Back to the future with Euro-centric Chicago house veteran
Felix Stallings Jr has travelled a long way since helping to patent the Chicago house blueprint of the late-’80s. This album, partly recorded in Geneva, Frankfurt and Brussels, continues to indulge Felix’s obsession with an earlier age of electronic Europop, previously showcased on ‘I Know Electrikboy’, the 1999 album released under his Thee Madkatt Courtship alias.
Like Chicks On Speed or Ladytron, Felix raids the non-kitsch and irony-free memory banks of the genuine early-’80s here – as opposed to the nostalgia-industry caricature of comically coiffeured boys stabbing at synthesizers. ‘Kittenz And Thee Glitz’ taps into the chilly aesthetic of new wave and proto-techno, the historic crossroads when disco became synth-pop, and when machine-age soul superstars like Michael Jackson and Prince emerged from their cyber-pods. Great, weird times.
But this is not some coldly conceptual retro-homage, more like a natural manifestation of techno’s constant traffic between past and future, pop and underground, Europe and America. Fuzzy analogue sounds abound, but so do timeless house beats and techno basslines. ‘Magic Fly’ might evoke Kraftwerk with its pulsing sequencers and motorik throbs, but it also stands alone as a sensual soundscape of hypnotic melody. You may hear Duran Duran shagging Giorgio Moroder in the hi-NRG power disco of ‘Glitz Rock’, but equally Daft Punk could spring to mind.
Half a dozen guests share the journey. Current single ‘Silver Screen (Shower Scene)’ and its sister tune ‘Madame Hollywood’ feature DJ Hell signing Miss Kittin on vocals, deconstructing the trappings of fame in brutally dispassionate, icily erotic, deadpan
Nico-esque tones over thrusting synths and scything 4/4 beats. Junior Sanchez also turns up in ‘Control Freaq’, a body-slamming rhythmic loop of steroid-pumped disko. Felix’s softer, soulful side surfaces on the electronic lullabies
‘Pray For A Star’ and ‘Runaway Dreamer’, both crooned by Harrison Crump. Neither tune truly grates, but their breathy sentimentality sits ill at ease with the stark Euro-tech ambience elsewhere.
‘Kittenz And Thee Glitz’ is not a techno album, hardly even a dance record, only partially an ’80s homage, and not quite pure pop either. But it is also all of these things in one, plus some kind of warped comment on celebrity culture (the [I]Hello! [/I]pastiche cover) which still exudes its own brand of sexy, left-field glamour. What does it all mean? Who knows, but electronic music needs madcap, open-minded mavericks like Felix, his feet in the official story of Chicago house, his head composing alternative versions of pop history. Almost purr-fect.