Cat Power

Electro heavy Felix da Housecat makes new songs sound classic

What makes Felix a master on Kittenz is his ability to draw from everywhere, both structurally and melodically. He's discovered pop songs but can't deny the pleasure inherent in relentless repetition. The first half of a song can head in one direction, and you think it's a tight little A-A-B-A structure -- your basic pop song -- and then, just when the hook's over and you think he's ready to resolve the whole thing, he'll refuse, or get diverted, or meander somewhere else, and then, all of a sudden, we're in a different dimension within the same world of the song, one that uses as a seed some aspect of the original melody but sprouts a whole other idea altogether. Unlike many producers, Felix likes a good pop hook.

It's this appreciation of simple song structure that sounds so fresh. A transformation has occurred in the past couple years of dance music, one that's been a long time coming, although it was once the norm: dance music with pop hooks and chord changes. For about fifteen years, dance forgot about pop structure and drew almost entirely from the Autobahn school of composition: linear, focused rhythms that stuck to a single propulsive idea and rode it until the end of the song.

Yes, melody was lurking within, but the hooks weren't pop, they were drops: Find a melody, build it up over and over again, add texture while the thump provides momentum and keep going, adding drama and intensity and then, at just the right moment, kill all but a tiny fraction of the rhythm for sixteen steps -- whoosh; from everything, nothing. The silence, the very absence of the collected rhythms, makes for a heavenly release, but on the dance floor, these heavenly sixteen beats are a tiny pit stop, one that dancers crave. But the pause is really just a tease: They're really waiting for the next sixteen, when all those heavy-duty rhythms reappear and hit the dance floor like a Mack truck: Boom, we're back, and the dance floor heaves until the end of the song.

There's nothing wrong with the structure, other than a listening public so brainwashed by its ubiquity that they're unwilling to tolerate it on commercial radio (either that or program directors are too chickenshit to try it out). But partially as a result of this wall -- and partially because of curious producers such as Felix -- more and more, dance tracks are celebrating hooks.

Felix da Housecat's most recent release, Excursions, is a mix, and it moves all over the place. Mixes are always a doorway into a producer's musical soul, and Excursions leaps from the poppy electro of Ladytron to the harder techno of Detroit's Jeff Mills, the Britpop of Dot Allison and a handful of Housecat originals and mixes. The mix just moves, jumps, dances around -- and if it's any indication of the direction Felix da Housecat will take when he's on the decks at Velvet, those in the mood for a good dance are in for quite a ride.

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