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Call for Music Critics and Essayists: If you're a smart, historically-minded music critic or essayist, let your voice be heard by our quality readership.

DJ Keoki: Keokiclash

Dj Keoki

I haven’t really ever liked Keoki‘s original stuff all that much in the past, but this mix CD is good. Why? Well, because it’s a cranky, ill-tempered, angry, nihilistic, solipsistic, narcissistic work of evil genius, a concept mixtape born of bile and hatred. Oh, and because it’s chock full of electroclash, if you like that sort of thing.

Electroclash, for those of you just showing up, is the loose term for any modern dance music that sounds like it should have been released 20 years ago. You know the drill if you’ve been to any clubs lately: new wave synth pop + vaguely housey dance attack = electroclash. If you already knew that, then goody for you.

As a sampler of electroclash music, this is pretty good. Not definitive, mind you, nor original, nor really all that cutting edge — hell, most of these songs are not even from this year! But it’s still pretty good, with Felix da Housecat featuring Miss Kitten and Chicks on Speed and Golden Boy featuring Miss Kitten and L’Ectronix and some other groups you may or may not know.

Because the music all shares the same basic orientation, it fits well together, which is all you’re really supposed to need for a good DJ mix CD. Keoki, who has been around the dance scene forever, knows how to spin tracks into each other, and does so without fancy tricks. It’s easy to appreciate the way that “Virus” by the Horrorist announces itself first, and then becomes the track with a minimum of fuss, and how Keoki still gives us the weird “I am legendary, you are not” hook from the track that precedes it. He takes his time sometimes, and sometimes he just gets impatient and slams tracks together.

Which definitely fits with the theme here. Because there is a theme. And that’s where this disc takes off — it’s a concept album about how evil the dance scene can really be. It’s a poison-pen hate letter by a guy who’s been around — you know that new Macaulay Culkin movie about Michael Alig? Well, Keoki is a character in that movie (he’s played by the dude who plays Fez on That 70’s Show), that’s how long he’s been around, and that’s how disillusioned he sounds here. He’s mad at the “dance industry,” he’s mad at fashion scenesters, he’s mad at narcissists — and, because he’s a member of all three of those groups, he’s mad at himself.

He takes it out on us, the listeners and dancers, and makes us like it. The opening track, “It’s Over” by Hungry Wives, is a bitter slab of vinyl about how the entire dance scene is passé, about the death of every marketable ploy (“Two-step? garage? I’ve never heard of it / It does not exist / It’s over!”) and, as the campy queen narrator informs us, about how “the trannie minions have no place to go, sweetie”. When a dance disc starts by telling us how over the dance scene is, someone’s trying to say something.

And the theme is repeated throughout, in different ways. The aforementioned “Virus” tells the story of a kid with a horrible childhood who gets into drugs and prostitution and who, high one morning “leaving an after-hours club”, looks up and decides, “I am going to destroy the world”. Keoki sympathizes with this character, and it’s clear that he just wants to destroy the entire world of dance music and culture, especially when most of the rest of the disc is given over to tracks that either dream of fame and money and fashion, or skewer that idea through sarcasm. (And sometimes, like when Miss Kitten fantasizes about living in “a condo on the hill just like 90210” or in the L’Ectronix song “Window Shopping in the Mirror”, it’s hard to tell which.)

Chicks on Speed show up with “Fashion Rules”, with their Teutonic/Marxist shuffle-slant on things: “You’re a model and you walk the beat / They even told you what to eat / Bacteria and bread in fashion schools– / Get out there now, and break the rules!” But many tracks are less thoughtful and more just about pain and anger: Neon Man’s “High Class Whore” is pretty straightforward on this score, as is “You’re Rude” by Bad Cabbage: “I just want to get fucked by you / While you just want to get fucked”.

When there is a song that doesn’t fit the ostensible theme, like Waldorf’s “You’re My Disco,” the dark synthy grooves carry the message that the words do not. And if you aren’t into the concept of a DJ making a mix full of angry bitter diatribes against the very people who would want to listen to his music in the first place, then you might just get seduced by the incessant throbbing beats, including some spectacular beatjacks from “Blue Monday” and “I Feel Love” and any number of olde tyme robot dance classics.

All in all, probably the best thing Keoki’s ever done, 75 minutes of spleen, a lovely concept album about wanting to destroy the only world you’ve ever known. Dig it, dance to it, then take a nice long bath and listen to the Carpenters. You’ll need it.