True to the name, the Kitsuné Maison series has roots in French house. However the eight-year-old French Kitsuné Music label has always specialized in feel-good electro-pop that often uses house as a jumping-off point for other types of dance music. Since the first volume, in 2005, the artists featured on these compilations have ranged from known electronic rock bands like Hot Chip and VHS or Beta to dance-oriented producers like Boys Noize and Bag Raiders. This ninth edition accurately summarizes the label’s aesthetic and reflects the current hipster dance scene.
The compilation’s highlights revolve around welcome updates or accurate representations of the Kitsuné sound. Washed Out’s gauzy “Belong” is a timely inclusion, blending Tears for Fears-style drama, shoegazer effects and pop sensibilities. While the sound is a bit redundant, recalling ’90s downtempo music sans the beat, the group’s inclusion is an appropriate fit for Kitsuné Music’s aesthetic. Jupiter’s “Vox Populi (Lifelike Treatment)” is also notable for being a fun, tech-funk romp and for attempting to be nothing more. Logo’s “La Vie Moderne” also stands out, with its insistent horn loop and patient pulse. While vastly different, these three tracks at least capture the best qualities of a Kitsuné artist: smart and instinctively fun.
However, there is also a disappointing amount of derivative material on this collection. Much of this over-familiarity revolves around the predominant dance-rock fusion that has been entrenched for the past decade. Two Doors Cinema and Gamble & Burke certainly make enjoyable electro-pop, but the requisite synths in the background bring to mind the overload of string arrangements that wafted through every drippy ’50s pop song. Even the buzzed-about Jamaica, which includes Xavier de Rosnay of Justice, can barely escape the grip of Bloc Party.
Perhaps incessant ’80s nostalgia pushes talented producers to over-excavate past sounds. Holy Ghost! turns in a sleek, midnight cruise through a Bret Easton Ellis cityscape on “Say My Name,” but the predictability of the 2009 film adaptation The Informers should have been an indication that this field no longer needs to be explored. Similarly, Hurts accurately replicates white-boy freestyle on its aptly titled “Wonderful Life (Arthur Baker Remix Kitsune Edit),” but with such a heavy heart that they seem to completely miss the joy and pleasure of their reference points.
Though Kitsuné Maison 9 feels imbalanced at times, the compilation still accurately captures what currently captures ears on the go and bodies on the dance floor.