Montag, 20. April 2009

The past that does not want to pass away

I have to be honest: When I started this blog a few months ago, I thought I'd write about Electro music from the safe distance of the historicist who confidently disposes of his material, mapping out a clearly defined terrain. Somehow things didn't pan out that way, and more and more I am finding myself surprised by current events. It seems like the material itself is resisting the historian's totalizing grasp, insisting that it does not want to simply pass away (and that it actually never has). I like that.

Today saw the release of Freestyle's new EP "Invade the Party". Freestyle and their producer Pretty Tony were responsible for putting Miami on the map of electro music in the 80s, releasing genre-defining masterworks like "Don't stop the Rock" or "The Party's just begun". In addition to introducing the latin tinge of their native Miami into electro, they were most famous for their extensive and virtuoso use of the vocoder.

Freestyle are no longer working with Pretty Tony; instead they have teamed up with producer Debonaire who himself has left a mark on the world as a pioneer of Miami Bass music and who has also been in the business for a good twenty years now. The results of the cooperation are sounding very familiar – which is a great relief (if you have heard Pretty Tony's latest works, you'll know what I mean). "Invade the party" could have been Freestyle ca. 1986 ... well, only it is not as good as their classic material and the hooks are not on par with Freestyle's early hits.

But this would be an unfair comparison, and "Invade the party" is a good song after all. Debonaire is a true master of his craft, channeling enough Pretty Tony moments to satisfy old timers and invoke lots of early 80s flashbacks. There are the wonderful 808 tom-tom rolls from "Don't stop the Rock" (I'm a sucker for those), the congas, the floating bass sound and of course the sweet sweet vocoder. He injects just enough of his own trademark style to make it sound modern, resulting in a very balanced and rich production featuring lush – but never distracting – amounts of bass, some edits and the crystal clear sound of modern Miami. Again, he is channelling enough Debonaire moments to satisfy old timers – just listen to the carefully tuned 808 cowbells reminiscent of his classic Tricky D joint "Take it to the Max".

"Invade the party" is successfully fusing the melodic, funky and warm retro side of Freestyle with Debonaire's own, more technoid, dark and reduced sound. And it is an ironic twist that it might just be this modern aspect of the sound that is negating the tune's pop / crossover potential. In that respect, the virtual B-side comes as a great surprise.

"All these girls" featuring a guest appearance by the Egyptian Lover is a reinterpretation of Newcleus' "Computer Age" into a very modern and very catchy pop rap / r&b tune. You could argue that if "Invade the Party" mimicks a style, "All these girls" must be even more derivative cause it emulates a particular song – but you would be so wrong. The genius of Newcleus works as a catalyst that brings out the best potential in any of the elements, and suddenly everything falls into place. Is this the harbinger of a new style that can hold its own against the minimal electro productions that have dominated the r&b and pop world for the past years? Well, at the very least it is catchy as hell. And I'd argue it's the Egyptian Lover's best tune to date.

GET the new Freestyle EP directly from Debonaire's site.

Oh yeah, catch the Manu-Dibango-via-Michael-Jackson reference? They must have said to themselves, "If Rihanna can do it, we can too (and better)". Indeed: Mamase Mamasa Mamamakossa!

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