Happily, there are still plenty of producers who reject that sort of Pavlovian trickery, and who know that a touch of restraint can work some dance floor magic of its own. The concept has arguably staged a resurgence over the past few years, with Mark E, the Wolf + Lamb coterie and Art Department proving that nuance can be its own reward. One of that group's best artists is Scotland's Graeme Clark, better known as The Revenge (and, with Craig Smith, the like-minded 6th Borough Project), and while the new Revenge compilation, Reekin'Structions, may not have the most subtle of names, it's an exercise in the joys of moderation.
As the name implies, Reekin'Structions is made up of reworked songs, mainly of somewhat obscure '70s disco and '80s boogie gems. The fact that disco and boogie tend to be party-time, let's-get-down sounds works in the Revenge's adaptations favor—when the release finally does come, it hits like a hammer. Take Velvet Hammer's "Party Time," for instance: The original is an almost ecstatic ode to dancing, with a joyful vibe running throughout the song. But in Clark's hands, a stripped-down groove—kick drum, bass throb and slowly building keys—builds for four minutes before the euphoric vocals kick in. Even though those vocals last for all of 15 seconds, they pack infinitely more wallop than they would, had they run through the full track.
Elsewhere, Clark applies his restraint in a different fashion. Take Electric Smoke's "Freak It Out": There's something almost eerie when the song asks "Why don't you just freak with me?" while a heavenly array of instruments, notably synthesized strings and the dreamiest Rhodes you've ever heard, glides atop an electro boogie rhythm section. It's sacred-meets-profane to the max, with an oddly heartbreaking depth that the original track's producer, Eddie Saunders, surely never considered when he penned the tune.
When the urge hits him, Clark performs something closer to a traditional edit, as with 1981's "Kilimanjaro" from Letta Mbulu. Here, Clark strips away most of its vocals, and that's about it—but when a track is as near-perfect as this, with its plaintive yet uplifting melody, percussive guitar line, joyous horns and Italo-tinged synthy bits, it's best to not mess around too much. The set ends on a graceful, heartfelt note via the loping rhythm of the Benin-born producer Nel Oliver's 'Dream On" (denuded and dubbed out by Clark, naturally) with Oliver intoning "you got what I want—you got what I need." In the Revenge's hands, it's a schematized version of disco funk, stripped of unnecessary garnish. And like the rest of Reekin'Structions, it's a beauty.
Tue / 3 May 2011
01. Mid-Air - Ease Out (The Revenge edit)
02. Johnny Adams - Feel The Beat (The Revenge edit)
03. Sargeant & Malone - Love Message (The Revenge edit)
04. Velvet Hammer - Party Down (The Revenge edit)
05. The Joneses - Summer Groove (The Revenge edit)
06. Chapter Three - Smurf Trek (The Revenge edit)
07. Electric Smoke - Freak It Out (The Revenge edit)
08. Letta Mbulu - Kilimanjaro (The Revenge edit)
09. Vance & Suzanne - I Cant Get Along Without You (The Revenge edit)
10. Nel Oliver - Dream On (The Revenge edit)