It seems as if there have always been indie bands that were influenced by dance music (Franz Ferdinand/the Rapture), but things seem to be swinging in the opposite direction these days. Digitalism, along with like-minded Justice and Simian Mobile Disco, are releasing albums rooted in dance music but with an indie-rock accessibility. Although Justice explores the genre through rock’s aggressiveness and swagger, and Simian Mobile Disco delves straightforward into hooks, Digitalism pushes two agendas: a new-rave sensibility and simplified, hook-heavy tech-house.
The split personality of Idealism is soothed by Digitalism’s devotion to accessibility and hooks. No matter whether Jens Moelle and Ismail Tuefekci are probing an instrumental dance number or vocal-driven indie rock, a barrage of pop and easily digestible hooks is on constant delivery. The most blatant new-rave songs, “Pogo” and “Anything New,” hardly resemble dance music in any form, with the exception of the live drum 4/4 beat. On the middle ground are “Magnets” and “Idealistic,” where Digitalism mixes bouncy synth and electronic instrumentation with brief, repetitious vocals. Even on the instrumental “dance” tracks (which resemble an entire tech-house album crammed into a four-minute song), Digitalism sacrifices mood in order to whittle its most accessible electronic breaks into a compact whirlwind of hooks.
The saddest part of this amalgamation is that the result strips away what’s best about dance music: the steady build to climax, the repetition of beats and sounds ending in a gratifying payoff, the space for personal discovery. Substituting this for in-your-face hooks and mass acceptance sours the experience — even if “Pogo,” “Jupiter Room,” and “Echoes” are some of my favorite tracks this year.