I-Robots

I-Robots

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I-Robots, a compilation of some of the best and most hard-to-come-by Italo disco singles, fittingly comes from Italy's Irma label and was selected by record collector Gianluco Pandullo. You might know a couple of these tracks, and you might not know any of them at all, but if you're remotely familiar with new romantic synth pop, early New Order singles, early Chicago house, early Detroit techno, or the kind of left-field house (not house) produced by anyone from Felix da Housecat to Metro Area to Chicken Lips, the electronic sounds won't be the least bit foreign. Italian dance-music producers from the 1982-1983 stretch emphasized here either took cues from new wave and disco or played a role in inspiring the styles, often to the point where no one can truly pinpoint what fed into what. Regardless of these tracks' true place in music history, several of them have held up rather well -- not that timelessness was a primary concern when they were made. For better or worse, Italo disco was some of the most melodically advanced music made, and the fact that it was all geared toward the dancefloor -- where rhythm is central -- makes the feat even more remarkable. As demonstrated on this disc, the producers were nonetheless just as likely to come up with something eerie and menacing in spirit. The creepiest of the lot is Alexander Robotnick's alien "Dance Boy Dance," a perception-altering track that makes Visage's "Fade to Grey" sound like Bananarama in comparison. Charlie's "Spacer Woman" isn't far behind, a more energetic track with fluttering female vocals that could've been filtered through a fan. Some selections, on the other hand -- such as Dharma's "Plastic Doll," bearing close resemblance to something off the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack -- are so sickly sweet that most who enjoy them rate them higher in kitsch value than artistic value. Each inclusion is of some value, whether it's a curiosity or an unimpeachable underground classic. The complete package is a phenomenal way to get familiar, especially since there are so few all-Italo sets available, and it's also useful for the acquainted who have neither the endurance nor the wallet to hunt these tracks down piece by piece.

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