Excerpts from The Looks
MSTRKRFT - The Looks
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Canadians Jesse F. Keeler and AL-P are the people behind MSTRKRFT, AL-P is a well established studio technician, and Jesse F. Keeler was a member of the Toronto based duo Death From Above 1979.  Keeler and AL-P have been working on and off again together since 1998, but this was their first formal electronic music release.  I had read a lot of buzz in the music mags about this group, and when I found this disc at the local Best Buy, I decided to pick it up. 

All in all, this is a passable disc.  If you’re a Daft Punk or a Basement Jaxx fan, you’ll probably love this disc.  I found the flavor of dance music that these two guys have come up with to be a little too commercial, or too “pop”.  There’s nothing wrong with it, and if some of these tracks were slapped into a mix, I might like them better.  But I really get tired of the electronic enhanced vocals.  Overall, I’d say that much of this disc sounds very clichéd to me.  

 

Here’s what others thought of “The Looks”:

 

Pitchfork Media

 

. . . . .In fact, MSTRKRFT so religiously adheres to the disco/house production instruction manual that the album sadly lacks an original twist that could've been scavenged from Keeler's background. Where DFA79's hard-rock singing could have added much-needed edge, the vocoder is instead omnipresent, and while it occasionally adds cybernetic charms to a track like "Work on You", the instrument is largely used to cover up lifeless, leering vocal melodies like "Bodywork" and "Easy Love".

 

Whereas DFA79 got considerable mileage out of the tension of playing dance-based music using the weaponry of hard rock, MSTRKRFT isn't conflicted enough to warrant more than a shrug. Keeler succeeds in meticulously reconstructing the electronic music he clearly has a taste for, but without stirring in any of his own personality the songs do little more than run in place, joylessly hitting the marks without changing the rules in any meaningful or attention-grabbing way. Just as a little repression can make a person's behavior that much more interesting, so too could MSTRKRFT's sound benefit from being a bit less in touch and open with Keeler's formerly-hidden inner desires.

 

Stylus Magazine

 

MSTRKRFT are that one dude from DFA1979 and his friend DJ Cowabunga or whatever. They think the '80's are totally radical (not to be confused with “radical politics,” my initial, erroneous first guess). But it's not their fault. No, it's been foisted on them—subconsciously, via hypnosis—by their taste-making friends and associates, for instance those asshole-as-viable-lifestyle-choice assholes over at Vice. (For the record, it has been scientifically proven that we will run out of retro immediately after Flannel Redux: Winter '07.) So our “homeboys” cop every usable idea from the post-Moroder/pre-Underworld dance, acid house, and electro canon.

 

Well, more like three: your requisite 808 bass pulse, your ubiquitous “Axel F” synthesizer doodling, and your vocoders, everydamnwhere your vocoders! The Looks is like the Witness Protection Program of electronic disco, where they put the folks for whom the normal anonymity of dance DJ's is simply not enough. Either that, or it's where Roger Troutman went to die; it isn't your bouncy, “Believe” vocoder either, it's a flat, dessicated, pre-digital thing, so whether they're cooing about how they're going to “work on you,” or “make you move,” or “beat the pussy up,” or whatever they're saying, it always sounds like you programmed AppleTalk to croak lascivious things at you. Ew.

Their programming is tailored to fit, so it all sounds basically the same—the only difference between, say, “Work on You” and “She's Good for Business” is the “riot grrrrrrrrrrrrls” trying to invent some sort of latter-day don't-care Macarena on the latter. It's kind of a shame, since they've proven to be quite the ace remixers of the less-is-more variety—they even managed to make that Wolfmother song more than just palatable by adding little more than hand claps and a vocal stutter, but someone really should have told them that a full-length of just that would be pretty “boring.” Unless of course the idea was to make a bunch of 12” mixes for segues for when DJ Gnarly-As-Fuck is conscripted to spin at their manager's kid's Bar Mitzvah. In that case, it's pretty successful.

 

SF Weekly

 

Over the past year the pair has crafted remixes for such luminaries as Annie, Bloc Party, The Gossip, and Wolfmother; The Looks marks its first excursion into all-original material. Like DFA 1979, there's not a guitar within earshot here. Nor is there any rock — this is throwback disco-house music, Chicago-style, executed quite ably yet always with a smirk.

 

Handclaps and Le Tigre-sounding choruses permeate the wiggly electro-funk of "She's Good for Business," while "Street Justice" veers from the disc's predominantly frothy, pastel-colored vibe with gritty, distorted sequences, and a darkly proggy keyboard solo accompanying its 4/4 pulse. And like the track's recurring vocal sample claims, The Looks, more often than not, can really kill on the dance floor.