ALBUM REVIEW: Italians Do It Better, After Dark 4
Famed Los Angeles electronic label Italians Do It Better is back with a brand new, 2-hour compilation of brand new music. It is the fourth entry into their After Dark series, which has been dropping since the Y2K indie sleaze era. In the mid ‘00s when the first iteration was released, the label was composed mostly of groups that label head Johnny Jewel produced for. Glass Candy, Chromatics, Desire and Symmetry all had a similar, Italo disco vibes, and the compilation served to tease out singles that would be on upcoming projects. There were spare acts like Farah, Twisted Wires and Mirage who provided some of the odder but most enjoyable tracks, with “Pegaso” by Professor Genius being my personal favorite. All of these tracks harkened back to a 12” single era of the 1980s that kept people moving on dancefloors.
In the years between After Dark 2 and 3, there was a dry spell period for the label which saw the release of many B-sides, remixes and alternate versions of old material, but nothing of what the fans truly hoped for, with the most hyped being Dear Tommy by Chromatics. After a slight reunion tour and the release of their final record Closer To Grey, the scene was looking pretty gloomy for longtime fans like me. Thankfully, the label got an injection of fresh blood in the form of artists like MOTHERMARY, Glüme, Orion, Club Intl, and others, bringing more modern flair and additional producers into the fold. The release of After Dark 3 was a major milestone for AntiArt in particular, marking the first time that artists responded to one of our reviews. The wild new compilation honored the danceable and pop centric nature of the OGs, but made some interesting adjustments with brand new stars.
After Dark 4 is a monster of a record, boasting 30 brand new tracks with artists from 11 different countries. The length is a bit of a double-edged sword, and I’ll get my negative criticisms out of the way first. With this many songs, there are a lot of tracks that get repetitive and are not as magical as a result. I would’ve preferred for this collection to be a little more well-groomed, and getting rid of all the covers would’ve significantly improved it. I won’t get into specifics, but I don’t think every artist here deserves a spot. With that being said, there is a room for experimentation here that allows for some really exciting shit. More than even the older comps, we have some really cool indie sleaze indulgences with songs like “Come Correct” by Cigar Cigarette, “Danser” by The Operator, and “Meet You on the Other Side” by Cameron Romance. We also get some softer rock with Club Intl and Lovelock, feeling almost like romantic breaks from all the action.
The best quality this record has going for it, just like the first one, are all the DJ set gems. Whether it be the groovy “Moonlight Dance - (Tommy ‘86 Remix)” or the classic Italo spoken word of Desire’s “Silver Machine”, this is music that only Italians Do It Better could come out with. This is the type of sound that makes me want to move to Los Angeles to be closer to this scene. A major artist highlight from After Dark 3 was from the Russian group Love Object, and they’re back here with another top three track, “Epicur”. The rhythms are relentless and infectious, with great echoed vocals from lead singer Dasha Utochka. Another top three track for me is Glüme’s “Dangerous Blue”. The production here is much more fast paced than anything I’ve ever heard her on, and her performance keeps up with the tempo. French group Double Mixte drop two of their best songs as well with “Chateau D’eau” and the closer “Am I a Fool to Love You”. I also want to shoutout the excellent, Miami-style remix of “Telescope” from the Body Double soundtrack; it truly makes that great, forgotten moment by Pino Donaggio even more fun.
This is another win for Italians Do It Better. It is a little bulky but I think that over time, hardcore and new fans alike will latch onto a great deal of the material here. While it’s not quite as cohesive as After Dark 1, 2 or even 3, it holds up to me as being incredibly unique in its style. For a label that only has one of its flagship acts still intact with Desire, the compilation is able to stand on its own quite well without relying too heavily on those older sounds.