2005 was quite the banner year for DFA. It saw the releases of acclaimed records by The Juan MacLean, Delia Gonzalez & Gavin Russom, Black Dice and, of course, LCD Soundsytem. Of this bunch, LCD Soundsytem garnered the most attention and thrust leader and one half of DFA, James Murphy, into the limelight. I don’t even think people paid this much attention to the hip New York dance imprint since Janet Jackson and Britney Spears were rumored to be working with them. Hey, is that James Murphy in that Bright Eyes video?
Despite the interest from the aforementioned big time pop stars, James Murphy and Tim Goldsworthy resist and cherry pick those they work with. Their remixes are highly sought after and many are either out of print or unavailable on vinyl or CD. Chapter One is the first in a series of compilations containing some of their best remixes, thankfully making them more widely available to those without the means that a hip Brooklyn DJ might possess. It kicks off with their remix of Le Tigre’s “Deceptacon.” The frantic pace of the original is slowed down and a very disco friendly bassline is introduced. This remix is probably the best introduction to DFA remixes as it mixes the nostalgia of ’70s disco and the slightly off-kilter sensibility that keeps it in the present.
What makes DFA remixes interesting is that they take their time to reach a climactic point, something that I find sorely missing in mainstream dance music. They don’t adhere to radio edits and take it back to when Georgio Moroder could get away with ten minutes of Donna Summer and mainstream America would eat it up. The remix for the Blues Explosion’s “Mars Arizona” is just over ten minutes and starts off at a consistent pace building slowly with one instrument at a time. Towards the midpoint of the song, it slows, like a tease, which only makes the song more interesting to the listener (or dancer, if you will), and shows that you don’t need the obvious cathartic climax to make an excellent dance song. In fact, that point comes in at the very end for the “Mars Arizona” remix.
Like other DFA productions, these aren’t songs that you can sit back and listen to. These are songs that are practically pushing you onto a dance floor. Even the slower paced groove of The Chemical Brother’s “The Boxer” calls for some dancing on the listener’s part. Another highlight of the compilation is the remix of Fischerspooner’s “Emerge.” The production is spare, leaving the song with a simple beat and Casey Spooner’s voice paired with occasional electronic blips. Another excellent track is their take on the Gorillaz’s “Dare.” Already an exceptional song, the remix starts off slowly with a simple drum beat and a cowbell, but keeps adding on instruments and vocals until it reaches a culmination of all the sounds giving way to fuzzy static noises. Those noises, in turn, give way to a sparse mixture of beats easing you out of the song.
It’s no wonder that the DFA are so in demand and have pop stars hoping to get picked like they’re standing in line outside Studio 54. The songs are catchy, even though many stretch well into double-digit minutes. The remixes are a perfect blend of disco nostalgia and a look into the future of where dance music can go. The DFA don’t intend to make dance music that’s overtly trendy or hip (though they are), but rather produce music purely for having fun and getting people off their keisters and on to the dance floor.