Ivan Smagghe: Live at Robert Johnson Vol. 3
Live at Robert Johnson

Following outings by Chloé and Prins Thomas, Ivan Smagghe brings his considerable DJ skills to the third installment in the Live at Robert Johnson series. Smagghe's done many things during his twenty-year career: a stint at Paris's Rough Trade shop; helmed the radio show TEST on Radio Nova; and created Black Strobe with Arnaud Rebotini in 1997 in an association that lasted for two decades. That project was once pitched as, among other things, the “dark side of disco,… boogie-trance, … and soft-goth,” and such descriptors could be applied to the slinky, seventy-minute mix here too.

Eschewing gradual segues, Smagghe opts for abrupt changes from one track to the next in a set-list that favours underground material with just the right amount of decadence. Gary Beck's “Drifting” gets the mix off on the good foot with throbbing, space-funk rumble, after which Smagghe shifts gears for the twitchy electro-funk of Two Banks of Four's “Junkyard Gods (Tribute To Sadkin Dub).” Brief pit stops with Eddie Zarook & Casio Casino's jacking “Was” and In Flagranti's trippy “Efx 10-11” ensue before Smagghe gets down with the big beats and electro-clangour of Kruton's remix of Entertainment's “U 1988.” Showers of electro splendour rain down upon the bass-driven funk of Ršyksopp's “Happy Up Here,” while the schaffel-like skip of Mock & Toof's remix of Loin Brothers' “Heavy Helmet” burns with dub-inflected, electro-house fever. In contrast to some of the set's abbreviated cuts, Smagghe and Tim Paris's gyroscopic raver “Never Go With A Hippie To A Second Location” (under the It's A Fine Line name) pumps and jacks for a royal nine minutes.

Some of Smagghe's selections, such as Wighnomy Bros.' “Exvola Stupp” are true to the genre form, while others are head-scratchers: Dark Day's “No, Nothing, Ever,” which plunges down a gothic rabbit hole when vocal sneers appear alongside its plodding pulse, is an unexpected though not unwelcome addition but the choice of Rheingold's New Wave cut “Dreiklangsdimensionen” as the mix's outro is, frankly, odd. Nevertheless, the mix at the very least proves memorable for including such unusual touches.

October 2009