"Ketamine Xmas," "Pink Panty," "Vibrant Member"—the collected discography of Lee Curtiss isn't exactly dominated by subtlety. The Berlin-based tech-house producer's music weaves an elaborate, and almost cartoonish, composite persona of assorted famous sleazoids from the past 50 years of pop culture. To give you an idea, the press release for Lunatic Fringe, his new EP on Visionquest, comes with a generous sprinkling of comparisons to Charles Bukowski. In some respects this seems a warranted comparison, as Curtiss' latest is a free-spirited dive into straight talk and raw sexuality. But, the similarities stop there, with Curtiss relying on the presumed novelty of his persona to fill the dead weight between his three tracks.
A collage of loopy drum patterns and sampled fills signals the beginning of EP a-side "Body Twitch (feat. Debbie Rennolds)." Curtiss wastes no time, joining the track with a breathy and drawled croon of "Workin' like we're makin' kids." Clocking in at over seven minutes long, it's an extended exercise in basic wordplay, with Curtiss offering dirty nursery rhymes like "I can make your body twitch" and "Let me make your pussy twitch." However, without much variation, it becomes monotonous well before the three-minute mark, its mellow tempo and meandering arrangement preventing it from drifting into the kind of sexual hypnotism induced by the more uptempo and direct forms of x-rated house.
"Freaks (feat. Debbie Rennalds)" continues where the a-side left off, with similarly looped-up drums and breathy invocations. But this time, he's dialed up the '80s references with analog pads and stabs that creep in and out of the mix, playing off the vibe of a deep-tuned, single-note bass riff. As with the rest of the release, Curtiss struggles to find a sense of distance travelled—the cut sounds more like a tricked-out sketch than a fully realized song.
Finally, the EP ends with the paranoiac atmosphere of "Haters." Playing with a more ethereal palette, he layers washes of noise with a spiraling melody smeared by reverb and tape delay. Here, the rhythm and arrangement is more sophisticated, with crisp patterns shifting through drops into moments of silence. Unfortunately, it's the release's weakest lyrical point, with Curtiss channeling the likes of Three 6 Mafia and DJ Deeon to deliver, "Player haters in the house/if you see 'em point 'em out." There's an almost lazy self-indulgence to it, its interpolation coming off like a quick attempt to create 2012's answer to Maceo Plex's 2011 anti-hate anthem "Stop Your Hate." This points to a problem of the greater EP—Curtiss' best works in the past have managed to graft his freaky persona onto tracks with sharp dancefloor appeal, achieving a balance between his vocal delivery and instrumentation that's unfortunately lacking on Lunatic Fringe.