My biggest disappointment with today’s so-called electro DJs and producers is that while they’ve been inspired by some of these very artists and more, they’ve missed the most important point: more than anything else the music was about having fun and about dancing! It was never about standing around in a club, stroking one’s chin and wondering which obscure remix of whatever obscure track had just been played while trying to convince yourself that the numerous bleeps, squeaks and squelches are really cool. I can’t begin to tell you how much I’ve snickered at new electro and its cousin electroclash. I can’t begin to tell you how often I’ve received a promo or picked up a compilation that had ‘electro’ splattered all over the promotional material or sleevenotes and was disappointed with the lifeless robotic notes that I ended up hearing.
Well, I’m pleased to say that my days of whining and moaning about electro are a thing of the past. Even after the first hearing of Bugged Out! Presents Suck My Deck mixed by Ivan Smagghe, I almost did backflips because I finally heard a mixed compilation that has finally brought the dance back into electro and is what I consider a truly modern adaptation of the early electro sound. And what’s even better is that this mix is actually fun to hear.
So who is Ivan Smagghe? This extraordinary Frenchman has been making a name for himself for a number of years, in his hometown of Paris, as a resident DJ in one the city’s most popular clubs, “Kill The DJ”. Not only content with DJing he has also been making waves as one half of production duo, Blackstrobe. This current release follows closely on the back of his “Death Disco” by only a few months. After reading about him in Jockey Slut and DJ Mag, who both regard him as the hottest DJ in the world at the moment, I now understand what all the excitement is about. But don’t be fooled into thinking that he’s a flavour of the moment DJ, he’s definitely here to stay. This DJ is worthy of the hype!
The mix for the latest ‘Bugged Out!’ instalment begins with the acidic beats of “Mechaniques Remontess” by Sweet Light. This lays a very danceable groundwork as to what the listener will be expecting for the remainder of the compilation. From here we move effortlessly to the bleepy bass of “The Rush (Sex With The Machines)” by Chelonis R Jones and then onto the almost techno sounds of “Splitting Atoms” by Jamie Bissmire. When I began to hear the overt house beats of “Looky Thing” by Slacker, I found myself smiling like a mischievous teenager about to be sprung by her parents doing something she shouldn’t be doing while the bass takes on a somewhat sleazy aspect. Mmm… the plot thickens… So far, so good but I did at this stage begin to wonder if the mix would loose itself in a quest to be so electro that it starts to sound quite tinny. Well, it doesn’t, not ever! The feel of the mix now takes on a slightly futurist element with the Jesper Dahlback Remix of “Jack 2 Jack” by Panash then glides salaciously onto the minimal tones of DK8’s “Murder Was The Bass”. In some ways, this track is like listening to melodic breaks but with more substance.
As I start to hear the Joakim Edit of “Dead Eyes Opened” by Severed Heads I’m easily reminded of my early musical influences. This particular track encompasses all the best elements that were found in early 80’s electronica, which was the overlying melody and future funked drums. This is almost like listening to a fusion of Depeche Mode and Human League. Up next we have the truly minimal yet techy grooves of Zombie Nation’s quirky “Souls At Zero” followed by the punk attitude that is the Black Strobe Remix of “Moskow Reise” by The Hacker, Millimetric and David Carretta. In some ways, this track almost snarls at you. Love it!
So where do we go now? Well, there’s only one way and that’s down but down in the sense that you begin to hear the headfuck that is the Sex Schon Remix of “Make It High” by Scratch Massive. The mix is now almost pornographic in sound and is only slightly turned around with the Giorgio Moroder tribute that is the DJ’s Tweakin’ Disco Remix of “After The Tone” by Random Factor. From here we step into the techy funk of “The Red Dress (Tiefschwarz Remix)” by Phonique featuring Die Elfen. Honestly, when hearing this track, I felt like I just stepped onto the set of the 70’s classic sci-fi series ‘Space 1999’. And as the close of the mix neared, I again began to feel elements of old skool electro again, firstly with “Sink” by Henry Goes Dirty and then with the final track, the Roman Flugel Remix of “Icons” by Cosmo Vitelli. A fitting end to a mix that surprised me from the opening beats to the closing riff.
Without question, this compilation is the most pleasing electro inspired release I’ve ever enjoyed. While it still has the quirky bleeps associated with the more underground aspects of this sound, it has an abundant dominance of bass throughout most of the tracks. This allows the overall sound to be rich and textured in feel and more than dancefloor worthy. Basically, this mix has substance. Never once has melody been abandoned at the expense of maintaining the tweeky elements that pervade the genre. It definitely kept me wanting and more often than not, I found the music I was hearing to be sexy, sleazy and downright evil in places. This is clearly not an electro-based mix created for the sake of pretending to be electro cool. While some of the tracks that Smagghe has used have an acid house appeal, others take on a somewhat minimal techno attraction. When all these different elements have been combined, this is one mix that I would love to hear in a club. I have no doubt that it would leave a lot of people re-evaluating their opinion of electro.
Ivan Smagghe has created a mix that is an exciting journey into a certain aspect of dance music that can more often sound quite lifeless. For someone like me, who had experienced the beginnings of this genre, he has created a true homage to a sound that has made me who I am today. But it would be nothing without the melody and attitude that he has captured so successfully and, as such, it will leave other such inspired mixes looking weak. While I’ve often been completely cynical of supposed ‘electro’ compilations, after hearing this, I was left breathless, smiling and thankful. Why? Because finally there is a DJ like Ivan who knows how to find certain tracks and then mix them together in order to capture this unique sound while remaining conceptually modern. And there lies its brilliance and the reason why this Frenchman has truly portrayed how electro should be heard.
I almost feel like I’m a teenager again.
Thu / 22 Apr 2004
1. Mechaniques Remontess – Sweet Light
2. The Rush (Sex With The Machines) – Chelonis R Jones
3. Splitting Atoms – Jamie Bissmire
4. Looky Thing – Slacker
5. Jack 2 Jack (Jesper Dahlback Remix) – Panash
6. Murder Was The Bass – DK8
7. Dead Eyes Opened (Joakim Edit) – Severed Heads
8. Souls At Zero – Zombie Nation
9. Moskow Reise (Black Strobe Remix) – The Hacker, Millimetric & David Carretta
10. Make It High (Sex Schon Remix) – Scratch Massive
11. After The Tone (DJ’s Tweakin’ Disco Remix) – Random Factor
12. The Red Dress (Tiefschwarz Remix) – Phonique featuring Die Elfen
13. Sink – Henry Goes Dirty
14. Icons (Roman Flugel Remix) – Cosmo Vitelli