After Dark 2
Italians Do It Better
Jun 26, 2013 Web Exclusive
Way back in 2007, Italians Do It Better—the dance label curated by Mike Simonetti and Johnny Jewel—released their first After Dark compilation, kick-starting a conversation that was nearly as emblematic of that year's blog noise as were think pieces on Radiohead's pay-what-you-want sales policy. Disco was alive and doing the hustle again, at least as far as indie rockers were concerned.
Then it died again. Or fizzled out. The label's buzzin'-est acts—Chromatics, Glass Candy—took years to follow up on this hype, and people slowly stopped talking about it. Italo disco had pulled another vanishing act. (It takes an average of six weeks for the blogosphere to forget about yesterday's Next Big Thing.) After Dark eventually took on a mythical status, hallowed as if it were a lost artifact from a bygone era. Its high regard is well-deserved: the compilation mixed tones with the finesse of a master DJ, sliding from cheesy-fun nostalgia trips (a new version of the Indeep classic, "Last Night a DJ Saved My Life") to moody synth churners ("Lady Operator," and then a cover of Kraftwerk's "Computer Love") without losing the beat.
The genre resurfaced again in force with the help of the 2011 film Drive, which set actor Ryan Gosling's violent, slick-as-shit anti-heroics against a cool Italo disco soundtrack. Chromatics released the double album Kill For Love the next year to nearly universal acclaim. Finally, after a couple false starts, After Dark's six-years-in-the-making sequel received a stealthy release.
After Dark 2 isn't as good as its precursor, but it comes close. Johnny Jewel had his fingers in many of these tracks; Chromatics, Glass Candy, Symmetry, and Desire—all Jewel joints—make up nine of the record's 15 cuts. New arrival Appaloosa's two entries are highlights: singer Anne-Laure Keib has the smooth voice of disco space princess. Glass Candy's "Warm in the Winter" starts the record on a fun high, with its infectious monkey noises. (There's a three-word combo you rarely find yourself typing.) Farah's "Into Eternity" is its polar opposite; it's AD2's darkest, weirdest track—similar to the artist's "Law of Life," from AD1—featuring a singer talking over minimalist synths in a scary, lobotomized monotone.
The things setting After Dark 2 below its older brother is that it's not quite as fun—the darker tracks dominate this one—and that it doesn't flow together as well, which is an issue here primarily because many listeners will be hearing it in the form of a single, 78-minute MP3 file. But that's nitpicking-After Dark 2 is being given away by Italians Do It Better in that format. Giving it away, as in: for free. So go get it. Tiny complaints aside, it's a very good compilation, and at that price ($0.00) it's much better than we deserve. (www.vivaitalians.blogspot.com)
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