Marcus Lambkin’s debut LP explores the DFA Records sound’s less-swept corners.
Chris Power 2010
Marcus Lambkin, aka Shit Robot, grew up in Ireland on a diet of Dead Kennedys and Killing Joke, before the acid house wave broke over his pleasure centres and washed him up on New York’s shores. By 2000 he was running the Saturday night party Plant at Centro-Fly, which had transitioned from place to dance to place to be seen.
Feeling like his was selling a little more of his soul each week, one commercial house record at a time, he quit, regrouped, and befriended a pre-LCD Soundsystem James Murphy. The pair formed a DJing partnership at the minuscule Plant Bar, which became the ground zero for punk-funk. It was only when Lambkin moved to rural Germany in 2004, however, that he turned to production. A handful of 12-inches have emerged on DFA since 2006 prior to this, Shit Robot’s guest-laden debut.
While several of Lambkin’s past releases have been instrumental, all nine of From the Cradle to the Rave’s tracks sport vocals. On opening tracks Tuff Enuff and I Found Love, Lambkin himself provides them. The former is a sturdy bit of 808-driven house music, a workout-pace rhythm jacking along while euphoric synths, like Kraftwerk at their most celebratory, swoop overhead. I Found Love might have worked better as an instrumental, though, Lambkin choosing to inflect his FX-laden vocal with a Texan accent for reasons entirely obscure.
Far happier blends of words and music lie ahead, though: Losing My Patience features Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor, tapping that vein of funk and melancholy his regular band specialises in. Take Em Up 2 is a glittering sliver of synth-pop, with vocals from LCD keyboardist Nancy Whang.
Although Lambkin doesn’t step away from what’s come to be seen, not altogether unfairly, as the DFA template (a distinctly retro blend of 80s electro-funk and post-punk with a dash of 90s acid), he does sometimes explore the sound’s less-swept corners. Answering Machine, featuring Janine Rostron from Planningtorock, sets synth-violins and cut-up vocals churning over moody cellos, while I Got a Feeling has Saheer Umar of House of House exhorting over classic rave pianos and some weapons-grade bass blurts.
This is no revolution, but Shit Robot has put together a seriously robust collection of party records. By the time Triumph, the closing collaboration between Lambkin and James Murphy, rides in on its acidic wave, its title seems pretty much justified.
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