Photo by Suren Manveylan
I get the resentment people have for nu disco; I do. It’s too shiny, too computerized. Lamely derivative, achingly trendy. Far too removed from disco’s gritty soul. And yet, I find it hard to care about these pretensions when I listen to the elated work of Diego Herrera, aka Suzanne Kraft. The LA-based producer arrived last year, when Running Back dropped his Green Flash EP. The follow up record, Horoscope, comes courtesy of LA’s new Young Adults label. It’s a big one — five original tracks, two remixes, all of them decent. The thing I like about Herrera’s work is its patience. The slow tempos — circa 115 — are only part of the equation; one gets the feeling that even if the metronome was bumped up to 130, his tracks would feel just as unhurried. In “Horoscope,” we’re held in stasis by a Balearic sort of atmosphere; a guitar chasing itself around in lazy circles alongside gusting, sunny chords. It’s only near the five-minute mark that the track’s centerpiece — hysterical, Bee Gee-like vocals — hit the mix, re-writing this mood.
Suzanne Kraft, “Horoscope”
“No Worries” is the record’s most anthemic piece, yet its two synthy hooks are brandished with care, snaking genially around one another to occasionally move in concert. There’s no rush to a crescendo, no frantic percussion; just a colorful, happy daze. Secret Circuit’s version of the same feels more closeted, fading the pinging/cascading motifs until they almost disappear, then inviting marimba and a gaggle of different synths in. It’s as if he couldn’t make up his mind which direction to pursue so he picked them all. The approach pays off, surprisingly. “Feel” is instantly reminiscent of Prosumer’s sets, pairing serene flute and synths with a rubbery low end. Here, the patience is not in the progression, but the track’s very cadence. It stumbles awkwardly from bar to bar, sounding removed from any attempt to emulate or update disco, though the genre’s influence is still clear. Max D’s “Raw Flute Swing” is even more spasmodic, emphasizing the track’s lopsided gait with booming kicks and hand-drum interludes.
Made up of bouncy, oddball synth lines, “Ritmo” sounds like a Todd Terje B-side, or perhaps a Lunar Disko signing. Once again Kraft wields his irrepressible tunes with care, rotating them into multiple, coherent combinations and, via pads, adding color at the appropriate times. It’s busy, but never crowded. “Crest” recalls Philip Lauer’s recent album of “yacht rock house,” but perhaps matches the tag even better. It’s just so smooth; imagining Christopher Cross bent over a guitar plucking out the elevator-music-like lead isn’t too much of a stretch. The track’s supporting cast of instruments easily turns it away from the “muzak” direction, however, several understated synth lines ducking in and out of the mix. As “Feel” suggested, Horoscope is about more than just nu disco, which arguably, Green Flash was not. It’s the sound of a producer subtly progressing, yet sacrificing none of his original charm.