure disco bliss with his lovely and light higher tones. Watts also has a freakin’ scat solo over Lambkin’s spacey piano and it’s amazing. It’s clear that Lambkin and Watts were having a blast in the studio and this hopefully promises further collaborations between them. The other feature who takes advantage of Lambkin’s stolid production is Holly Backler. Backler gives a gorgeous performance over one of the year’s best slow burners. “Feels Like” sounds like a fantastic missing track from Disclosure’s Settle, and it will probably end up on a whole bunch of make out playlists by the time the month is over thanks to Backler’s powerful “You know it feels like heaven!” and Lambkin’s seductive groove.
Lambkin, when unaccompanied, can be absolutely stellar. Closer “Tempest” is a nifty little dance number that is deeply indebted to video game music, but the aforementioned “Space Race” rules the album. It’s reminiscent of fellow electronic disco master Todd Terje’s “Delorean Dynamite”, simultaneously retro and futuristic. It’s frustrating, though, to hear “Space Race” or the title track and compare it to the rest of the album. Lambkin is an excellent producer and few of the album’s faults can be attributed to him, but his future guest list might want to be better curated. Any Shit Robot releases in the near future would do well to let Lambkin to practice his solo craft, or, of course, just let Reggie Watts do all the features.