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Black Devil Disco Club - Circus

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Artist: Black Devil Disco Club

Album: Circus

Label: Lo Recordings

Review date: May. 5, 2011

The miracle with Black Devil Disco Club’s Circus is that, as with practically anything involving Bernard Fevre since 2004, we have it at all. The story is one of two parts. Fevre’s first life as a musician in the mid-’70s was spent releasing synth-based dance tracks, mostly under his own name, but also briefly in collaboration with financier Jacky Giordano as Black Devil. Who were these guys? Why did they choose aliases (Junior Claristidge and Joachim Sherylee, respectively)? What was the difference between Black Devil and Black Devil Disco Club? 1978’s ultra-rare six-track Disco Club EP made nothing clear, and the name was scuttled immediately after as Fevre took on the Milpatte alias before vanishing into the Parisian ether for some 20 years.

The legacy of Black Devil Disco Club, meanwhile, grew at a steady pace. Infrequently mentioned by those who’d heard it as an influential early milemarker in electronic disco records alongside Giorgio Moroder’s From Here to Eternity and costing collectors hundreds of dollars when the odd copy showed up for bidding, Fevre’s technique of using synths, tape loops and a live drummer for songs that bled into one another was as impressive as it was catchy. Morgan Geist was supposed to reissue it on Environ, but for whatever reason, Luke Vibert and Rephlex beat him to the punch with an incomplete 12” reissue in 2004.

The excitement surrounding that reissue led to Fevre’s much more visible second life. As Italo hit its late-decade zenith with Rong Music, Lindstrøm and the Italians Do it Better crew, Fevre resurrected the Black Devil Disco Club name in full, played live, did interviews, spawned remixes, and now, capped off the run with a proper full-length. All new tracks, no pulled punches. Just the good stuff.

Aside from the numerous guest vocals from the present (Jon Spencer, YACHT, Nancy Sinatra(?!), Faris Badwan of The Horrors), the production here could just as easily been from lost ‘70s masters. The sci-fi sounds of yore are present on “Fuzzy Dream,” and though the sound is obviously cleaner, Fevre’s thumbprint is all over this – even Spencer’s scat is reminiscent of Disco Club’s “H-Friend.”

Unfortunately, the mish-mash of guest vocalists and uniformity of the music does not lend itself well on repeat listens. Circus has its bright moments, such as “X Paradise” (featuring Cosmetics’ Aja Emma on vocals, breathy female anonymity at its most comfortably numb) and “She Flees the Silence,” but Fevre would have done better to mix things up a bit, stretch the legs of the machine drum, and not just settle for such a middle of the road approach.

Unlike his early material, these songs will easily find their way into a live setting and it’s hard not to enjoy “just the good stuff” a track at a time. On the other hand, knowing what Fevre has been capable of in the past, Circus feels underwhelming. The devil’s smarts are lacking in this scattershot circus.

By Patrick Masterson

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