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Soulwax - Nite Versions

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Artist: Soulwax

Album: Nite Versions

Label: PIAS

Review date: Nov. 29, 2006

“Folks getting down, getting down in their stocking feet
Sleepy eyes are peeping from the window across the street”

- Bobby Womack, “Daylight”

Most people who party like it’s a career in a larger city can tell you about a night with Soulwax, or 2 Many DJs, a one-hour open bar, white powder and/or hand-pressed pills, and a collective loss of self. Personality is drained from bodies and suspended in the heat above the dance floor as patrons lose themselves automatically in the ritual.

If this is a phenomenon that you’re not used to experiencing in any sort of grand scale, perhaps you should be thankful. Your lives may impact those of others, and serve a greater purpose than as half-full vessels of movement and caress; your tolerance for what they take as familiar is, at best, limited and hair-triggered. This may not be your idea of a good time. And yet, when confronted with something as immense as Nite Versions, what can you really do? It’s a binary decision: on or off. Perhaps this is why dance music is so impenetrable for most rock critics. There’s not a lot to grab onto aside from candy-colored handholds that anyone who’s ever been active in the club at 3 A.M. can recognize. That particular moment hits right towards the end of this, the latest venture of the Belgian brothers DeWaele, who plant a big chunk of Lipps, Inc.’s Eurodisco staple “Funkytown” in their “NY Lipps,” right near the end of this collection … in case anything else within didn’t work for you, here’s one you know.

“Ones you know” are not news to these boys. Having spent their early career in major label delete-bin mode, playing keyed-up alterna-pop to what must have been a hell of an insightful college radio audience, the DeWaeles put Soulwax on hold and morphed into 2 Many DJs, whose various mixes pleased crowds as imperative, riding the self-serving wave of mashup culture and remix glitterati as they proceeded to rock clubs and basements worldwide. These, truly, are the men who had a big hand in bringing the ‘80s back wholesale, and depending on where you stand, either this action elevated clublife to a nascent peak, or ruined going out altogether.

But the experience gave them the cred needed to pull off 2005’s Any Minute Now, high on dancefloor friction and lessons learned, loaded with contributions from various members of LCD Soundsystem, producer Flood, and engineer Alan Moulder. Everything within sounded revved up, hardwired, and for the first time in their careers, worthwhile – and they now, unquestionably, had the experience to back it all up. They’d gone through the tunnel of love and come out smiling with huge club hits like “E-Talking” and “NY Excuse,” following LCD’s earlier lead into winking dance/rock tropes, from out of so very little. But it was the remixes from this record that stood apart. If you went shopping in any metropolis last year at the boutique level, and were dealing with a 35-and-under demographic, you most likely encountered the DFA retooling of “Another Excuse,” and it left the store reverberating between your ears. So, in that sense, Nite Versions – re-recorded versions of the remixes that fell from Any Minute Now, which the outfit performs live in a full-band, nonstop mix incarnation, same as on the record – is some sort of triumph, condensing their best versions of their finest material into a disco biscuit the size of a stack of pancakes. Never once does the energy flag, as sequencers churn, synths arpeggiate, bass plunks out toothy, tertiary colors, drums are compressed down to a biting punch.

Anyone familiar with machine-fashioned disco, from Moroder on through the ages, won’t be at much of a loss here. If you need to experience Soulwax – and many of you do, as this record is as much fun as you’re likely to encounter in the back half of ’06 – then this is surely the way to do it: uninterrupted, all its best ideas laid out end-to-end in one massive rail. It might as well come with a straw and a MetroCard. Lots of simple electronic melodies, many created with percussive elements already woven inside, accost the listener; squiggles as riffs, and that’s all anyone gets, but there’s dozens of them. That’s the M.O. here: if you don’t like something, wait a minute and another buzzing synth or wailing guitar will force its way in, eager for your approval.

Aside from the electricity staying on and all the LEDs flashing, Soulwax also knows that when you decide your spirit is through hard-Peter-Panning into each channel andout each PA horn, their magic ceases to function. Chanting the phrase “part of the weekend/never dies” in the intro to “Accidents and Compliments” will ring true to many, and that is why there will be a place for them in the sidebars of musical history: they move below ground, on the party continent, where something better is always going on, and wouldn’t you like to join them? Part of your memories may always stay elsewhere as well: at the club, off a glass coffee table, in the back of a cab, or sprawled out on someone else’s bed, but most of you are going to have to grow up and get back to work at some point. So what we really have here is, like that night out imperative, is a method of escape. Nite Versions ultimately satisfies, shiny and synthetic and as disposable as a Bic lighter, but with thousands of facets within and the fuel to burn for quite some time. These are men who know that when everybody’s going to the office or church, they’re going to bed; their sound will lose most of its power, so they play it up while they can.

By Doug Mosurock

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