Perlon never struck me as an “anything goes” label. Though Zip and Co. have thrown curveballs over the past decade, the label’s core artists collaborate so frequently among themselves and seem so isolated from dance music trends that I’ve pretty much pinned Zip, Baby Ford and Sammy Dee as the sound of the label. Sleek house takes on modern-day mnml, that’s that. Even the A Guy Called Gerald single didn’t remove the idea from my head.
Last year’s Shackleton album finally clarified things: Perlon’s playful, irreverent approach to techno doubles as a curatorial strategy. How else to explain a roof that covers both Shackleton’s gloomster tribal-tech and Ark’s jokey house tunes? The “He’s Got the Whole World in his Hands” sample on Three EPs seemed almost laughably serious, but maybe Shackleton was parodying himself? Or, better yet, maybe Perlon was cleverly taking the piss out of one of the least-humorous artists in modern memory?
If I start to think that Shackleton has a lighter side, do I have to start taking Ark seriously? Hell no. He wouldn’t have that, and neither would Perlon. On “Obamark,” Arkpocalypse Now‘s second track, Ark drops sound clips of Obama letting a Chicago crowd know, in case they didn’t, that “Yes, we can.” He alternates the slogan with Sonny Corleone telling Michael that he’s going to have to get some brains blown all over his nice Ivy League suit. As a statement about Obama’s alleged Chicago-style gangster politics, which he could care less about making, it’s as effective as Front 242’s “Funkahdafi,” which is to say, not very.
Arkpocalypse Now never settles into a reliable dance groove, which is sort of the point. The 11-minute “Deep At All” shows that Ark can do top-notch deep house in his sleep, so he might as well keep things interesting. Elsewhere on the album, vocalist Lippie provides enough soul to ground her three tracks in something approaching recognizable human emotion, and Xanax (fantastic name for a guest vocalist) does a Prince thing over Ark’s stutter-R&B. Good times. I doubt that Arkpocalypse will turn up on any end-of-year lists, but that’s because we all respect ourselves too much.