Gomma Gang 3
or several years now, the Munich-based Gomma label has been producing great dance music based on an open-ended mix of genres, heavily influenced by the early 80s New York Downtown art/music scene (as evidenced by 2001's Anti NY compilation). Like the post-disco auteurs of that era, any and all sounds from the silly to sublime can be woven into the fabric, from guerilla pop tactics, to spoken-word mixed with dance beats, to the kind of punk-funk revivalism that has become popular recently. All this retro-futurism has proven itself stale in many people's hands, but no so with Gomma (headlined by label heads Mathias Modica and Jonas Imbery, who record as Munk, Leroy Hanghofer, and Low Daddies). The key here is the overwhelming sense of experimentalism and unbridled wackiness that permeates the label's catalog. Whereas Tigersushi, the DFA, and Output Recordings have all achieved similarly outstanding results using the same set of starter data, the boys at Gomma never seem to cross the line of taking themselves too seriously. Or taking themselves seriously at all, for that matter.
For even the educated casual listener, modern electronic music is a minefield of confusion, pricey import releases and quickly deleted vinyl-only tracks. Compilations like Gomma Gang 3 are invaluable in navigating this strange and treacherous world. Mixed with a very light touch, showing off the songs rather than the DJ (in this case Munk themselves), wicked cheap ($10.99 is the MSRP), and loaded with bangers from start to finish, this is not so much a good starting point for the novice interested in Gomma's sound as it is the starting point.
With so much talent on display I find it very hard to pick favorites, but all three tracks by hitherto-vinyl only artist Tomboy are stunning instrumental disco-tinged workouts in crisp bloops and bleeps, funky-ass drums, and chill moodiness. Sounding like the best bits from a dozen 80s dance dubplates thrown together, Tomboy's material is the glue that holds the vocal highlights of this mix in place. Among the vocal tracks, Who Made Who (of whom Tomboy is a member) represent heavily with a crazy remake of Benny Benassi's club hit "Satisfaction," as well as a remix and a remake (by the Rapture) of their breakout song "Space for Rent." They also do a remake themselves, of Munk's classic "Kick out the Chairs," for which they keep the James Murphy/Nancy Whang vocal but reduce the instrumental portions of the original to a loopy, bouncy funk beat. Midnight Mike contributes a solid remix of Munk's "Disco Clown," but his original cut "Hot in the Kitchen" is one of the best tracks on the whole set. Over a dense, throbbing electro beat fleshed out with clattering percussion, two voices (one male, one female) take turns reciting a list of foodstuffs, along with the chorus: "Oh it's hot in the kitchen / The pots are boiling / Don't turn the light off/ 'cuz that would spoil it." If you never before realized just how sexy garden peas and roast ham were, now's your big chance. One other track worth mentioning is the hidden bonus track, a smoking remake of Munk's "Disco Clown" that sounds like it could be played by the Rapture―the only really successful take on this song (besides the original) I've heard, it sounds something like Giorgio Moroder producing the MC5.
A lot of people out there right now are faking disco moves. When screamo bands on Victory start pretending they're Depeche Mode crossed with the Damned, we have a problem. The movement of indie rock artists towards a disco-inflected sound in the misbegotten 80s had more to do with the enormous groundswell of post-disco underground dance music and the sudden (disco-brought) popularity of the 12-inch single. Today, and it will only be for today, it's a stylistic fad that rockers will abandon as quickly as they stopped trying to rap. Not to draw a line in the sand, but disco has never gone out of fashion in the dance world. While records burned in Kaminsky Park, people across town sweated to reel-to-reel tapes built out of extended and manipulated disco breaks. House music is not a tad more or less to disco what hip-hop is to funk. Which brings us back to the Gomma boys, and this collection. If there was an argument for the unbridled unseriousness of disco surviving in the genetic tapestry of house to re-emerge untainted in a future generation, this would be it.
Bottom line: Nobody makes messily-applied lipstick plastic-bottle vodka living-room disco dance-party rockers like Gomma. When the bombs are exploding over your dorm room and the world is coming to an end, this is the soundtrack you'll be wanting.
Reviewed by: Mallory O’Donnell
Reviewed on: 2006-02-28