VA: Disco Undead
Device Electronic Entertainment

Disco Undead documents what happens when electro synth-pop artists are asked to create tracks using ‘70s and ‘80s horror movie soundtracks for inspiration. Citing genre masters like John Carpenter, Lucio Fulci, and Dario Argento, the twelve pieces (thirteen if one counts the bonus) offer an aural analogue to the directors' gruesome slashfests and zombie attacks. The music exhibits an interesting tension between the customary euphoria associated with soaring electro-synth pop and the darker filmic content the artists draw upon. If there's a clear analogue, it's to Suction's lush style of “robot music” as most songs traffic in the same kind of rubbery analog synth sounds and drum machine beats one finds on Solvent and Lowfish recordings. Suction's pronounced melodic emphasis is here too yet darker and creepier in keeping with the album concept; sampled film dialogue, distorted voices, and tormented moans help perpetuate the theme too.

Frankly, familiarity with the films isn't mandatory, as the album would succeed even if one were unaware of its underlying idea, though one might puzzle over its generally creepy ambiance. Tracks from Tobe Hooker and Fictional Character (aka Scarletron) are the darkest of the lot, Hooker's (“Haddonfield Fear Factory”) filled with harpsichord tinklings and curdling bass lines while torture chamber clankings and hallucinatory synth washes give “From Another World” its disturbing aura. These are exceptions to the rule, however, as most songs leaven their darker elements with some measure of jubilant uplift. Bangkok Impact's “The Pianist and the Reporter,” for example, adds synth squeals and handclaps to its pounding techno, not to mention a chorus that noisily kicks it up a notch, and Negative's “Cannibal Sluts” recalls Solvent with its fluttering hi-hat patterns and buzzing bass lines. In addition, there are Solenoid's grinding synth layers (“Suspiriorum”), It & My Computer's low-slung bass lines and minimal machine beats (“Le droit de tuer”), and Porn Darsteller's sunny synthpop (markedly unlike its title “Holocaust”). Best of all is “7 Gates (Disco in Room 36)” by Johnny Cortex where a lovely intro of mournful melodies leads into buoyant beats, followed by delectably smooth segues between stately melancholy and exuberant uplift. Not a corpse to be found in the lot, just high-quality electropop taking an unusual and imaginative detour down nightmarish back roads.

November 2004