The title could have been much better, but that’s about the only improvement needed on the long-awaited debut album from longtime producer Dennis Jr., I. Voice has a few suggestions: “Somebody Finally Made a Nu Disco Album That Doesn’t Sound Like a Weekend Binge By Bad Musicians on Bad Cocaine” perhaps “Downtempo Music with Copious Cowbells”, or maybe “Alien Sleestaks from Brazil”?
Digressions aside, whatever anyone decides to call this album, besides Elektro Donkey, obscures the fact that this guy has been making records for twenty years but has been hiding a funky gem like this in his brain the whole time, leaving listeners to wonder what other brilliant creations the Norwegian producer hasn’t shared yet.
Lindstrøm collaborator and vocalist Christabelle happens to be Dennis Jr.’s sister and so a quarter of this album belongs to her. Those who delighted in her Eighties affectations on Real Life is No Cool will be surprised by the smoky, soul chanteuse leanings on her three appearances here.
The album’s opener is a weird mix of Northern Mexico ranchera rhythms, Nordic pop, and sultry Eighties jazz – most of that belonging to the ultra sexy pipes displayed by Christabelle. It’s a strong opening for an album with more twists and turns than a plate of spaghetti. “Soul Fusion” follows things up with an about face musically, reminiscent of the old Mundial Muzique compilations on Guidance Recordings, essentially Norwegian producers dabbling in fusions of electronica, jazz, and worldbeat. There is also a nice dub edge to this track that suggests Elektro Donkey is a downtempo album at heart. “Don’t Blame Me”continues this trend with blunted trip-hop beats, muted pianos, and a funk-fortified bass line.
The album’s title track is disco, plain and simple, gussied up for today’s kids with a few modern, melodic flourishes. But this druggy, head-nodding groover could also easily fake its way on to a Horse Meat Disco compilation with its mellow Seventies vibe. “Chicago Bus Stop” featuring Nigerian saxophone player Dennis Otone is so reminiscent of a Jose Padilla track circa 1999 that more than one listener may be confused as to what year this is currently upon listening. The afrobeat bongos, housey bass lines, Sunday afternoon golf match guitars, and Otone’s muscular playing, it all paints a very specific picture – one of kitchy retro, which this album isn’t really too mired in but is a definite trapping of the Smalltown Supersound genre in general. Next, Dennis Jr. steps back to 2009 for a version of “Are You The One” from his own Acustikk imprint. Christabelle’s voice returns and any time that happens on this album it’s a good thing. This is an ethereal downtempo number that has hints of Lisa Shaw’s seminal work on Naked Music just for good measure.
Things head back toward disco on “I Just Want To Stay”, a goofy track that is disposable for the most part, whereas the more inventive “Okwem Me” marries high life to house music, netting much better results. “Call Code” is a tough one to figure, starting out with a cheesy disco vibe before morphing in to this pseudo-Sade number with sis leading the way for her sibling musically. “I Need A Break” flirts with house music, but is so laden with flutes and other decidedly non-club elements that makes it more suited for home audio adventures. Things close with the “Disco Mix” of “Feel”with a sound that can best be described as Todd Terje influenced and sends the album as strong as it came in.
Dennis Jr. may not have created the best title for an album ever with Elektro Donkey. But his debut album still manages to be a high quality downtempo affair heavy on the low key vibe and vocalist Christabella
|Artist: Dennis Jr.
Title: Elektro Donkey LP
Label: Beatservice Records
Tracklist01 Please Don't Give Up (feat. Christabelle)02 Soul Fusion03 Don't Blame Me04 Elektro Donkey05 Chicago Bus Stop (feat. Dennis Otone)06 Are You The One (feat. Christabelle)07 I Just Want To Stay08 Okwem Me (Dennis Jr Remix)09 Call Code (feat. Christabelle)10 I Need A Break11 Feel (version disco)
Our Rating: 7/10