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DJ Donna Summer - Panther Tracks

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Artist: DJ Donna Summer

Album: Panther Tracks

Label: Cock Rock Disco

Review date: Mar. 24, 2008

Jason Forrest – the face behind DJ Donna Summers’s moniker and one of the more famous of this decade’s mash-up collagists – has put aside the campy rock samples and cheeky conceits on his newest release, Panther Tracks. In their place, he has substituted speed. Panther Tracks, an assembly of Forrest’s pseudo remixes of other quick-footed dance producers, like DJ Chip and DJ Technics, is imbued with the frenetic beat of hardcore house. Forrest seems bent on pushing four-on-the-floor near its limit; had he gone any faster, the intervals between each bass kick might have been lost entirely in the rush. It’s an unanticipated move from an artist like Forrest. Unlike his previous work, which crossed borders with the ease of a savvy traveler, Panther Tracks cabins itself in hardcore dance music.

Constraining a record to one genre, of course, is not a mistake in itself. But Panther Tracks proves to be a risky gamble because the style Forrest has chosen is difficult to master. Like a hot spice, the intensity of hardcore is quick to dominate and, potentially, ruin what would otherwise be a balanced offering. Though listeners with a more sophisticated palette may be able to discern the exceptional from the ordinary, to the average audience, Panther Tracks reduces to an inertial bass thud, endlessly pounding away.

Forrest has certainly created some quality tracks here: “Boomshakala,” with its decelerating shifts, and “Peepers,” with its subtle layering of drum and vocal loops, rise above the norm. And, although it is fixed in Panther Tracks’ high-speed hi-jinks, “Screaming Divas” deftly uses an amorphous and accelerated soul sample to inject a human element in the mix. Moments like these, however, are somewhat fleeting and often hard to recognize. The hasty pace unfortunately obscures much of the nuance and detail that are Forrest’s hallmarks.

A second problem with Forrest’s aim on Panther Tracks is that hardcore dance music already threads the thinnest of lines between the sublime and the ridiculous. By making speed the guiding principle, Forrest pushes this collection on the wrong side of that division. For instance, “Get Down,” a sprint of distorted bass and high pitched squeal, is, in its extremity, hard to take seriously. Of course, seriousness is neither the mood nor affect that Forrest likely intended to strike on Panther Tracks. But surely he wanted to create something more than the soundtrack to an amped-up funhouse.

Taken as a whole, the album does little more than heighten elements that were already at their saturation point. Panther Tracks is disappointing, then, because Forrest has not presented a new context for the eccentricities of hardcore dance music or explored their possibilities further. Instead, he seems to reinforce their limitations.

By Ben Yaster

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