I don’t always agree with Franck Roger’s pronunciamentos about the state of dance music, but at least he’s approaching the debate with some honesty. Start a thread on Facebook with the question “What’s wrong with the scene?” and you’ll undoubtedly get a hundred replies, all of which suggest shortcomings for which the commenters themselves share the blame. Because the “scene”, like all scenes, is all of us – you can be a dissident but a dissident without conviction is just a malcontent. Sodium pentothal in everyone’s PBR, and most would likely admit that the biggest problem with “the scene” is that they’re not at the top of it.
So we come to Franck Roger’s second album (in all those years – it’s pretty hard to believe it), which appears to be less a collection of 11 songs than an examination of the state of the global underground circa 2013 and, if you look closely, a few clues for where we (you, me, everyone) go from here.
The sweeping synths of the two minute intro “I Want You” are the first: a twisted wreck of Eno and Moroder, giving way to the emotional tech of “Calixto” – a track that sounds like someone got hold of Richard H. Kirk’s master tapes from the lost Cabaret Voltaire sessions and decided to remix them with a bit of a Latin swing. Many of the tracks are like that: such a striking blend of influences that you can only compare them to two things which are not at all alike.
“Gossando” is a ’90s beat track taken to Luanda; “Feel It” gives you a glimpse of what filtered disco might have evolved into, had its originators not abandoned it or driven it into the ground until it became the artless suburban stoner sideshow called Jackin’ House. Similarly: “Back With Your Love” is a kind of mature, grown-up Mushroom Jazz, with absolute virtuoso keyboard lines and a full-bodied sound that you just don’t hear in the thin, tinny remnants of downtempo being made with the finest copies of Fruity Loops available on the Internet today. “Tension” has that driving rhythm and alternating synth sound that yanks me back to the first time I heard “French Kiss” – no orgasmic moans (in fact, no vocals of any kind) but a striking track on its own.
Every song here is a stand-out, a little symphony for the few fans who will still plunk down some cash for a full-length House Music album. If you were to download the contents of Franck Roger’s mind, all of his experiences and all of his influences and all of his passions and petty hates, this is what it would sound like.