For thousands of years, people have pondered over the ancient koan of a tree falling in a forest with no one around to hear it. The koan questions the very nature of existence by centering the argument on sound and the absence of the human ear. In that same vein, I have to ask, if dance music is taken out of the club, can it still be considered `dance music?’ I used to work for a British chain record store that also used to be tied to its own record label, airline and had its own brand of soda (have you figured out which one yet?). There was a kid there who couldn’t have been all of 17 in charge of the dance music. He was chosen, I can only imagine, because of his anal retentive, obsessive-compulsive attitude towards classification. To him, there was no such thing as `electronica,’ and I still meet people like him today who are horrified by the modifier. Instead, CDs were considered `jungle,’ `drum and bass,’ `ambient,’ or one of the other now probably topping a hundred different terms used to sub-classify dance music. But that didn’t bug me as much as my initial question. I could always tell whether the person browsing the section was a DJ or not, but in the case of the latter, I always wondered in some kind of daydream fashion about the employment of said CDs. Did the purchase in question bring it home and dance in their bedroom (and depending on the subject, the result could be either sexy or downright disturbing)? Or was the CD purely for aural pleasure, in which case, is it still `dance music?’
Since those days, acts such as Moby, the Chemical Brothers, Prodigy, Fatboy Slim and Daft Punk have gone on to make dance music viable pop staples, nearly making my question null and void. Following in their deep footprints is MSTRKRFT, a dance duo made up of producer Al-P (Al Puodziukas) and Jesse F. Keeler, the bassist from Death from Above 1979. That group was originally without the year modifier that caused a rift between them and DFA, the New York label, also shortened from the same name. What better way to exact revenge than to play the same game? Thus Keeler and his producer formed MSTRKRFT (pronounced `mastercraft’) and started giving bands the same dance remix makeovers in which DFA specializes. Wolfmother, the Kills, Juliette & the Licks, Annie, Metric and Bloc Party all became recipients of the remix treatment. After an initial MSTRKRFT only single, the infectious “Easy Love,” fans were clamoring for more, which led to The Looks, the very first MSTRKRFT album.
The Looks consists of eight pieces of five to six minute sweat-inducing hedonism. Keeler and Al-P are all about the booty-shakin’ and they get right down to business from track one. The album starts with new single, “Work on You,” a Daft Punk like robotic-voiced disco anthem, before heading into the original single, “Easy Love.” The female vocalist of “She’s Good for Business” sings of how she’s going to `shake it to the one,” etc., which makes one wonder about the nature of `the business.’ Is it dancing or something more illicit? The title track is one of the funkiest commentaries on appearance since Prince’s “U Got the Look.” “Street Justice” could single-handedly bring back the nearly lost art of breakdancing while “Bodywork” reprises the voice of the robot emcee.
By the end of The Looks, I had realized that I had answered my own philosophical question. As long as dancing exists in the mind, there will always be a need for dance music. I may not have left my chair, but my legs were a-shakin’ and my head was a-noddin’ to the contagious disco beats of MSTRKRFT. Jesse F. Keeler, whose initials bring to mind another possible copyright infringement, turned his bass into a weapon with his day-job band. As one half of MSTRKRFT, rather than rock your ass off, he would rather you dance your ass off, whether in the club, your car, your house, or in your mind.
Daft Punk- Homework
Death from Above 1979- You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine
Death from Above 1979- Romance Bloody Romance