Shit Robot From the Cradle to the Rave
Shit Robot's debut full-length is also a coming-out party for Marcus Lambkin, the spotlight-shy guy behind the unusual handle. Closely associated with DFA, Shit Robot also embodies the label's meticulousness: He has only dropped an EP a year between 2006 and 2010, skipping 2008. Even though From the Cradle to the Rave's running time roughly equals the rest of Shit Robot's discography, this collaboration-driven album is a low-stakes affair compared to the label's 2010 marquee release, LCD Soundsystem's This Is Happening. This doesn't prevent the album from reaching impressive heights thanks to the contributions of guest vocalists like Hot Chip's Alexis Taylor ("Losing My Patience") and DFA's house diva Nancy Whang. The latter contributes a huge chorus to the icy dance-pop of "Take 'Em Up," showing how Lambkin can play to his collaborator's strengths while retaining the analog meanderings of his instrumental work.
Vocals also throw Shit Robot's shortcomings into relief. Lambkin's own pitched-down voice fails to find chemistry with the bassline-driven "I Found Love," the closest the album comes to running in place. On its own, the song is skippable, but the album's intended audience would probably prefer to let the track play out and add to the overall effect, as From the Cradle to the Rave is an album proper, meant to be experienced as a whole.
The signature Shit Robot tune, 2007's "Chasm," positioned Lambkin as a dance-music classicist with light techno vibes. Oddly enough, the production styles of his debut album are so collaboration-sensitive that Shit Robot almost disappears into the background. (John MacLean's singing isn't the only thing that makes "Grim Receiver" sound like a Juan MacLean track.) But Shit Robot's classicism extends to his persona: This is functional, workmanlike music built out of sturdy analog technology. For home listening and for the club, this is useful music to have around.
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