Music

Various Artists: DFA Compilation #2

Adrien Begrand

DFA deserve to be huge. After all, all the label has done is become the source for very nearly all the greatest American indie dance music that's come out in the first half of this decade.


Various Artists

DFA Compilation #2

Label: DFA
US Release Date: 2004-11-02
UK Release Date: 2004-11-01
Amazon
iTunes

DFA deserve to be huge. After all, all the label has done is become the source for very nearly all the greatest American indie dance music that's come out in the first half of this decade. While bands such as Franz Ferdinand and The Killers have at long last succeeded in bringing the funk-fueled strains of postpunk rock to the mainstream, The DFA continue to operate on the fringes, releasing single after brilliant single to almost universal praise every time out, but although the DFA cult has been steadily growing since 2002, there hasn't been that one huge knockout of a commercial hit. Despite attempts by desperate American pop stars to collaborate with DFA (Janet Jackson's request was refused, and Britney Spears's session lasted a day before it was shelved for good), The DFA remain fervently, steadfastly independent.

Both the name of the coolest label in New York City, and the name of the hippest production duo in America today, DFA is the brainchild of Manhattanites James Murphy and Tim Goldsworthy. Murphy, a former punk rock drummer, and Goldsworthy, whose work with U.N.K.L.E. many people are familiar with, are to dancepunk as Lil Jon is to crunk, as Boards of Canada are to IDM. Without these two guys, American indie music would be bland beyond belief. Who else could take such a middling-sounding bunch of glorified Cure fans as The Rapture and put together the instant classic single "House of Jealous Lovers", and not only that, but make it a club hit to boot? By combining elements of seminal early 80s postpunk bands Public Image, Ltd. (whose "Death Disco" remains a massive influence) and Gang of Four, with the great extended dance breaks of New Order and The Stone Roses, melding it all together with monstrous disco beats (not to mention healthy use of the old, reliable cowbell), Murphy and Goldsworthy have developed one of the most inimitable sounds in music today, one that is always simultaneously catchy and avant-garde, constantly surprises listeners, and most importantly, gets those indie rock fans to quit sulking and dance their collective arses off.

Following the great 2003 collection, DFA Compilation #1, which was a modest, yet superb sampling of the label's best music at the time, including the aforementioned "House of Jealous Lovers", as well as tracks by Black Dice, The Juan MacLean, and Murphy's project LCD Soundsystem, The DFA had bigger things in mind when assembling DFA Compilation #2. Much bigger. Comprised of singles, remixes, B-sides, and previously unreleased material, the resulting three-disc release is a veritable feast, over three hours' worth of the most contagious grooves you'll hear all year.

If you're looking for instant gratification, go right to disc two of the compilation, plunk it in the CD player, press play, and bask in the electro glory that is LCD Soundsystem's masterful single "Yeah (Crass Version)". Light years better than the deliciously snarky "Losing My Edge" (which appeared on the first compilation), "Yeah" is easily one of the best singles of 2004, a nine and a half minute funk jam that begins by channeling the steady, propulsive breakbeat and smooth bassline of The Trammps' classic "Disco Inferno". "Everybody's talking about it/Nobody's getting it done," the vocal track declares, as Murphy and Goldsworthy ostentatiously take it upon themselves to get things done, as the song slowly evolves from a disco homage to a bombastic, acid-tinged synth crescendo that threatens to bleed your ears, climaxing in an insane cowbell workout that would make Christopher Walken rejoice. It's a far cry from the rock/dance fusion of The Rature, but it's also a refreshing change, and reassuring that The DFA are bent on going beyond the limits of dancepunk.

The rest of the disc isn't too shabby, either. Early '80s percussion auteurs Liquid Liquid reunite for a new recording of their song "Bellhead", a track that bursts with so much vitality, that it's easy to forget that there are no thrumming basslines, nor any angular slashes of guitar, only the slightest hint of synth underneath it all. Japanese outfit J.O.Y. contribute the charmingly weird "Sunplus", featuring none other than Boredoms singer Yoshimi P-We, who provides a Bjork-esque feel to the proceedings. The lengthy "El Monte", from Delia Gonzalez and Gavin Russom (two thirds of the trio Black Leotard Front), is surprisingly sedate, with pulsating, minimal ambient synth lines that rarely waver from the simple arrangement, while The Rapture's fun "Sister Saviour (DFA Dub)" tones down the guitars from the original track, echoing the simple synth/dance beats of early 80s New Order. Meanwhile, LCD Soundsystem rear their cheeky heads once again with the fabulous early B-side "Beat Connection", and Black Dice contribute a fascinating remix of "Endless Happiness", the original version of which appearing on DFA Compilation #!.

The set's other two CDs prove to be just as enjoyable. Black Leotard Front's "Casual Friday", which kicks off disc one, is an ebullient, cheeky piece of electrofunk, highlighted by the repeated refrain of, "Bonjour, bonjour, comment allez vous." Recorded back in 2002, "Get Up/Say What", by the defunct group Pixeltan, provides the most intense dance beat on the collection, made all the more furious by a wavering synth bass line, while the DFA remix of "Sunplus" transforms the original J.O.Y. track into something completely different, a much more taut fusion of rock and funk. Disc three, on the other hand, is a masterfully put together DJ mix disc that, when not unveiling previously unheard tracks such as The Juan MacLean's gorgeous disco track "Give Me Every Little Thing", meshes several of the previous two discs' best selections brilliantly. At one point, an edit from The Rapture's "Echoes" morphs seamlessly into Liquid Liquid's "Bellhead", and "Sunplus" wriggles into "El Monte". And what better way to conclude the compilation with an LCD Soundsystem mix, which, after a snippet from a dub mix of "On Repeat", becomes an ingenious mash-up of "Yeah (Crass)" and "Beat Connection", the two tracks dueling to the euphoric conclusion.

The DFA is obviously starting to distance themselves from the dancepunk trend they helped create, as "Yeah" clearly indicates, but Compilation #2 still rocks and grooves with the best of their early releases. Whether producing an artist, releasing someone's work, or remixing an existing track, when The DFA is involved in a new project, the question isn't if it's good or bad, it's, "How great will it be?" Their star continues to steadily rise, as new projects are always in the offing (including the debut LCD Soundsystem full-length, which has already leaked on the net), and while mainstream audiences have not yet caught on, it surely must be a matter of time now. A perfect snapshot of a label at the top of its game, this is one of the year's most essential collections.

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Television

'Everything's Gonna Be Okay' Is  Better Than Okay

The first season of Freeform's Everything's Gonna Be Okay is a funny, big-hearted love letter to family.

Music

Jordan Rakei Breathes New Life Into Soul Music

Jordan Rakei is a restless artistic spirit who brings R&B, jazz, hip-hop, and pop craft into his sumptuous, warm music. Rakei discusses his latest album and new music he's working on that will sound completely different from everything he's done so far.

Reviews

Country Music's John Anderson Counts the 'Years'

John Anderson, who continues to possess one of country music's all-time great voices, contemplates life, love, mortality, and resilience on Years.

Music

Rory Block's 'Prove It on Me' Pays Tribute to Women's Blues

The songs on Rory Block's Prove It on Me express the strength of female artists despite their circumstances as second class citizens in both the musical world and larger American society.

Music

The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 3, Echo & the Bunnymen to Lizzy Mercier Descloux

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part three with Echo & the Bunnymen, Cabaret Voltaire, Pere Ubu and more.

Books

Wendy Carlos: Musical Pioneer, Reluctant Icon

Amanda Sewell's vastly informative new biography on musical trailblazer Wendy Carlos is both reverent and honest.

Music

British Folk Duo Orpine Share Blissful New Song "Two Rivers" (premiere)

Orpine's "Two Rivers" is a gently undulating, understated folk song that provides a welcome reminder of the enduring majesty of nature.

Music

Blesson Roy Gets "In Tune With the Moon" (premiere)

Terry Borden was a member of slowcore pioneers Idaho and a member of Pete Yorn's band. Now he readies the debut of Blesson Roy and shares "In Tune With the Moon".

Books

In 'Wandering Dixie', Discovering the Jewish South Is Part of Discovering Self

Sue Eisenfeld's Wandering Dixie is not only a collection of dispatches from the lost Jewish South but also a journey of self-discovery.

Music

Bill Withers and the Curse of the Black Genius

"Lean on Me" singer-songwriter Bill Withers was the voice of morality in an industry without honor. It's amazing he lasted this long.

Film

Jeff Baena Explores the Intensity of Mental Illness in His Mystery, 'Horse Girl'

Co-writer and star Alison Brie's unreliable narrator in Jeff Baena's Horse Girl makes for a compelling story about spiraling into mental illness.

Music

Pokey LaFarge Hits 'Rock Bottom' on His Way Up

Americana's Pokey LaFarge performs music in front of an audience as a way of conquering his personal demons on Rock Bottom.

Music

Joni Mitchell's 'Shine' Is More Timely and Apt Than Ever

Joni Mitchell's 2007 eco-nightmare opus, Shine is more timely and apt than ever, and it's out on vinyl for the first time.

Music

'Live at Carnegie Hall' Captures Bill Withers at His Grittiest and Most Introspective

Bill Withers' Live at Carnegie Hall manages to feel both exceptionally funky and like a new level of grown-up pop music for its time.

Music

Dual Identities and the Iranian Diaspora: Sepehr Debuts 'Shaytoon'

Electronic producer Sepehr discusses his debut album releasing Friday, sparing no detail on life in the Iranian diaspora, the experiences of being raised by ABBA-loving Persian rug traders, and the illegal music stores that still litter modern Iran.

Television

From the Enterprise to the Discovery: The Decline and Fall of Utopian Technology and the Liberal Dream

The technology and liberalism of recent series such as Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, and the latest Doctor Who series have more in common with Harry Potter's childish wand-waving than Gene Roddenberry's original techno-utopian dream.

Music

The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 2, The B-52's to Magazine

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part two with the Cure, Mission of Burma, the B-52's and more.

Music

Emily Keener's "Boats" Examines Our Most Treasured Relationships (premiere)

Folk artist Emily Keener's "Boats" offers a warm look back on the road traveled so far—a heartening reflection for our troubled times.

Music

Paul Weller - "Earth Beat" (Singles Going Steady)

Paul Weller's singular modes as a soul man, guitar hero, and techno devotee converge into a blissful jam about hope for the earth on "Earth Beat".

Games

On Point and Click Adventure Games with Creator Joel Staaf Hästö

Point and click adventure games, says Kathy Rain and Whispers of a Machine creator Joel Staaf Hästö, hit a "sweet spot" between puzzles that exercise logical thinking and stories that stimulate emotions.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.