Midnight Magic

Most of you might know Kiko from his recent releases in Datapunk and Confused, or even from his collaborations with Alexander Robotnick in his own Hot Banana label. The differences between these two phases are fairly obvious, a jump from a totally rough oldschool cyber italo sound to the current angular minimal 'electro' trickery that's dominant everywhere. His older stuff is further more different in terms of musical orientation and feeling. It's hard for me to follow this new angle, especially as his sound nowdays borrows heavily from the work of others like Stephan Bodzin or Huntemann (still sounding to me slightly better, to be fair). And that's something unusual for a guy like Kiko, who always seemed to be able to combine the oldschool feeling with 'modern' technics in production and to always sound original, even unique.

The truth is that his retro sensibilities are easy to explain since he actually was one of the older class of french producers and a focal character in the development of the Grenoble scene (the only ones who actually played on even terms with the Munich guys during the first Gigolos Rising era). Alongside friends and collaborators Oxia, Human Body and The Hacker and with the support of 'Naughty' Moscatello and Al Ferox, since mid-90s they developed in their own Ozone label (and record store) an energetic mix of techno, hardcore and funky house, the latter especially through friendly BlackJack label (just check their roster). Later (1998, after the Daft Punk impact on Western civilization) Goodlife label was born, where this proto-crossover was further infused with the appropriate italo party feeling, electro futurism and EBM roughness to produce diamonds like Oxia's 'Body EP' or Arno Riva & DJ Speep's 'Sundown EP'. Every release actually has something to keep you interested.
Still, when I first tried 'Midnight Magic', his first album, I hadn't heard of Kiko yet, I just liked the cover (wish you could see the back side, I have to find a scanner...). I was left speechless, I bought the record and just run home. The vinyl version starts with 'Italomatic', which I kept playing for three or four years continuously until it got plowed from needle scratches and then I bought the 12'' and I still play it from time to time. The ultimate combination of techno rush, disco feeling, rough pumping beats and loud synth lines, one step beyond the relatively smooth Daft Punk mentality. 'Monique' (released separately as 12") is an excellent peak time electro techno track which went hit and 'Running Through The City' is perfect for those times you might just want to go instantly berserk without chemical support. And 'Burn Out' has the most accurate title I've encountered, a Blade Runnerish tidelike wave of power, pure synthesized emotions and deep fierce driving beats. Shit, I could write for this record for ever.

Later the Hot Banana label started as a poppier housey electro affair, with the adorable Sinema releases, but soon went oldschool and rough. A lot of old electro labels took the same course when 'electroclash' became a word in the mouth of every money-addict promoter and magenta and black was in every mag cover. House and electro started to sound silly when together, so people turned to the '80s italo sounds (which officiated the beginning of the now dominant 'cosmic' disco revival) or went hard. Soon Kiko was releasing hardly accessible hardcore EBM-style tracks with vocals and lately went modern.

Without judging him (how could I, anyway, he's a hero of mine) I think his peak was 'Midnight Magic', and that's why I'm presenting this to you. Though it may sound 'old' to some, (fat drums pumping, wall-of-sound production, fat synths, etc) it's still a marker of the french evolution of techno and a fine example of raw passion and inspiration. And it sounded like nothing else back then. It still doesn't, actually.

Kiko - 2001 Midnight Magic
Part 1 - Part 2
Info here.

For more Goodlife albums, go there.

1 comment:

Richard said...

Yes indeed, I too am a bit disappointed with Kiko's recent material. It's good, but is totally anonymous. Not something you could say about Midnight Magic!

Thanks for the link to the album, I have it on 2x12" so it'll be nice to have it on mp3 too.