Black Devil Disco Club – Circus [Review] (PRESS, EUROPE)

5 May 2011
Review of the Black Devil Disco Club album Circus featuring Jon Spencer on the track Fuzzy Dream.
“If you have seen Bernard Fevre’s live performances as Black Devil Disco Club, you know what he looks like: a crazy French scientist beamed from the ’70s playing psychotically on a cheap Casio in a second hand turtle-neck and brown corduroy pants. There is something quite awkward about the entire thing; it’s both mesmerizing and embarrassing at the same time. He also looks quite lonely up there. To counter said loneliness, Fevre has invited an impressive list of collaborators to contribute to Circus, his sixth album.

Immediately striking are the names: Nancy Fortune, CocknBullKid or YACHT make obvious sense, since these artists more or less all belong to the same ever-expanding electro galaxy. “In Doubt” pushes all the right Patrick Cowley-like buttons while CocknBullKid’s sassy delivery intertwines with Fevre’s own propulsive Italo motifs. “Stay Insane” is even better, as YACHT’s Jona Bechtolt and Claire L. Evans let their cosmic inner preacher out to the sound of Heaven 17 jamming with Cut Copy. “Distrust” has Fevre in full staccato mode, his voice turned into twirling effects surrounding The Horrors’ Faris Badwan’s more enigmatic croon. Musically speaking, these wouldn’t sound out of place on 28 After (the album he recorded for Lo Recordings back in 2006 that marked his return to the music scene after a two decade long hiatus).

More interestingly, though, are the unexpected collaborations. American indie blues don Jon Spencer speaks his bad ass way through the introductory “Fuzzy Dream” while Nancy Sinatra lends her vocals to “To Ardent,” her interpretation mimicking the track’s plaintive and desolate synthetic orchestrations. Afrika Bambaataa, meanwhile, shows up on closing track “Magnetic Devil,” a song that channels Alden Tyrell, Lindstrøm at his most synthetic, Moroder and even Kraftwerk, proving that Fevre’s productions are both contemporary and timeless at the same time.

20 years ago, Massive Attack started to release albums on which an array of guest vocalists would come and go without the sound of revolving doors ever affecting the core of the group’s sonic identity. Electronic dance music artists have made full use of that template since then, from The Chemical Brothers and UNKLE to Death in Vegas and Agoria. Not unlike Wolfram’s recent offering for Permanent Vacation, Circus shows how discofied synth-pop also can accommodate the most disparate of voices. Fevre collects ten tracks on an album that barely lasts half-an-hour, making for a dense and prismatic listening experience that can verge on the dizzying at times. But the way he makes the old and the new cohabitate in such a unified way is unexpected and exhilarating. “