‘Indie-Dance’. What a horrible concept that’s often turned out to be, redolent of clod-hopping landfill bands bringing in a second hand synth and making like A Flock Of Seagulls. Look upon Shitdisco’s works and despair. However, if anyone knows the actual meeting point between alternative guitar music and proper floor filling it should be the people behind the Kitsune Maison series of compilations, given the label’s succes rate and the way that the first ten gradually became a heatseeking byword for tastemaking in the blog-dance-pop sphere. Kitsune Maison 10, for instance, featured Two Door Cinema Club, Clock Opera, Is Tropical, Teeth, May68 and Yelle as well as Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip collaborating with Kompakt mainstay Justus Köhncke. Fashionistas turn this way, essentially, not unsurprising given the organisation’s origins.
So the idea of hitching a ride on the “indie” side of things – those quotation marks are highly advisable given the way the genre title has been pushed about and prodded over the last twenty years or so – is a fairly specious one and sets the quality control haywire. What it also means is many an appearance for the modern hell of the 80s synth sound, the belief among far too many that finding a keyboard that sounds like something from an early Depeche Mode hit automatically makes its progenitor cool. The sad thing is, it often does. That’s how we get Alexander Dexter Jones, referred to by the label as “the son of Mick Jones” in the hope we won’t look it up and find it’s to Mick Jones of Foreigner (thus making him half-brother of Mark Ronson), who sounds very much like Howard Jones.
In fact, if you want fantasy soundalikes who aren’t as good as either of their parts you’re in clover. Polarsets, from Newcastle, sound exactly like Cut Copy working with Two Door Cinema Club; Housse De Racket take on merging indie and dance by opening with a riff cribbed from the Strokes before turning into Phoenix. More directly in terms of poor juxtaposition, Icona Pop’s single handed re-establishment of the glory of Swedish pop, debuted to the wider world on Kitsuné Maison 10, doesn’t benefit from Logo sticking a house piano line under their floaty effortlessness.
‘Scattershot’ means as many shots hit the target as miss, of course, though here too we find bands who work because they’re quite like other bands that coined a distinctive style. “Wrexham’s answer to Battles” sounds like a dismissive line in a cynical, drawn out routine about the toilet touring circuit but Gallops are such a thing, ‘Miami Spider’ drawing on similar layers of math-rock intersection and glitchy propulsiveness. Is Tropical pick up where Klaxons dropped off between albums on their disco/post-punk mind melding, ‘The Greeks’ cutting a radio-ready melody into bassy distorted synth-pop. ‘Twist’ by Peter & The Magician, a collaborative effort between electro house remixer Yuksek and Stephen now formerly of Aeroplane, sets microhouse loose on the Italo-disco dancefloor armed with a vocoder.
As if just to up the so-hot-right-now quotient, the compilation starts with a mysterious band, one without a name for that extra zing, although given they’re already signed to the label proper and working with Alex Kapranos we can assume there’s some known name pulling the strings. The singer definitely sounds familiar, the style very much so, built on tension and burbling synths but no less intriguing for that. The most straightforwardly guitar-centric moment here, Guards’ hipper than thou lo-fi – leader Richie Follin’s sister is the singer in Cults and members of MGMT and Chairlift help him out – sounds slightly too stoned to become the noisy garage swoon it wants to be, but there’s clearly something there that doesn’t appear in a lot of the hi-hat friendly, whatever-happened-to-the-Sunshine-Underground? acts around it. On this evidence ‘indie-dance’ as a Kitsune-driven concept is all over the place, apart from often enough in properly groundbreaking places.