Mock & Toof Mock & ToofTuning Echoes
TINY STICKS / M&T INC
I imagine Mock & Toof ’s telephone is smoking from so many incoming calls. Or their e-mail inbox, backed up with hundreds of unread messages that they haven’t had time to get to. These boys have been very busy in recent months—did I say months? Sorry, I meant years—accepting remixes for some of the hippest artists of the moment, starting with The Juan MacLean, continuing with Hot Chip, and then onto Ladyhawke. Their skills are paying them back, but you have to admit that they’ve earned it, gleaning a sound that sits well with the most accessible, indie-friendly faction of revival disco, a close relative of what is also published on respected platforms like DFA and Rvng Intl. What now appears on Tiny Sticks –another of the big, good neo-disco labels, for the kind of music that deserves to be preserved for posterity– is, having said all of the above, the first match ball that Mock & Toof have to consolidate themselves as creators with artistic possibilities on the same level as their technical abilities. An entire album for themselves, to show that they know how to compose, that they know how to develop it with assurance. There are high-flying precedents–Metro Area, LCD Soundsystem, Chicken Lips, Lindstrom– and it’s a big responsibility.
Mock & Toof approach the first goal with absolute clarity: they seek to sound pleasant and uncomplicated. Their songs are entertaining, with voices out front and clear production that never strays off course. The point of departure is the retro sound of 80s New York (and occasionally European) disco music, but from here Mock & Toof take the liberty of changing the rules at their convenience to reach that balance with pop that they are so concerned with. So the majority of songs are vocal, although they have the good sense not to call on a collection of stellar guest voices that would have saturated the track list with too much luxury –something that always overshadows the final result, as we notice more who is there than how it sounds. They divide it all between Polina Lapkovskaya, the girl from the group POLLYester, new player on the Permanent Vacation label– and Gavin Gordon, who, if he entered a contest of imitators, would win at everything: sometimes his vocals sound just like those of Matt Bellamy (Muse) or Steve Mason (ex-leader of The Beta Band). They arrange it so the album has a pop consistency, and so that there is no break with respect to what they have been doing. For example, they recover “Underwater”, put out two years ago on DFA, and open the album with the first single, “Farewell To Wendo”, which puts everything in its place: catchy melodies, influences of italo, mutant disco and a feminine touch like Desire, Glass Candy or The Juan MacLean. It’s a type of production with room for everything from organic percussion with congas to sparks of space synthesisers, without forgetting all sorts of overdubs. So that the album sounds full of audio layers without ever being baroque.
Mock & Toof can be given various pompous titles or names. The British answer to DFA, for example: “From Kashima”, with its bells and groove could be a good example, because it has the sound of a high-end, wealthy club in a big city, and that way of suggesting a small, exclusive party. Or like Hot Chip if they had given us more production and rhythm than composition and pop song– “Day Ken Died”, anyway, would have been a song that Hot Chip would not have said no to, it would have fit them like a glove on “The Warning”. But Mock & Toof can’t be pigeonholed with an easy cliché, because then they let loose with a song like “Shoeshine Boogie”, which has elements of forgotten classics of Paradise Garage, of The Flirts ’ songs and, of course, the influence of the recovered mid-80s downtown New York boogie sound, and they also show that they know how to take advantage of their dance archaeology talents –not to mention “Norman’s Eyes”, which starts off with the same bass sequence as Klein & MBO ’s “Dirty Talk” to evolve into the impenitent disco-pop hybrid that rules in this album, which springs surprises on you as you listen to it. It leans toward punk-funk ( “The Key”) or calls on jazz sources ( “Mr. Frown”), and it even gets cosmic and gliding at the end ( “Take Me Home”), as well as rescuing the necessary early house touch (“Underwater”). Many registers and an unshakeable feeling: Mock & Toof know how to make music for a party without being vulgar. In their elegance –plus their capacity for adding well-constructed melodies to complex production– lies the secret of “Tuning Echoes.”