brief foray into the world of the Zodiac reveals that Gemini’s are the great communicators, suave in social settings, and the life of the party. But despite being chameleon-like, with an ability to fit into nearly any situation, the Gemini is most at home when he’s in the limelight. You get the feeling in listening to Marc Romboy’s debut LP for his own Systematic label that all of these things apply. With only a little help from some of Detroit and Chicago’s legends, Romboy has come up with one of the most self-assured Chicago and electro house records of the year, and an early contender for its best.
“Impact Disco” is the early highlight, upstaging nearly the entirety of Booka Shade’s forthcoming album in one fell swoop. The title is, or should be, a nod to neu-electro lynchpin Bangkok Impact, whose 2003 Traveller remains an underrated gem, and the music is as well, featuring a beat that casually becomes insistently propulsive and a melody that would melt the shells of any Cancer’s in the audience. It doesn’t hurt that it’s followed up by “In My Mind,” which features the legendary Robert Owens and his silky vocals, and the Blake Baxter co-production “House Ya” (which was previously released in 12” form this year). Both are stunning examples of Romboy’s versatility: the former a light, airy, deep house bed for Owens’ vocals, the latter a claustrophobic Detroit-inflected production that dares you not to jack.
The latter’s feel is followed up on by Romboy and Owens’ next collaboration, “I Need,” which makes Owens work harder, but gets more interesting results. The track moves from its introverted beginning to a darkly ecstatic synthesis of techno and electro over its seven minutes, only allowing Owens a much-needed release in the final minute. The final collaboration on the album, “Body Jack” with Tommie Sunshine, is Romboy’s version of the electroclash that Sunshine helped make worth listening to (“Silver Screen,” namely). Sunshine only provides vocals, but they’re a perfect complement to the overdriven bass that rules the track. Closer “Model 1601” deserves comment, if only to further highlight Romboy’s eclectic range of sounds that he employs. As an updated version of Detroit minimalism, it treads in the sort of alien melancholy that permeated the best of early techno.
Much like those heady days, Gemini flits between genres effortlessly, throwing Chicago, Detroit, Berlin, Cologne, New York, and other sounds into the blender, and coming up with a crisply produced sound that is Romboy’s own. After fifteen years in the music game, Romboy’s debut album was a long time in coming, but for discerning dance music lovers it was most definitely worth the wait.