Simian Mobile Disco

Is Fixed

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James Ford and James Shaw are no strangers to the DJ mix. Back when they were two-fourths of the eclectically sunny, latter-day Brit-pop group Simian, they created a handful of highly enjoyable promotional mixes which, embracing the "anything goes" mash-up spirit of the times, slotted the likes of Kenny Rogers and Dr. John alongside more typical techno and hip-hop selections, or, in the case of 2002's Simian Mobile Disco mix, whose title would later became the name of the pair's production outfit, found equal space for Aaliyah, Tom Zé, Squarepusher, Beenie Man, Kraftwerk, and the Byrds. After Simian disbanded, the Jameses' mix output has edged gradually closer to more conventional, electronica-bound territory; their 2008 installment in the FabricLive series -- their highest-profile mix to date -- snuck in oddities by left-field grandaddies Moondog and Raymond Scott, along with a smattering of house classics, but otherwise kept things mostly minimal and recent. This 2010 offering, the duo's first domestically released mix in the U.S. (and the first in a series celebrating the New York party Fixed), follows suit, maintaining a strict, synth-heavy focus, with almost all the cuts dating from the past two years. Is Fixed arrived just in time for Halloween, which is a good thing because this is one dark, spooky dance set: kicking off with the retro-Italo horror-disco of Etienne Jaumet, highlighting the warped, gothic intonations of Pantha du Prince's "Behind the Stars," and Bam Bam's feverish, acid-jacking 1988 nugget "Where's Your Child?," and generally playing host to a horde of doom-laden drum tracks, needlingly ominous synth lines, and other nightmarish, nerve-wracking noises, not least on SMD's own "Nerve Salad." It's not quite all darkness and gloom, though. Conrad Schnitzler's "Ballet Statique" offers a respite of shimmering, ambient prettiness early on -- but it's telling that perhaps the year's most positive, life-affirming anthem, Hot Chip's "One Life Stand" (presented here in Carl Craig's extended PCP remix, and wedged slightly uncomfortably against Chateau Flight's percolating "Baroque") comes off a little bit queasy in this context. The set closes, fittingly, with an excerpt from Delia Derbyshire's 1964 radio-collage "The Dreams," wherein a woman describes a drowning nightmare. Fans of Simian Mobile Disco's albums (and their earlier mixes) will definitely miss the sense of freewheeling fun that characterizes most of their output, but Is Fixed offers an experience that is, in its own way, just as expertly crafted. This might be one to avoid dancing to alone in the dark.

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