Wednesday, January 03, 2007
Pitchfork Awards An 8.1 Review To Black Devil Disco
After more than twenty some odd years Black Devil Disco gets some much deserved praise. Check out today's 8.1 review on Pitchfork.
Black Devil Disco Club
28 Later [Lo Recordings; 2006]
There are some acts so thrillingly obscure and mysterious that to embrace them takes a certain leap of faith. In fact, the lack of a paper trail becomes part of the fun.
According to what little lore exists, Black Devil is the French duo Bernard Fevre and Jackie Giordano. Or maybe that's spelled Jacky Giordano, as he was credited on the group's 1978 EP, along with Joachim Sherylee and Junior Claristidge, who may (or may not) be made-up, or possible pseudonyms of Fevre and Giordano. Until now, that EP was the only known document of the group's existance. Titled Disco Club (that is, assuming it wasn't a self-titled release by Black Devil Disco Club all along, to whom this disc is credited), it was initially released to little fanfare, but has steadily gained notoriety and recognition since its original issue. And rightly so: Its few spooky tracks of European electro-disco were brilliant enough to have supposedly influenced and inspired throngs of italo-disco and dance artists over the years.
Of course, the disc was a well-kept secret, until some deep cratedigging led the Chemical Brothers to sample a Black Devil track called "Earthmessage" on "Got Glint?" from their 1999 Surrender disc. And a few years later, in 2004, the first and only Black Devil Disco Club EP was parceled out via a series of 12"s by Rephlex, leading some to wonder whether the whole thing was just an elaborate ruse perpetrated by label co-founder Aphex Twin, who, as everybody knows, has nothing better to do than to prank his fans.
Fast forward two more years and a six-song disc has appeared credited to Black Devil Disco Club, titled 28 Later. Is this the same Black Devil from 1978, twenty-eight years later? The copyright reads 2006, but the only credit on the jacket notes "All Titles Written & Produced by Bernard Fevre." OK, but written and produced when? 1978? 1983? 2005? The eerily timeless disc could have been produced in any of those eras, as it propels itself along on a familiar and formula of analog synths, Giorgio Moroder-styled pulse/throb basslines, simple drum machine patterns, pitter-pattering faux bongo beats, and someone (Fevre?) singing heavily processed vocals and wordless gibberish.
And what of Giordano? Is he dead? Did he ever exist? Could he and Fevre be the same person? Mysterious French record dealer/producer/DJ Gwen Jamois gets a special shout out on the disc. What's his relationship? Did he dig this up? Did he make this up? And who's the dude with the Bruce Lee 'do pictured on the foldout sleeve? Better to just go with it, especially since there's so much giddy fun to be had here: 28 Later is as proudly anachronistic as it may be ahead of its time-- full-on funky Euro-disco that doesn't skimp on the sleaze or, thankfully, the hooks.
"The Devil in Us" spends less than a minute on minimal synths and beats before a monster Moroder bassline sneaks in, and from then on, the only thing keeping the disc from total dancefloor dominance are the short gaps between tracks. The tempo kicks up a couple of cuts later with "Coach Me", and if the sound is largely the same, the smart arrangement squeezes maximum ideas into a minimal arrangement, all diva drama as drawn from the mind of a homespun bedroom genius.
On "Part Two" (the compact disc equivalent of side B), the irresistible synth-scatting of "I Regret the Flower Power" is as otherworldly as Jon Hassell's trademark trumpet, or the Knife's twisted vocals, while the deceptively spare condensed epic "On Other Skin" skirts clubland euphoria with its funky percussion stabs, canned handclaps, robo vocals and chilly keyboard flourishes. And then it all just ends, suddenly, like a strange fever dream that finally breaks-- until you hit play again to make sure what you thought you heard really happened. It did.
-Joshua Klein, January 03, 2007