Simian Mobile Disco Tong Zi Dan
- Words: Derek Opperman
- Label: Delicacies
- XLR8R Rating: 6.5/10
Tong Zi Dan. It’s a name that seems innocuous enough. However, on close inspection it's much more grotesque; translating to "virgin boy eggs," it's a Chinese delicacy that consists of partially cracked eggs boiled in the urine of prepubescent school boys. This is the latest acquired taste that UK duo Simian Mobile Disco has decided to use for its Delicacies imprint, a label whose tech-house-informed EPs are all named after nausea-inducing edibles—past works have carried titles like "Casu Marzu" (a maggot-infested Italian cheese) and "Hakari (Shark Cheese)" (an Icelandic rotten shark dish). These names suggest something different from the norm: something special, abrasive, or differentiated by cultivated taste. However, the music contained within this EP is much less distinct.
Essentially, the record consists of four tracks of well-produced, club-oriented tech-house. "Tong Zi Dan," the titular single, leads the EP with a dubby motif built around a delayed stab loop. Its structure is simplistic and predictable, building and breaking back down across a number of easy climaxes created via delay and filter tweaks. Basically, it's the kind of track that plays like it's been created with the concerns of a large dancefloor audience in mind. In a DJ set, it would probably work, but it would do so without leaving any lasting impression.
That's a global criticism of Tong Zi Dan as an EP. Like the titular single, its other tracks only offer vaguely different atmospheres, all tinged with the same kind of studied professional sheen. "Escamoles" is a little brighter and "Smalahove" a little deeper. Ultimately, the most compelling material on the record comes via German techno producer Mike Dehnert. His remix of "Tong Zi Dan" travels in a deeper and less obviously dubby direction, stripping away the original's peak-and-valley structure to get at something more driving and linear, with a jacking bassline added to replace the stabs. It stands out because of its different arrangement, but also because Dehnert’s touch adds at least some semblance of flair to what is otherwise an EP of effective yet forgettable tracks.
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