Sunday, April 4, 2021



Head On 


Spin, January 2000

by Simon Reynolds

Head On is a twisted, tripped-out  brother to Les Rhythmes Digitales Eighties-

influenced Darkdancer. But  where Jacques LeCont's fond exhumations of Shannon and

Nik Kershaw are typical French retro-kitsch, Super_Collider  treat Eighties electro-funk as

a prematurely curtailed modernism. This English duo (producer Cristian

Vogel and singer Jamie Lidell) pick up where Zapp's "More Bounce To The Ounce",

George Clinton's "Atomic Dog," and Janet Jackson/Jam & Lewis's "Nasty" left off.  This 

era of  dance music just before sampling totally took over fascinates because of its crush

collision between trad musicianship and futurism:  you can hear the players struggling to

extract funk from unwieldly and unyielding drum machines, sequencers and synths.  Hence the apparent paradox whereby  the best Eighties dancepop still sounds amazingly modern  while much contemporary dance music sounds retro--because today's producers get their funk by

proxy, through sampling Seventies sources like vintage disco loops or jazz-funk licks.

Head On  gets me flashing on the boogie wonderland of the post-disco, pre-house

interregnum--the bulbous synth-bass and juicy-fruit keyboard licks of Gap Band, Steve

Arrington, Man Parrish, D-Train, SOS Band. But as you'd expect from someone who

records solo for avant-techno labels Mille Plateaux and Tresor, Vogel's version of

bodymusic is decidedly mangled and alienated-sounding, while Lidell croons a kind of 

cyborg hypersoul--grotesquely mannered,  FX-warped, yet queerly compelling. 

Head On's highlight  "Darn (Cold Way O' Lovin')"  has a groove that bucks and writhes like a rutting

hippotamus. "Take Me Home"  is robo-Cameo, featuring a digitized equivalent of slap-bass

and Lidell's most blackface  warbling (imagine a bionic Steve Winwood). And "Alchemical

Confession" is the kind of black rock I always hoped Tackhead or Material would deliver,

all acrid guitar squalls and Lidell flailing like Jamiroquai in a meatgrinder (now that's

something I'd pay to see).  

A few years ago, Vogel  released  an EP called "We Equate Machines With

Funkiness". Funk has always existed in the biomechanical zone between

James Brown aspiring to be a sex-machine and Kraftwerk finding the libidinous pulse

within the strict-time rhythms of automobiles and trains. When a band's playing has too much

fluency and human feel, you don't get the  tensile friction that defines da  funk (which is why an excess of

jazz influence sounds the death-knell for any dance genre's ass-grind appeal).  Super_Collider,

though, have a perfect grasp on funk's uncanny merger of supple and stiff, loose and tight. 

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