French record/fashion label Kitsune commemorate their 10th anniversary with a new boutique in NYC’s uber-hip NoMad district and this compilation, ‘a quirky, eclectic selection of fresh US artists.’ Previous collections from the label had featured heavyweights such as Hot Chip, Bloc Party and La Roux alongside more obscure acts. Kitsune America’s crop of artists are diverse, all dabbling in various strands of electronica, often of a euro-centric nature. Most of it seems tailor made to soundtrack a slick modern fashion emporium. Like so much modish pop,it largely consists of music noteworthy for its restive synthesis of influences old and new rather than an enduring ability to change one’s life.
So in St. Lucia’s Before The Dive you get a Tears For Fears/Oasis singalong peppered with Balearic piano and a panoply of retro and cutting edge electronics. DWNTWN‘s See My Eyes has Moroder basslines zinging through its gloomy verse/ecstatic chorus gear shift. Cascading soundscapes and a reverb-laden chanteuse make it a catwalk clone of The Knife’s left-field synth pop. Female voices prove to be the most hypnotic. Vampire, by sisters Frances Rose occupies a midpoint between chart-bound pop and Cat Power /Feist breathy torch song; irresistibly cheesy hooks bed-rocked by smoky late-night candour. An incantatory vocal production renders it special. Computer Magic’s Help Me is equally dynamic; 60’s girl group sass fed through a laptop-aided kaleidoscope, a kind of glo-fi Wall Of Sound. On the rockier side, Heartsrevolution’s Retrograde is pulverizing electro hardcore Riot Grrl pop-punk. Diverting for sure but the Yeah Yeah Yeahs need not be afraid.
Floor-fillers are more than adequately represented. Lady Gaga collaborator White Shadow contributes a carnival of dance music’s history on If You Like It. On this one track there’s Nitro Deluxe/Inner City chords, Cerrone/Tom Moulton percussion n’ divas and a rave pulse. Another hall of mirrors trawl through club-land’s halcyon past is Your Body from DJ/Producer Gigamesh; a disco house fusion of aerobic chants, rising disco strings and techno squelches. Selebrities’ Regret wears early 80’s influences a little too closely on its sleeve. Shiny and bright modern pop values prevail throughout Kitsune America but all the genre-hopping occasionally rings hollow and sounds peculiarly one-dimensional. Like perfectly-stitched couture in search of something more substantial than a storefront mannequin to hang on.
But there’s a lot of fun to be had here too. OLIVER’s Walk With Me, a b-side on the duo’s Dirty Talk EP, is a thunderous slice of vintage Italo-disco, accommodating both Nile Rogers chicken scratch rhythm guitar and prog arcana in its epic sweep. Such a faithful facsimile of the genre wouldn’t be out of place on Disco Discharge’s European Connection .Perhaps the most forward thinking selection here is Giraffage’s Even Though, a glitchy pocket-symphony of pitch-shifted vocal loops, bird noise, ambient throbs and Roland percussion. It inhabits a shoegazing, chillwave R& B slow jam niche all of its own. Digital bonus track Don’t Stop Where I Crept by Dark Sister amounts to a kind of hauntological hip hop with the furtive groove, video nasty keys and rapping shrouded in an atmospheric veil of what sounds like a muffled source tape.
Kitsune America offers a stateside snapshot of a disparate musical bunch, unified by a pick and mix approach to style and glossy productions. There is a nagging sense of hipster-endorsed ephemera to much of the music here. Indeed, one wonders if these confections will last any longer than this season’s threads. Even so, it strikes plenty of sleek poses and bristles with enough inventive energy to at least offer a refreshing alternative to mainstream dance-pop’s ‘sexercise’ fodder.