GusGus: 24/7

GusGus's sixth studio album 24/7 inhabits an unusual middle ground between decadent electro-pop and DJ-styled club tracks. With only six tracks (vocals on five of them) appearing on the fifty-two-minute recording, the dapper Icelandic trio (singer Daníel Ágúst, President Bongo, and Veiran) gives the material ample room to stretch out. Birthed in 1995, GusGus began as a multi-media outfit that combined sexually-tinged dance music with group-generated visuals before signing with 4AD in 1996. Having sold over five million albums to date, the group is hardly a new kid on the block, and has been around long enough to have weathered the usual storm of personnel and stylistic changes (24/7 brings Ágúst back into the fold as a full member after a stab at a solo career).

Much tease but little action, the opener “Thin Ice” flirts with the promise of abandon (“I feel like dancing / On the thinnest ice”) for eight minutes without ever quite delivering, a wrong “Hateful” attempts to right when it powers its S&M-styled lyrical content (“I'll hit you where it hurts you / If you force me to my knees”) with a spiky electro-techno shudder. “On the Job” blazes with heavy electro-funk fire but, at eleven minutes, grows rather flaccid during its second half and ends up overstaying its welcome. By comparison, the group's performance of Jimi Tenor's “Take Me Baby” (with Tenor as guest singer) is decent enough and, being a svelte four minutes, admirably succinct. Funnily enough, the tune that, on paper, might appear to be the throwaway candidate—the instrumental “Bremen Cowboy,” that is—turns out to be one of the album's most satisfying, perhaps because its feverish mix of acid techno and electro-house works harder to maintain listening interest in the absence of vocals. Ágúst's heartfelt delivery and pulsating synths elevate the closing “Add This Song,” though it too fails to deliver on its initial promise when it ends up spinning its wheels during some of its dozen minutes.

The combination of clubby techno, house, and electro grooves, sleek synthetic design, and pop vocals would seem to make the 2009 incarnation of GusGus a natural fit for the Kompakt empire. But while anything from Kompakt is always worth a listen, 24/7 doesn't qualify in the long run as essential listening, especially when it's at times overlong tracks would benefit from the kind of belt tightening one normally associates with the label's output.

October 2009