Abe Duque: American Gigolo II

[26 June 2006]

By Tim O'Neil

Perhaps moreso than any other label, International Deejay Gigolo remains intimately identified with the short-lived “electroclash” scene that erupted sometime after the fin de siecle. Given the extremely short shelf life of a great deal of the music championed during this brief period (Fischerspooner? Hello?), it is perhaps not surprising that the label would seek a more diverse and less specific sound as the decade advanced. Rather than persevering with a somewhat dated sound at the risk of becoming pigeonholed, the label branched out, choosing to accentuate the attitude and swagger of the electro revival over any specific sonic blueprint. The move was not without its growing pains: the first American Gigolo anthology, compiled and mixed by electroclash impresario Tiga, was released a full five years ago.

Time and tide have brought us full circle, with the release of a new American Gigolo collection. Mixed and compiled by Abe Duque, the disc offers a concise and surprisingly coherent examination of the last five years in the label’s life. Despite the broad range of styles on display here, there’s also a unity to the mix that makes a good argument not simply for Duque’s taste as a selector, but for the label’s relative success at imprinting a recognizable brand across an impresively wide swath of territory.

First off, the mix gets on my good graces by beginning with the Foremost Poets’ “Moonraker”, one of the most fun dance tracks I’ve heard in years. If you’ve spent any time out in the last few years, you’ve probably heard it too. “Please, do not be alarmed, remain calm”, it begins,

Do not attempt to leave the dancefloor. The DJ booth is conducting a troubleshoot test of the entire system. Somehow while the party was in progress an unidentified frequency has been existing in the system for some time, and while many of you have been made too brainwashed to comprehend, this frequency is and has become a threat to our society as we know it.

From there the beat kicks in, and the monotone voice continues to drone on in this mode while the tech-house beat struts, unleashing a barrage of computer noises and synthesizer vamps. The mix slides into the Tommie Sunshine mix of “Animal Trap” by Crack We Are Rock, a downright bizarre example of new wave vocals welded to an off-kilter IDM shuffle. To my disappointment, this track plays for only about a minute before moving aside to allow Duque’s own “What You Gonna Do” to enter the mix.

Tiefschwarz drops by with “Blow”, an understated electro track that features a vocal element reminiscent of Green Velvet over a funky, elementary beat. Duque inserts another of his own tracks into the mix with his remix of Elbee Bad’s “A New Age of House”, which successfully hearkens back to the glory days of early ‘90s acid while still sounding deftly contemporary. A track like Richard Bartz’s “Symphonies of Midnight” illustrates the sophisticated way in which many of these tracks weave in and out of familiar genres such as electro, techno, and house, creating something not necessarily original but nonetheless satisfyingly novel. Duque’s own “ADR8 B2”, for instance, manages to be both a driving house number and a weirdly compelling techno track, all the while keeping its tongue firmly in cheek. 

One of the weirdest tracks here is “Jack U”, an artifact of P. Diddy’s brief infatuation with house music. Co-produced by electro godfather Felix Da Housecat, it’s a strangely minimal track, almost Autechre-esque in its randomness. It casts Diddy in the role of a house MC in the vein of the Jungle Brothers, even going so far as to steal the hook of the Brothers’ famous “I’ll House You” (of course Diddy’s got to steal his hook). I have to say that based on this example (as well as the trancey “Let’s Get Ill”, not included here but also very weird), I would really like to hear some more house music from Diddy—because, frankly, this is some of the strangest house music I’ve ever heard, hardly the pop-house crap you’d expect from a hip-hop crossover. I like it.

After Diddy’s contribution, the mix moves into a more traditionally electro mode, with David Carretta’s “Colors” providing a pleasant slice of new wave. Traxx & Deecoy’s “Are You Saved?” could have been an acid classic off the Trax label, with a vintage feel and a strong Chicago house flavor. From the very early days of the label, Jeff Mills’ “Move your Body” easily sounds like it could have been released ten years earlier. Carretta shows up again with the ambient techno of “The Rebirth”, before the mix finishes up with a track that predates the entire label but nevertheless somehow manages to encapsulate a great deal of the Deejay Gigolo attitude in its very presence: The Dominatrix’ “The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight”.

From the label’s most recent singles back through the very beginnings of house music in New York, American Gigolo II offers a pleasantly comprehensive summation of one of the decade’s more unique labels. Although electroclash has long since faded into the graveyard of oddly-named electronic music microgenres, this compilation reminds us that while the fashions may prove ephemeral, the attitude is timeless.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/abe-duque-american-gigolo-ii/