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Syclops - I've Got My Eye On You

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Artist: Syclops

Album: I've Got My Eye On You

Label: DFA

Review date: Jun. 9, 2008

The story of the debut full-length from Syclops is the story of two visionary artistic entities combining to form one of the best electronic records of the year. That’s the easy joke, but the full story begins with house legend Maurice Fulton. In the midst of a successful stretch for UK label Nuphonic, Fulton revealed the Syclops moniker with “The Abdoer” 12” in 2001. Though often featured in mixes and DJ sets, only two further singles appeared prior to this January’s DFA debut with “Where’s Jason’s K.” While Syclops was dormant, Fulton racked up remixes and achieved critical success with wife Mu for 2003’s Afro Finger and Gel and 2004’s Out of Breach (Manchester’s Revenge).

Then there’s the DFA. After dominating dance music in the early oughts with a slew of singles that reinvigorated the tired clichés of last millennium’s big-beat dead-end, the Brooklyn label gradually grew away from its early ethos that culminated in polished efforts from Hot Chip and LCD Soundsystem as well as non-dance albums from Prinzhorn Dance School and Shocking Pinks. It also wasn’t easy getting everyone in a room together to make solid decisions: Label co-founders James Murphy and Tim Goldsworthy were often away on tour or busy producing. As 2007 began, it looked to the untrained eye like the DFA was more EMI’s most credible extension than a leading light.

But label manager and third DFA co-founder Jonathan Galkin had cards aplenty up his sleeve. He started playing them last August with the birth of Death From Abroad, a spinoff imprint dedicated to obscure electronic artists from outside the U.S. It continued through the fall and winter with a slew of singles from recent signees such as Still Going, Holy Ghost! and Shit Robot, then a triumphant full-length by Hercules and Love Affair this spring.

I’ve Got My Eye on You continues to prove that the DFA’s is dance music’s most forward-thinking face. Actually, though, this record is the product of a group that doesn’t really have a face: Galkin has made it clear that Fulton doesn’t do interviews and that Syclops aren’t touring. Tricky, because it’s also not clear who Syclops consists of anymore. In 2005, Fulton was credited with production and arrangements for “The Fly”; in 2008, the Finnish-sounding trio of Sven Kortehisto, Hanna Sarkari and Jukka Kantonen are credited with most of the playing. Fulton only gets drum programming credits for only half of the ten tracks present.

Start spinning this record and you’ll be too busy loving the sped-up sonar of “NR17” to care about what’s going on behind the scenes. I’ve Got My Eye on You simmers with stunning arrangements driven by a loose, live feel exemplified in the drumming of “Nelson’s Back” and the jazzy piano on “A Lovely Sunday.” In addition to “Where’s Jason’s K,” both 2005 singles are also present: Pad synths fuel “The Fly” early and handclaps bring home “Mom, the Video Broke” late. Fulton lends his deft production touch to each track, helping to create a fluid mix that divorces Syclops from the sterility of The Juan MacLean or the challenging analog abstractions of former DFA stablemates Black Dice. Ultimately, the album winds up somewhere in between.

That puts Syclops right in the thick of the DFA’s recent resurgence. It’s still too early to be talking about what we’ll remember at year’s end, but I’ve Got My Eye on You is a potent mix of dancefloor deadringers and outer-space experimentation that never wears out a listener for being blandly slick or too abstruse for its own sake. In a year when Andrew Butler may be snatching all the headlines, Maurice Fulton and his anonymous band of beatmakers may very well have found the key to the DFA’s next dimension. I won’t tell you to keep an eye on this one, but only because you saw that one coming.

By Patrick Masterson

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