When Daft Punk released Discovery in 2001, I really believed that electronic music and dance music would completely take over indie rock, that every new album would sound just like the Notwist’s Neon Golden. For me and many others, something about clever, inventive songwriting mixing with dance aesthetics is very appealing. It may have been a dramatic prophesy — dance music, of course, has infiltrated indie rock, and Kitsune Music has been among the catalysts of that sound.
Kitsune has carved out a little corner in the world of dance music with, not coincidentally, a hook-heavy brand of electro/tech-house. The music is both loud enough and active enough to convert the uninitiated while still satisfying the dance-music fan base. Kitsune also acts as a clothing merchandiser in Paris, showing a desire to define this genre by supplying the tunes and the threads. But unlike influential labels like SST and Factory, which were built on the music and everything else followed suit, it seems Kitsune is selling anything that looks or sounds like what this genre represents. It’s natural, then, that a few on the label’s fourth compilation stick and a few miss, and we are left halfway inspired and no more sold on Kitsune.
This, the label’s fourth compilation, includes some of the many twelve-inch singles Kitsune has released in the past few years, from some big names (Alan Braxe, Boys Noize) and lesser-known artists. “Hummer,” from recent Sub Pop signees Foals, manages a nice little change of pace from the oversaturated electro found throughout. It glides along an insistent drumbeat, shouted vocals and some angular guitar playing, leaving it breezy but distinct.
Elsewhere, Midnight Juggernauts’ remix of Dragonette’s “I Get Around” takes a fetching vocal from Martina Sorbara, twisting it around an infectious bass line and pounding 4/4 rhythm. The track percolates for nearly six minutes, never outstaying its welcome. Even band of the moment Crystal Castles turns in a gem, offering a demo version of “Knights.” The track features a vocal so far buried in the mix that just trying to follow it is sheer joy. Throw in a menacing bass line and some crooked keyboards and you have a dark synth-pop treasure.
Kitsune’s lofty ambitions as a record label ultimately tell the story of this compilation. But those who are hip to this brand aren’t going to be pigeonholed by a record label, no matter how cool it makes them look or how fun the songs appear to be. They are too smart. They can see that for every “Knights” and “Hummer,” there is faceless, uninspired fodder.