Review of Electric Hustle Album by Kraak & Smaak

Being honest, the omens weren't good. Aside from the obvious nudge-wink implications of their name, that Kraak and Smaak were actually a trio of Dutchmen seemed to have musical portents of either a head crushing gabber experience or hyper extended cartoon techno . la mode, but instead of reflecting these common denominators, we're big enough to admit that Electric Hustle is in fact a record of genuine pedigree.

Kraak & Smaak Electric Hustle Album

Smaaker's (The name apparently has no drug references) Oscar de Jong, Mark Kneppers and the brilliantly named Wim Plug are far from novices in fact, having been around since the early part of the last decade, and Electric Hustle follows previous releases Boogie Angst (2005) and Plastic People (2008) in amongst a swathe of remixes in that period for everyone from Sam Sparro to Jamiroquai.

Given that so much club orientated music at the moment is infused with either the essence of dancehall, ragga or dubstep, there is a decidedly un-contemporary feel to Electric Hustle which in places lovers of the smooth old school house of the early 90's will warm rapidly too. Essential to building this atmosphere with authenticity are some inspired vocal performances from former scene veteran Romanthony, particularly on the hands right up in the air opener Built For Love and the even bigger funky piano chops of Let's Go Back. Those of a Hercules and Love Affair disposition should be interested.

This sense of going against the grain throws up some more conventional floor-wobblers, the inescapably bouncy eighties funk of Hold Back Love and Fairy Falling both doing their bit for deodorant sales, but perhaps understandably there are also a couple of misfires, notably the ham-fisted Ronson job on Call Up To Heaven, whilst as probably the most contemporary sounding effort in the stable, the sub-bass heavy Dynamite always struggles to be more than background noise.

As charming as all this nostalgia must be for people who still talk fondly of Jockey Slut, if this was just the story, it wouldn't be particularly groundbreaking. But what really makes Electric Hustle so satisfying are the parts that other DJ artists cannot reach; My Synths Are The Bomb throbs with an oddly insistent techno pulse and spoken word vocals which manage to ensure it lands somewhere between the Aphex Twin and Bushwacka, whilst the gospel ambience of closer Turrell's Lament proves that there are pop niches for the Dutchmen to explore in the future. Of all the unexpected twists, the icing on the cake however is provided by Never Too Late, a jazzy, lounge influenced slice of bossa nova that brews slowly into a piece of clever melancholy which dare we say it Elly Jackson might've produced in one of her blue periods. All of which supports the inevitable conclusion that the underground may soon have to give Kraak and Smaak up to us.

Andy Peterson

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