BBE’s ninth installment of the Kings of series turns its attention to another subgenre of beat-oriented music electro (previous installments have covered hip-hop, disco and jazz, for example). Employing the dependable knowledge and taste of Trevor “Playgroup” Jackson and German production duo Alter Ego, the label attempts to survey the disparate field with two discs that cover the history and the present, respectively. Past editions served mostly as a loose platform for popular deejays and producers to record tastemaker sets, which is hardly a bad thing. However, the focus is a welcome change: Kings of Electro contains both an educational component for new jacks and the element of exclusivity for knowledgeable listeners.
Appropriately, Jackson tackles the past and runs through the broad styles of electro.
Having worked as both a producer and album designer since the early ’90s, he demonstrates his comprehensive understanding of the field by moving quickly from hip-hop (Mantronix and Just-Ice’s “Turbocharged” and Thomas Dolby’s beat-fueled take on Whodini with “Magic’s Wand”) to go-go (Tilt’s classic “Arkade Funk,” which is also a proto-hyphy cut according to Jeff Chang) to pop (Vanity 6’s Kraftwerk-on-speed “Make Up” and the freestyle classic “One More Shot” by C-Bank). Jackson shows how electro, or more specifically drum programming, reared its indomitable influence in a number of disparate genres and geographic regions.
Alter Ego’s newer-school material is an intriguing contrast; it demonstrates how electro filtered its myriad influences into a cooler, less evidently eclectic stew. Though the differences between each track are more nuanced and they subsequently mix together better, they are nevertheless disparate. Maurizio’s jazzy “M4” quickly morphs into the whiplashing “Dooms Night” by Azzido do Bass and the Joakim’s farting remix of “Big Onion” by Detroit Grand Pubahs. By the time Alter Ego’s mix closes, the blend stretches to include Mu’s glitchy “Chair Girl” and Robert Hood’s EKG-reminiscent “Minus.” Kings of Electro may tackle one of the least discussed genres of the series, but it provides an accessible entry point.