Norway’s Sex Tags crew have long been at odds with everything even slightly formulaic, stereotypical or predictable. Delving into multi-genre oddities with an eye on eccentric dub, disco, house, and techno, they have garnered a devoted cult worthy of the term Mania. Sex Tags Mania label co-founder DJ Sotofett has especially proven himself to be a tour de force: often maintaining a conspicuous distance from the press, we’ve seen him produce and remix quite a lot in the past years, speaking mostly through his musical or graphic language (alongside his brother DJ Fett Burger) or in collaboration. His most recent releases with NYC’s Madteo, There’s Gotta Be A Way, exemplifies one of those joint ventures, where they both explore the limits of their respective crafts.
The beginning of both sides of the record (but especially the W-side), is a basic bass pattern. Looping for more than 15 minutes in the Underground Mix, its every bar feels like scaling and descending a steep Escher-esque slope over and over again. It’s the most direct, obviously unaltering sound in the composition, an unending circle of an almost exhausting experience, were it not for Madteo’s ad-libbed moody performance, loosely based on a Mariah Carey song. Matteo Ruzzon follows her lyrics for nearly five minutes, but then branches out completely into a deeply personal, 10-minute freestyle poem about acceptance, displacement, and despair. Throughout his monologue, the all-enclosing bass undulation persistently causes a choking feeling of an inevitable entrapment, but still, the track ends suggesting a possibility of an escape, immanent to its sinister world.
That’s the exact starting point of the shorter of the two cuts, “Vision Of Love Club Mix” (on the V-side), which is much lighter in character. It’s a straightforward transfiguration of the “Underground Mix” with strikingly different results. It gains a steady, but chugging percussive backbone and soothing, dreamy synths to go with it. The bass line is switched, this time warm and enwombing; it sinks Madteo’s cinematic performance into its own gravitational pull, until his vocals morph into a distant silhouette, a reconstructed memory of a hardship long gone. The contrast is uncanny and deeply hypnotic, and it yet again confirms DJ Sotofett’s striking ability of picking out the best from his collaborators. At the same time, both sides of the 12″ present remarkable examples of how much subtle simplicity can actually achieve. However you want it done, there’s always got to be a way to do it. Which is exactly the DIY ethos Sex Tags Mania stems from.