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The Juan MacLean The Juan MacLeanDJ Kicks

8 / 10

The Juan MacLean DJ Kicks !K7 / POPSTOCK!

“The Future Will Come” (2009) was an album about the past, and it can’t even be called paradoxical, because The Juan MacLean’s music isn’t about experimentation or vanguards, it’s about sweating off your fat in a dark club until the sun comes up—everything else is optional. The second album of it’s career with DFA was different from the first, “Less Than Human” (2005), in that besides pop, electro and naughty disco music, MacLean also added a big dose of classic Chicago house to the 80’s equation, with stirring, crude beat-boxes, non-stop pounding, and metronome rhythms, sometimes sprinkled with a few acid drops. It was a more nocturnal, hedonistic, celebratory album than an explosive one, which only differed from their label colleagues, Hercules & Love Affair, in that Nancy Wang was always there to steer the excess of vintage house in other direction, and to claim Hi-Nrg and unisex synth-pop like The Human League. But Nancy’s not here, and there’s no reason to diversify the attention; called by the “DJ Kicks” series to mix their next series volume, John MacLean was clear about it: this is a shot of house with chunks of funk and constant allusions to that deep sound, both from Chicago and NY, that has been putting itself forward as a revival in action, and which all signs now show to be unstoppable.

The time frame that The Juan MacLean covers is from about 1987 to 1995, but with an interesting option in terms of choosing the songs for the mix: they are all inspired in that sound, a revival full of admiration, almost perfect copies of what were the old dubs of Masters At Work – “I Know You Were Right,” by Giom, the sound of jazz loops and crooners with echoes of the best soul like Jephté Guillaume did – 6th Borough Project– not to mention the obligatory trace of 303 twisting to the beat of a mechanical, imperative voice. “Here Today Gone Tomorrow” is brutal, with Florian Meindl, who has finally realised that everything goes better when he’s not trying to imitate James Holden; “Pieces Of Me,” from the Argentine Manuel Sahagún also deserves a round of applause. From the good old days, a few legends like the deceased Armando appear, although in an edit of “Don’t Take It” executed by Thomos, the boundary mark that creates the perverse final effect: it seems like a session based on forgotten B-sides and unclaimed classics. But what it really ends up being is a demonstration of the imitative quality, and just plain quality, of the aforementioned Windy City revival.

“Feel So Good,” the only song The Juan MacLean provided to the mix—followers of the “DJ Kicks” series already know that it’s the condition for signing the contract—is another brick in the wall of this new building in which we will once again go over the past with a magnifying glass: there are loops of disco and Hi-Nrg filtered to get that “air-blower” effect that always gets a whistle in the club. But the little more than three minutes that he lets it play, before splicing it into the second take of the Theo Parrish remix for Rick Wilhite ( “Get On Up!,” pure deep with Rhodes, like on the Guidance label), don’t do it justice: it’s ten minutes of hullabaloo and elegance on vinyl, ten minutes of flashback so that we remember how great house parties were, the positive vibe they gave off, how they cut to the chase. It’s also enough time to compare it with a lot of insipidness that is supposedly deep arriving from Europe, and which is to house what decaffeinated coffee is to the real thing, films are to .avi files, and condoms, to the penis. You could get on Juan MacLean’s case for being so shamelessly retro, but after the smile that a little over an hour puts on your face, what you’d rather do is give him a big hug and thank him. Really.

Richard Ellmann

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