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Jennifer Cardini - Feeling Strange

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Artist: Jennifer Cardini

Album: Feeling Strange

Label: Kompakt

Review date: Apr. 1, 2008

For all its much-vaunted Germanness, Kompakt has become the go-to house label for the indie set for reasons having little to do with the way the Cologne-based imprint embodies its national character. Indeed, its biggest critical successes so far among the internet music press (boosted by Best New Music designations in Pitchfork) have been artist albums by a Swede and a Brazilian. But the "Teutonic" moniker hangs over the label and its 200-plus other releases, records the above-mentioned indiedilettantes might find cold, formal and disorienting, at least in comparison. All of which is to say, Jennifer Cardini's Feeling Strange mix might have its work cut out winning an audience stateside.

Feeling Strange is the 10-year-old label’s first release from a French or female artist. This is pretty surprising, and one gets the sense that the label cherry-picked Cardini for her unique position in the Parisian scene. But if much French filter disco is the spawn of Discovery and memory-ingrained ‘90s gangsta/aggro alt-rock, Cardini’s sound is more historically dispersed. Feeling Strange is equal parts tradition (Mike Dunn’s “So Let It Be House”), rehabilitated glitch (Static’s “Sometimes I’m Sad for A Few Seconds (Robert Lippok Remix)”), and elastic bounce (Compuphonic & Kolumbo’s “Emotion”). Her knowledge runs deep, but also toward the inclusive: this could be a gateway house record as much as Hercules and Love Affair.

Despite some unusual transitions, Feeling Strange is little short of brilliant, even by Kompakt’s exacting standards, but has a slightly sleazy, off-kilter and after-hours vibe that remains novel after multiple listens. Feeling Strange does what most recent Kompakt releases have done admirably well: move forward the label’s existing agenda (deep and distantly pop-inflected house) while pushing the label itself into new affective territory.

If there’s a particularly French sensibility to this mix, it has to do with L'Hexagon’s unique tradition of perverse pop. Necessarily less foregrounded here than in her cover of Lio’s “Amoreux Solitaires” as jennygoesdirty (complete with pitch-perfect cover art), Cardini occasionally channels the louche, darkly comic, and modernist spirit most closely identified with Serge Gainsbourg, but which seeped into more mainstream pop like Elli et Jacno and numerous underground groups as recently discovered via So Young But So Cold and BIPPP. The previously-mentioned Static remix that opens the album and Principles of Geometry’s “A Mountain for President” bookend some of the mix’s deepest house selections.

Feeling Strange does leave the listener feeling slightly woozy -- there’s a lot to digest here, and certain transitions, like the one between Rework’s “Love Love Love Yeah (Chloe Mix)” and Adam Kroll’s “Drac,” feel slightly clumsy -- but with its peculiar peaks and valleys, it’s as amenable to drowsy weekend mornings as it is to evenings.

By Brandon Bussolini

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