Kitsune Maison Vol. 4
ith the peak of their relevance sandwiched between the apex of the French Touch pioneers and the ascendancy of the Ed Banger crew, it’s depressingly easy to characterize Kitsune Records as the Bert Blyleven of bleeding-edge French house music, destined to be overshadowed by the spectacularly accessible achievements bookending their artistic zenith. Of course, carrying the analogy through to term would suggest that they’re in no danger of being forgotten thanks to the long memories of a small subset of fans of the larger artform capable of putting their achievements into context. Blyleven, after all, would have only needed his team to come through thirteen more times to have achieved 300 wins, making him an automatic Hall of Famer; likewise, Kitsune keep putting out compilations as unassailable as Maison Vol. 4 even as history keeps marching along.
This isn’t to say that you’ll be listening to Maison Vol. 4 in twenty years—given both the relationship between dance music and trendiness and the staggeringly short half-life of Kitsune’s signature brand of dance music, you might not even be listening to it in twenty days. But you’ll certainly enjoy it while propriety allows you to do so; Maison Vol. 4 is both an exemplary repository of exceptional dance singles and an outstandingly cohesive package, no mean feat considering the ground it covers.
Of course, in practice, Maison Vol. 4’s stylistic diversity is precisely the factor lending its hour-long running-time such holistic viability in the first place. For a dance music compilation, there’s certainly a palpable undercurrent of rock music at work on Maison 4; Punks Jump Up’s “Dance to Our Disco” could pass for an Echoes-era Rapture track, while Foals’ “Hummer” (originally released on Transgressive!) out-Maximo Parks anything on Our Earthly Pleasures with room to spare. It’s also intriguing to see how rockers recast their sound to fit into Kitsune’s aesthetic: two sterling examples of which can be found courtesy of the Whip’s “Divebomb” (an instrumental track which sees the Mancunian new-wavers shifting their sights from New Order to Simian) and Paul “Phones” Epworth’s compilation-closing lights-out electro axe-murderer “Worryin’.”
But most of the true moments of distinction on Maison Vol. 4 belong to the straightforward, balls-out dance music which elevated Kitsune to prominence in the first place. Tracks like the Midnight Juggernauts’ remix of Dragonette’s “I Get Around” or Guns'n'Bombs’ “Crossover Appeal” could stand next to even the snarliest, most aggressive brand of dance music being pumped out of the speakers at your local hipster disco.
And then of course there’s the Boyz Noize remix of Feist’s “My Moon My Man,” easily the finest track on Maison Vol. 4 and arguably the finest track Boyz Noize have turned out yet; there’s a sense of dynamism to the arrangement of the peaks and valleys sorely lacking from their earlier works. Whether this newfound compositional enthusiasm turns out to be symptomatic of their actual development as artists or simply a happy coincidence of Maison Vol. 4’s sequencing remains to be seen, of course, but my money’s on the former.
That’s not to call Kitsune Maison Vol. 4 one for the ages, of course; despite the label’s apparent commitment to a progressive attitude towards dance music, the tracks they choose to showcase display a fixation on the breakdown as an opportunity for the audience to get all euphoric, a rapidly-retreating indulgence in the face of DJs who won’t even let a breakdown as sterling as the one on Soulwax’s remix of the Gossip play through to completion (which I swear to god I’ve actually witnessed happen). Then again, as observant audiences could doubtlessly discern from the “Vol. 4,” that’s not exactly its goal; the Maison series exists to provide a snapshot of exactly how the label goes about wrecking dancefloors at the moment of its release date, and whether or not it proves as effective in the future probably matters to contemporary party-goers about as much as Blyleven’s projected depreciation mattered to the batters who faced him during his no-hitter. The only thing that matters is that this stuff is mowing people down right now.
Reviewed by: James Cobo
Reviewed on: 2007-06-04