In explaining what makes great electronic music, I often silently find myself analogizing to spicy food. For me the best electronic music either takes fire immediately, the heat coming on strong and staying put until album's conclusion (take µ-Ziq's Lunatic Hardness for example), or it moves in silently, a slow burn, never jolting but truly embedded in the palate (Aphex Twin's Ambient Works).
I was rather disappointed to find that Kosmik Kommando's highly anticipated Laptop Dancing fits neither category. Instead, Laptop Dancing merely lingers like a mediocre curry, never gripping nor offensive, it is easy enough to consume but leaves one yearning for a bit of spice and substance upon conclusion. Kosmik Kommando, aka Mike Dred, like his Rephlex labelmate, Aphex Twin, has hit the level of "superstar DJ", yet the promise of his Virtual Farmer seems to have succumbed to the gravity of his status. Laptop Dancing is a concept album of sorts; 10 tracks, each one recorded in a different country as Dred and his decks jetset around the globe.
The first track, "Amerika Offline" (presumably recorded in the United States...) displays that things have already gone off the rails. Old school scratching and mixing of a flavor no different than anything a runner-up at a local Technics contest might display lead to more straight-forward techno which also fails to impress. More scratching, this time courtesy of DJ Precise and Scratch Daddy Addy, sets the tone on the equally prosaic "Big Up Yourself".
"98K Platinum" follows and is perhaps the best track here. Arcade-style klaxons, circa-1984, kicks into a string of synths and beats that would not have seemed slightly out of place on New Order's Technique. Yet the Kommando doesn't stop there (unlike many other tracks on the album which seem entirely content to remain in 1989), but races forward lacing the track's synthesized layers with more diverse and riskier smatterings of beats.
"Internet Exploder" is one track that holds back. Dred lurches ahead with an echoing bassline, forms a moody morass, but then lets the track fall apart around the two-minute mark. Unexpectedly the initial gleam is tossed aside for a patch of music that sounds all too familiar from any best of Ibiza CD set advertised on European television at 3am.
Unfortunately, the only truly unexpected strokes on Laptop Dancing tend to be when tracks go far awry. There is certainly an abundance of material here where each step is entirely foreseeable as Kozmik Kommando makes no real progress or hints at experimentation (e.g., "She's Robotic (Automatic)" and "Phantomz in My Brain"). Edible? Yes, clearly. Enjoyable? No, not exactly but not detestable. Think run-of-the-mill Indian lunch buffet.