Over the span of close to a decade, German electro duo Digitalism have produced good albums (2007’s Idealism) and good remixes for a diverse group of artists (Cut Copy, the White Stripes, Klaxons). Overall, Digitalism have established themselves in electronic music as the ‘good’ guys– safe, solid, reliable. But if they’re shooting for greatness on their latest release, DJ-Kicks, then they’ve missed the target.
Right now is definitely an odd time in electronic music. Just the name itself– ‘electronic’– feels so broad, so indefinable, that you may as well just say nothing at all. There are the light, democratically appealing mainstream heavyweights, such as Fedde Le Grande and David Guetta, the progessive house of Deadmau5, and the influence of hip-hop and funk in Diplo (who sort of belongs in a league of his own). Of course, there’s also dubstep, which pretty much changed the whole game with its harsh, grating, almost painfully overwhelming bass lines and drum patterns; the genre became so unexpectedly popular, so quickly, that it’s now even used in television ads to sell things like computer programs.
Digitalism seem to fit somewhere in between. On the duo’s compilation album, DJ-Kicks, they haven’t changed all that much since their 2007 debut; which might not be a bad thing, except for the fact that electronic music itself has changed so much. On DJ-Kicks, it feels like Digitalism just can’t keep up.
DJ-Kicks has received some pretty negative reviews, which doesn’t really seem all that fair, because overall, there’s still some good fun to be had on the album. The slow-building, funky house of “83″ and the dark new wave of “The Sun” are all too appealing, and are sure to appease the party masses. But wait– those are two tracks not by Digitalism. They’re by Hey Now! and Who Made Who, respectively. My bad.
Digitalism do make a strong case for themselves on “Falling,” and “A New Drug,” where they seem to harken back to the brand of hard, minimalistic beats that they once did so well. But overall, the mix is choppy, with the high points immediately being chased by lows. It’s like Digitalism are a weak team of storm chasers: they’re choosing to ride out the storm, instead of heading straight into the eye.
As far as party soundtracks go, you might want to forego DJ-Kicks and just throw on 2007′s Idealism. Enough time has passed in order for it to be cool again, no? For Digitalism’s sake, let’s hope so.
2.5 / 5 bars