Beloved and well-established disco DJs, Harvey and Bullock threw their audience a serious curveball with Map of Africa's Dr. John-derived psychedelic swamp noir, as its lineage to its creator’s usual dance-floor operations wasn’t immediately apparent. The release of Silent Movie, however, manages to put Map of Africa and the agenda of Whatever We Want into clearer perspective by intensifying the relations between the current progenitors of progressive, experimental disco and the deep riverbed of out-there and occasionally outré musical genres whose treasures don’t often reach digital resurrection.
DJ Harvey, Rub-N-Tug and Quiet Village are all prominent players in a stylistically broad, ill-defined resurgence of disco whose lively experimentalism stems largely from its wide-legged stance that keeps one foot in the neglected past and the other in the unforeseen future. Internet activity has arguably heavily intensified and splintered this engagement, leaving it impossible to tell online where “space” disco ends and “cosmic” begins. The most colorful of these sliding signifiers is “beardo disco,” which in addition to very concretely indexing the effect of dance-floor flamboyance with a psychedelic agenda conjures up the image of a hairy homeless wizard beat-matching Larry Levan edits.
Quiet Village enters in on the smoother, sandier tip of the new-disco horizon. It’s what you put on in the car when you’re driving all your friends to the beach for the first time in the season--to get them so amped with daydreams of summertime bliss that they can hardly stand it. From start to finish and only occasionally, such as on “Free Rider,” does it dip its toes dangerously into trip-hop/lounge territory, a.k.a. the darkest waters of buzzkill for anyone who likes their chill-out jams to be mellow and smooth but not shitty.
The album’s centerpiece is the back-to-back epicness of both sides of the “Pillow Talk”/”Can’t Be Beat” twelve-inch, which kicks off a glorious downhill momentum that ultimately trails off into the endless summer narcosis of the closer “Keep on Rolling.” Along the way, the opening guitar motif of “Pillow Talk” invokes the blissed-out drama PCH motorcycle ride, “Gold Rush” beats a hairy teepee throb with Map of Africa-style blues-rock vocals, and the parallel tracks of “Singing Sand” and “Utopia” utilize dubby congas, echo-spacey loops and tropical guitar to induce a serious moonlit beach make-out party.
No doubt a lot of this glistening smoothness stems from the insane amount of crate-digging presumably necessary to unearth such a heap of beautiful cheeseball samples. So much is Silent Movie suffused with a layered aura of gorgeous vintage recordings, it’s almost a yacht-disco equivalent of Entroducing. The samples that predominate here are largely about warbly bachelor-pad string sections lifted from bachelor-pad jams, invoking bowing palm trees, busty women in leopard-print and martini consumption--no surprise, I guess, coming from a group named after the signature joint from Martin Denny, the '50s lounge-exotica wizard.
Silent Movie, to quote Primus, is about sailing the seas of cheese, but not drowning in them. Its voyage, with the occasional patch of bad weather, is for the most part a glorious cruise, sure to be indispensable once the brilliant, fleeting hour of flip-flops, salt water and Mexican beer is upon us.
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