Marxist Love Disco Ensemble

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MLDE Review

by Timothy Monger

Seemingly out of nowhere comes upstart Italian group Marxist Love Disco Ensemble to deliver a sublime record of smart, sunny grooves and impeccable musicianship. Citing a litany of quirky influences from Armenian proto-house pioneer Hamlet Minassian to Glaswegian jangle pop faves Orange Juice, their eight-song debut plays like a cheeky amalgam of minor European pop subcultures from the 1970s and '80s. An ornate architecture of vintage synths, sizzling guitars, horns, and harpsichords sits atop a whip-tight battery of boogie bass and drums. Across the board, the audio is gorgeous, with a glowing analog tone and plenty of eclectic production nods to Eastern European and Mediterranean disco, a scene which seems to be the band's Mecca. More important, though, is the smart melodic songwriting of bandleader Paolo Volkov who infuses the music with heaps of personality and charm. While there are no weak tracks, there are standouts, like the lovely "Brumaire," an indie pop gem whose intricate arrangement is evenly matched by its winsome melody. The elegant space pop banger "Material" is another high point as Volkov and his uncredited female co-vocalist weave a mysterious spell amid the song's curious bustle. Echoes of earlier lounge pop fusionists like Stereolab and the High Llamas can be heard in the band's approach, though there is also a sort of erudite playfulness in their bouncy rhythms, not unlike what Polo & Pan bring to the electronic sphere. With more obvious reference points and some commercial ambition, MLDE might have come off as a rote exercise in retroism. Instead, they've honored their influences with a winning balance of heart and humor that feels entirely original. Arriving as this record has with little pomp and scant background, it feels like an unexpected gift, and quite a fun one at that.

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