Dusted Reviews

V/A - DFA Compilation #2

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: V/A

Album: DFA Compilation #2

Label: DFA

Review date: Dec. 6, 2004

If you were studying how to build an independent label, how to define a style, you could do a lot worse than studying the DFA Sound. You can count on one hand the times when a collective has defined a technique with such efficiency. Labels like Ze, SST and Factory come to mind and when they do, so do the times in which they lived; they parried the political and cultural thrusts of their day. So in the Naughts, when political terrorism is rampant, when a brick-thick culture demands reality, and when dance music is relegated to a fringe, the time is right for a label like DFA.

To many without a turntable, or access to a vinyl-savvy file-sharing network, this hearty 3CD set must seem like a revelation, and perhaps a revolution: with a few exceptions, it’s more than two hours of floorfilling boom-clap clubrock. All the DFA family is represented: Parents the LCD Soundsystem, troubled middle child the Juan MacLean, successful older brother The Rapture, Japanese adoptee J.O.Y., godfather Liquid Liquid, arty cousin the Black Dice, you get the idea. And even to those in the know, there are 6 exclusive tracks to sink into and a bonus 3rd disc adroitly mixed by Tim Sweeney and DFA brain Tim Goldsworthy.

LCD Soundsystem’s “Yeah,” which comes in two varieties, is a good place to start. At nearly 130 whip-thwap beats per minute (and over 20 minutes when both versions are combined), the song is a DFA manifesto. Like most DFA singles, its straight beat is never disrupted, but everything else is twisted and tweaked until the nerve endings in your feet demand a response. The instrumental “Pretentious Mix” that closes out Disc 1 builds and subtracts elements until it cannot contain its own entropy and spills all out of the stereo. The “Crass Mix” kicks off Disc 2 and overflows with attitude. James Murphy’s call to party/action, delivered in deadpan coolness, sets the track up until things start to escalate: “Everybody keeps on talking about it / Nobody’s getting it done / I’m getting tired of listening / Knowing that the shit’s got to run.” That’s when the acid squeak enters and gradually invites other synthetic elements to join it – one by one – in an electro gutter squelch party. The ’system’s “Beat Connection” also gets placement on the snarkier second disc, and with good reason. In fact, my neighbor just called me to inform me the bass is too loud. No joke.

Delia Gonzales & Gavin Russom clock in next in overall airtime, courtesy mainly of “El Monte,” a 14-minute Klaus Schultze homage that acts as an intermission for the Disc 2 dance-party. The maximal space-age synths and metronomic clicks are like an extended remix of a PBS station-ID from 1977. The inclusion of “Rise (DFA Remix)” on Disc 1 is much the same, although the loping trademark DFA beat gives it an added kick. Starting the whole project off is “Casual Friday” from Black Leotard Front, a Delia & Gavin side-project which apparently performs their cosmopolitan Falco-funk in black leotards.

Not to be underrepresented is the Juan MacLean and Black Dice. Juan (nee John) MacLean was once part of Six Finger Satellite, an overlooked funk space noise outfit from Rhode Island confined to the college-radio ghetto in the ’90s and remains misunderstood today. MacLean is sometimes referred to as DFA’s secret weapon; each cut he has stands on its own. Three of the exclusives are his, the magnificent “I Robot,” the simple digi-dub of “Dance Hall Modulator” and the succinct and quiet “Less Than Human,” which acts as a coda to Disc 2. Another exclusive is the work of the most prolific DFA act, Black Dice. “Wastered” is aptly titled – a spitting, confused trainwreck of sound. Black Dice seized the chance when DFA called three years ago and have never looked back, releasing reams of psychedelic meanderings, touring with the Animal Collective and raising some hell. The beat-driven Disc 2 also houses Black Dice, but with an ear-tingling remix from Yamatsuka Eye. His remix adds his innards-splicing infinite-loop style, until the sound is melted into piercing stabs of noise – radical dance music.

Eye represents a part of the Japanese DFA contingent. Much in the way DFA reflects the constant beat of New York City, the Japanese contribution to DFA – Eye, Takagi Kan and Yoshimi P-We of J.O.Y. and others – reflect the pulse and energy of urban Japan. When the two combine, as in “Sunplus (DFA remix),” the product is alien and enthralling. The trio of Pixeltan picks up on this energy and throws in an American punk twist. Once under the Troubleman imprint, here’s to hoping Pixeltan can put together a full-length of their live-to-tape dance music sound. “That’s The Way I Like It” is one of those peak-time tracks DJs wait their whole life to be able to drop.

The final exclusive on DFA Compilation #2 belongs to Liquid Liquid, and is easily the most important of the bunch. Many DFA critics may not fully understand the history of its sound. The label is not simply trendy or cliché or pretentious, but is instinctively following a lengthy tradition of punk-funk sound, much of which can be traced directly back to New York City. Tim Goldsworthy, one of the masterminds at the label, seems hyper-aware of the disco-not-disco timeline, and where DFA might fit in. To record a new track by the reformed legends from the early ’80s Liquid Liquid is the perfect response to the critics. “Bellhead” comes correct with a frantic art jam that tops 140 beats per minute.

Disc 3, the mix CD, is a real bonus. DJ Tim Sweeney, the official DFA resident, and Goldsworthy, the aforementioned guru, expertly go from the Rapture’s “Sister Savior (DFA dub)” through the space-age kaleidoscope of “Rise” and onto “I Robot” with ease. For devotees, they throw in tracks like “Echoes (DFA Edit)” and mix up the best of DFA Compilation #2, especially J.O.Y. and Liquid Liquid.

With a culture only getting more distorted and fractured, it’s hard to say DFA will achieve the kind of decade-defining success other labels have, but it’s sure to make a go of it. The Rapture have gone on to wriggle some cultural success from corporate stranglehold, but it’s clear their beat-branded song, bred in the DFA incubator, will not capture the public without some help. Across the oceans, of course, DFA is a mark of quality and is highly respected. It’s no surprise, the same happened to the NY punk-funk scene in the ’80s. As DFA will likely continue to be ignored and scorned by America's mass media, Murphy and Goldsworthy should feel no shame in keeping up the tradition.

By David Day

Read More

View all articles by David Day

Find out more about DFA

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.