November 9th, 2007
Chicago house music producer Felix da Housecat‘s latest release, Virgo Blaktro & the Movie Disco, is his third full-length album and his first studio album since Devin Dazzle & The Neon Fever (2004). Tracks cover the genres of electronic, soul, funk and pop, creating Felix’s production trademark “electroclash.” In contrast to his previous albums, Felix composed songs for Virgo Blaktro, rather than tracks, and also sings his own lyrics in an attempt to produce what he refers to as “a sexy, black, electronic disco record.”
Felix released his first single, “Phantasy Girl,” in 1987 at the age of 15, under the guidance of acid house pioneer DJ Pierre. After several years away from the dance music scene (in a break enforced by his parents), he returned to Chicago and to the music that he loves. Felix has been a fixture in the underground dance music scene for over a decade, and in the ’90s was recognized as one of the second wave of Chicago house producers. He found himself propelled into the mainstream spotlight with his 2001 album, Kittenz and Thee Glitz, and since its release he’s been busy remixing for everyone from Sean Combs to Madonna to Kylie Minogue. Though Felix is known for entering the scene via Chicago house, he is also widely recognized for electroclash, which forms a large part of this new album.
While all material on Virgo Blaktro was written by Felix da Housecat, the concept centers on the revival of black music from the ’70s and ’80s. When asked about his inspiration for this album, Felix responded: “This is the first record I’ve done with black folks, but to me it’s not a color thing, it’s more like a roots thing. This record has a black, soulful groove—it’s more like Sly and the Family Stone. With this album I wanted to go Parliament, I wanted to go Prince, and at the same time I wanted to go like George Michael and Pet Shop Boys, only them being black. This stuff is all black-influenced.” However, many of the musical references used by Felix on this CD are white new-wave and electro-pop references, including Devo (track 5, “Sweetfrosti”), Stuart Price (track16, “The Future Calls the Dawn”), Giorgio Moroder (track 15, “Night Tripperz”), Daft Punk (track 2, “Movie Disco”) and Men Without Hats (track 13, “Pretty Girls Don’t Dance,” which was also released as a 12” promo).
Overall, Virgo Blaktro & the Movie Disco leans more towards the production of pop songs, rather than dance floor tracks. On several of the tracks, including “Lookin’ My Best,” “I seem 2 Be the 1,” “Sweetfrosti” and “Monkey Cage,” Felix satisfies his obsession with ’80s synth-pop. While the album features electroclash pop songs, the production attempts to simulate a dance mix. The beat remains nearly constant throughout the album, and in switching from track to track, only the briefest of pauses occurs before the beat re-enters. The overall feel of the album is influenced greatly by electro. The average track length is between two and three minutes with only two tracks lasting more than five minutes. There are several tracks on the album lasting only thirty seconds, and while each serves as its own musical thought, there is not enough space between them to allow the listener to interpret each one individually. Thus, much of the album is made up of 30 to 120 second sound fragments.
There are several standout tracks on Virgo Blaktro & the Movie Disco, including “Tweak,” which was originally released in 2005 and became a popular dance floor anthem. Presented here in an abbreviated version, it seems oddly out of place in the midst of pop songs. While it has its fun moments, Virgo Blaktro, like his previous album Devin Dazzle & The Neon Fever, is somewhat disappointing. Neither really lives up to the potential of Kittenz and Thee Glitz.
Posted by Meghan Reef
Review Genre(s): Electronica, Club/Dance Music