Dance Tracks of the Week: Duke Dumont Hopes to ‘Hold On’ to Chart Dominance
Plus: Revisionist disco from Giorgio Moroder, Fort Romeau, Mental Overdrive, and Violet
Duke Dumont feat. MNEK, “Hold On” (Blasé Boys Club)
In a year full of pop weirdness, the Fluke of the Year award surely goes to Duke Dumont, whose “Need U (100%)” went to No. 1 on the U.K. singles chart this spring. Not that there’s anything wrong with the song, but who would have expected a ’90s-inflected deep house tune to go to the top like that? (His previous record had been titled For Club Play Only — not exactly a harbinger of imminent chart domination.) With his new single, he’s clearly taking the if-it-ain’t-broke approach: “Hold On” is another low-slung house cut graced with a booming low-end and buoyed by an opulent bed of vocal harmonies. One of the co-writers of “Need U,” MNEK (Uzoechi Osisioma Emenike), turns up here as well, this time behind the mic. (Keep an eye on this guy, who also appears on two songs on Rudimental’s Home, a SPIN Essential; he has big things ahead of him. Meanwhile, fun fact about A*M*E, “Need U”‘s featured vocalist and other co-writer: She apparently co-wrote the K-pop band f(x)’s Korean No. 1 hit “Beautiful Stranger.” Huh?) But for all the similarities to its predecessor, “Hold On” just doesn’t hit home in the same way. MNEK’s vocals, while melismatically proficient, come across as cloying, especially in the chorus; maybe it’s simply that the songwriting is too thin to support him. The song aims for a kind of minimalist gospel transcendence, but it lacks the fundamental oomph of its predecessor. It’s early days yet for the single, but it seems unlikely to be Dumont’s second No. 1: It has logged just 192,000 SoundCloud plays in the past month, and only 53,000 on YouTube. That’s a far cry from the 10.5 million YouTube plays that “Need U” has racked up in just six months.
Giorgio Moroder, “Love to Love You Baby (Remix)”
Yes, this week, Giorgio Moroder unveiled a new remix of “Love to Love You Baby,” and it’s not good. “We just finished it last night on the plane,” he told the crowd at Sweden’s Way Out West Festival. In retrospect, that was an inauspicious sign, given that the main reason for Moroder’s newfound popularity is his cameo on Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories — an album whose whole raison d’etre was celebrating the million-dollar recording studios of yore. But the real problem here has nothing to do with sound quality; no, it’s that this track, as they might say on Project Runway, has a questionable “taste level.” In place of the original’s languid funk groove and teasing ebb-and-flow, Moroder and his collaborator here, Chris Cox, have raised the tempo, swapped in a turgid electro-house groove that wouldn’t make it out of the demo pile at Ed Banger, and gone in hard on a hodgepodge of main-stage EDM’s worst tics: whooshing white noise, portamento siren bleats, and, yes, the most pro forma of crescendoing breakdowns and bomb-blast drops. It’s disappointing that this is what Moroder seems to think sounds vital and contemporary; to blame it on his 73 years seems unfair to artists of his age who haven’t lost their own musical vision. Presumably, we should blame it on Cox, a member of remix-for-hire team Thunderpuss who has 44 Billboard Dance Chart No. 1 hits under his belt (as well as Hanna Montana 2: Non-Stop Dance Party). And while we’re at it, blame the A&R who hooked Moroder up with Cox in the first place. With so many artists extending Moroder’s legacy in new, exciting ways — Lindstrøm, Prins Thomas, Todd Terje — why not turn to one of them? (Hell, that’s what Robbie Williams did!) Let’s hope that upcoming Moroder reworks from Frankie Knuckles and Eric Kupper, Hot Chip, and Chromeo & Oliver do more justice to the source material. (Coincidentally, it looks like Duke Dumont is also involved; he announced today that he has just finished remixing Donna Summer’s “Dim All the Lights.”)
Fort Romeau, “Stay/True” (Ghostly)
If it simply turned out that the Norwegians were busy, Moroder might have turned instead to Fort Romeau. “Stay/True” isn’t necessarily the most original Italo-disco pastiche — the bass arpeggio is essentially a re-hash of “I Feel Love” — but what it lacks in innovation, it makes up for with its icy sensuality and effortlessly hypnotic groove. Over seven minutes, its chugging robo-disco opens up into a satisfying slo-mo house beat fleshed out with sighing vocals and glancing vibraphones; it sounds like Mark E remixing Steve Reich with an assist from How to Dress Well, which is to say pretty damn dreamy indeed. The other tracks on the EP, out September 16 from Ghostly, find the U.K. producer building upon the sumptuous deep house of his debut album from last year. If there’s any complaint, it’s that he treats his inspirations with slightly too much reverence, but he’s new to the game, and his voice is developing rapidly.
Mental Overdrive, “Mønster” (Love OD Communication)
Norway’s Per Martinsen has been making music as Mental Overdrive since 1990, and aside from a few slow years in the early 2000s, he has been at it pretty much non-stop. He doesn’t have the longest discography or the highest profile, but the labels he’s recorded for — the original R&S, the Belgian techno label Music Man, Smalltown Supersound, Prins Thomas’ Full Pupp — suggest both his range and his cred among those that know. His new single, true to its title, is a monster indeed, fusing vintage rave and soaring space disco in a way that makes you wonder why nobody ever thought of doing it before. The tinny orchestral stabs sound like they may have been gathering dust in his sampler since 1990 — they’re ungainly, almost garish sounds — but the way they’re offset by ecstatic strings and choral pads leads to a thrilling sense of stylistic dissonance. File alongside I:Cube’s “Transpiration,” and play loud (preferably accompanied by copious strobes and smoke machine).
Violet, “Miami” (One Eyed Jacks)
The Portuguese producer Violet also goes for a rave-meets-space-disco vibe on her new single, but instead of Belgian hardcore, she goes at it via EBM, sounding more 1984 than 1989. Between the tight tom rolls, choral pads, and bass arpeggios, it sounds a lot like New Order circa “The Perfect Kiss,” filtered through the menacing sensibilities of Valencia’s “Ruta del Bakalao.” Like “Mønster,” its power comes in part from its contradictory nature, playing sharp, stabbing motions against uplifting choirs and bright-eyed counterpoints. The rest of the EP isn’t too shabby either — particularly “Trill,” which manages the unlikely feat of finding common ground between Metro Area and Kowton.