Spektrum
Enter the...Spektrum

Playhouse
2004
C+



aking the No New York detachment to its logical conclusion, Spektrums's debut album cover features a cold kaleidoscope of faces that reveal blank glimpses. In the center is singer Lola Olafisoye, with her detached square shape of eyes—staring out and thoroughly implicating the viewer. Further to that end, Olafisoye’s confrontational vocal style—alternating shrieks of bliss and fury in the vein of Kelis' introduction song "Caught Out There” —is rooted in the types of groups being reissued for the first time, now, on the Ze label. But, most accurately, like the Neptunes minimal-funk, London-based Spektrum's sound also embellishes the remnants of the new jack swing.

Against the swing, the genre hopping of Spektrum finds a balance in paring down each element to largest effect. Driven by an instantly hummable bassline, "Breaker (Broken Album Edit)" isolates the pop hooks by placing them against a bare sonic background. Working with vocal harmonies and a light funk guitar (or synth), the song culminates in a breakdown, which demolishes all the electronic silverware (but no sink…sadly).

Spektrum continually play with the line of early 80's dance nostalgia against more contemporary aesthetics throughout. From the first inklings of a bassline or snare track, the music baits: naming one of the many early 80's New York groups that directly influenced Spektrum. Much of the time, Spektrum is blurring lines between no wave and contemporary minimal house. Songs like "Low Down" or"Spek-t-t-t-trum" debunk any notions that the group is purely "retro," though, offering enough studio ingenuity to complicate easy classification.

This difficult classification, along with dance-funk soundscapes and interludes reveal the group’s most recognizable kin as Basement Jaxx. Rather than one-upping the Jaxx’s maximalist approach (read: busting out of the seams with hooks), Spektrum use the energy as a starting point for their template. Playing Chuck Jones to Basement Jaxx’s Tex Avery of aural animators, Spektrum underplay gags and instead focus on reworking the codes of the recent dance/funk revival. A very admirable idea, given the absurd proliferation of no wave influenced electronic jam-bands.

Spektrum’s reworking depends on Olafisoye. Her approach, ranging from strangely vacant to defiantly playful (even in the span of one verse on “Interference (Radio)“) is polemical. Every line appears to drip with a swagger that recalls rock much more than dance. Even her name, Lola, carries a vague allusion to the infamous Vladimir Nabokov nymph that incites and plays with her hapless observer. Lines like “I don’t need no lover/I want a heartbreaker/You release the beast in me at night“ (on “Breaker“) and “Fornicate with me/Lubricate Me...Don’t Stagnate in Me“ (on “Lychee Juice“) force a reaction due to its simultaneous grating and glorious quality.

Every part of Enter the Spektrum is solid and self-satisfied. This satisfaction makes the missteps on the album even more glaring—like the dull r’n’b mimicry of “Listen Girl.“ Spektrum aren’t attempting to be revolutionary—for better or worse. Simply put, they coalesce disparate dance movements into a tasty pop-dance package—feel free to enjoy.



Reviewed by: Nate De Young

Reviewed on: 2004-05-07

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