Chromeo DJ-Kicks Review

Compilation. Released 2009.  

BBC Review

They’ve dived into their world of beloved 80s electronica.

Alistair Lawrence 2009

The DJ-Kicks franchise is designed to simultaneously lift the lid on artists’ tastes and influences and provide its customers with soundtracks for the end of their night. That it was the original does little to distinguish it from its competitors these days, but picking Canadian electro-funk duo Chromeo for its latest instalment shows it’s still a series devoted largely to musicians who can literally mix their own picks.

For their part, Chromeo have avoided the pitfall of that comes with seeking to display every niche and whim of their record collection and cram it all unevenly and pretentiously onto one CD. Instead they prefer to play it straight, which means that while they sacrifice eclecticism they also silence their critics for the time being, at least. It’s hard to persist with the line that Chromeo are a pair of ironic hipster chancers when they’ve clearly dived into their world of beloved 80s electronica and rooted around thoroughly and thoughtfully to bring us this.

First track Ikeya Seki, a 1983 single from Italian post-disco group Kano – not to be confused with the UK grime MC of the same name – is an immediate but fittingly relaxed starting point. Most of what follows doesn’t skimp on helium-voiced vocals and syncopated beats so, much as Chromeo are one of those act who are capable of delighting by unearthing hidden gems, certain tracks do become interchangeable on repeated listens. An endless parade of female vocalists is tiring, even if a couple of them are singing in French. Of that selection, only Donna Allen’s Serious is familiar and Carmen’s Time to Move fresh.

Some skittering house music, provided by Lifelike, arrives as respite, but the only real point of interest – for people who want spotters’ badges rather than background music – to be found in the final quarter is the DJ-Kicks trademark compiler’s exclusive track. I Can't Tell You Why is a bubbling, Vocoder ballad with good timing and positioning in the mix, but it’s not the most interesting thing they’ve done. A harsh metaphor for this compilation, but a fair one.

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