Kris Menace: Idiosyncrasies

Do we really need three CDs of Italo disco? Kris Menace obviously thinks so. Even more peculiar is the fact that Idiosyncrasies, a triple-disc collection of classic tracks alongside new productions, collaborations and remixes, is that it's his debut album. Weighing in at thirty-seven tracks and over three hours of music, the collection (released on Compuphonic, which Menace created as a vehicle for his own productions) can't help but seem like overkill even if there's more than enough solid material on offer. The set extends back to his 2005 debut single “Discopolis,” and then moves on through tracks “Voyage,” “Fairlight,” “Steamroller,” “Jupiter,” and “Lumberjack” before digging into an entire remix disc featuring tracks by LCD Soundsystem, Tracey Thorn, Air, Moby, Underworld, and others.

Menace's music is often rather uncomplicated, filled as it is with blazing synth riffs, blindingly bright electro arpeggios, and pumping drum patterns, but it's not hard to understand its appeal, especially when melody plays such a big part. Punctuated by slabs of radiant synthetic smears that call to mind Prince's mid-‘80s “Minneapolis Sound,” “Discopolis” stomps into position armed with big beats and an anthemic swing, and we're off. Memorable moments include the ten-ton bass line powering “Artificial” (a collaboration with Felix Da Housecat) and the euphoric house slam of the Spooky collab “Stereophonic.” Plus there's the raving club-house of “Steamroller,” the roller-coaster merriment of “Invaders,” and the jittery b-boy techno of “Snapshot” with its hammering “Rockit”-styled beats. The jubilant synth melody strutting through the chugging “Fairlight pt.1 & pt.2” could pass for a lost synth theme from The Man-Machine sessions. Disc two starts promisingly with the gleaming downtempo strut of “Sensuality” and continues down a slightly less frenetic path than the opening disc. Menace's seeming love-affair with the ‘80s comes to the fore during “Micropacer,” which is clearly Madonna-esque even if vocal-less, and the respective retro-house, slinky sultriness, and jubilant disco of “Lightning,” “Challenger,” and “Enamoured” prove ear-catching too.

The hour-long disc three includes hard-hitting makeovers of LCD Soundsystem's “North American Scum,” The Presets' “My People,” and Underworld's “Ring Road” alongside buoyant and poppy disco-fied treatments of Roisin Murphy's “Overpowered,” Air's “Mer du Japon,” and Metronomy's “Heartbreaker.” In Menace's hands, Winona 's “Without You” becomes a trance-techno anthem, and it's nice to see Tracey Thorn's “It's All True” included too. It's passable enough but being a remix collection makes it feel like a bonus disc and therefore the least relevant of the three, though some of that impression may be attributable to the exhaustion that understandably creeps in by the time the remix disc appears. Despite working within a relatively restricted sonic template, Menace manages to hold the listener's attention by spinning stylistic variations that are not so contrasting that the overall cohesiveness of the release is affected (the remix disc is noticeably less cohesive by comparison). Subtle Idiosyncrasies ain't but it's also—despite an excessive emphasis on retro sounds—at times endearing. Time to dust off those glowsticks.

June 2009