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  • Filed under: Review
  • 01/15/2014

L-Vis 1990 Presents Dance System Dance System EP

For those who have been following Night Slugs and label co-founder James Connolly (a.k.a. L-Vis 1990) closely over the past year or two, Connolly's new, decidedly Dance Mania-influenced Dance System project is unlikely to come as much of a surprise. The launch of Night Slugs' Club Constructions series in 2012 with L-Vis 1990's own stripped-down, five-track EP clearly signalled the label's interest in mechanistic, hard-driving simplicity, and presented a logical counterpoint to the increasingly cerebral, abstract house mutations the imprint had been offering from the likes of Girl Unit and Jam City. Despite being the label's co-founder (alongside Bok Bok), Connolly's own music has often occupied a strategically tenuous position in relation to Night Slugs, and his career thus far has seen him release records on a diverse array of outside labels, including PMR, Mad Decent, and most recently, Clone's Jack for Daze subsidiary.

A new moniker brings with it a chance for new beginnings, but the Dance System EP is in fact Connolly's second release on Clone, following last year's Circuits EP. Both records demonstrate a clear obsession with the Chicago house lineage, but while Circuits was torn somewhat schizophrenically between classicism and a sweeping, swooshing sense of the hi-tech, Dance System more directly evokes the futuristic, machinic grit of L-Vis 1990's Club Constructions, Vol. 1, going for broke with four tracks of unrelenting, almost purely functionalist house; with the possible exception of last year's excellent but very different Ballads EP, Dance System might be Connolly's most satisfying record to date.

If his new moniker-cum-side project has given Connolly anything, it's a renewed sense of purpose and direction in a frequently inconsistent career. Dance System is more immediate and less conceptualized than any of his records to date, and the resulting tracks have a directness that works in their favor. "No More" establishes a sound that is as derivative as it is effective, with a stuttering vocal line, squelching bass, and urgent, clicking rhythms. The appropriately titled "DS Theme" is the closest thing the EP has to a statement of intent, and features a bouncy bassline alongside plenty of claps and staccato drums; it's striking to hear a producer who has built one of recent history's most distinctive dance labels, an imprint defined by its founders commitment to consistently taking unexpected and difficult left turns, making a track so traditionally primed for the dancefloor, but the song's simplicity is welcome. Another highlight is "Move It," which features Dance Mania legend Jammin Gerald, a move that might somewhat cleverly displace accusations that the EP is mere pastiche, but the track's limber, aerobic grooves and stumbling beats honestly make it the highlight of the release.

Nevertheless, there is a real question to be asked about what a producer like L-Vis 1990 has to gain by appropriating the sounds of Chicago ghetto house. While Connolly's interest in this music is undoubtedly motivated purely by sincere enjoyment, many people have rightly or wrongly come to expect a certain degree of difficulty and conceptual nuance from anything affiliated with the Night Slugs camp. That the Dance System EP has none of that isn't a fault of the record exactly, but it does make it difficult to see the release as anything more than a fun (and very successful) diversion from Night Slugs' and L-Vis 1990's future-club mandate.

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