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Shit Robot

From the Cradle to the Rave

[DFA; 2010]

By ; September 20, 2010 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

Every artist has their story, and Marcus Lambkin, aka Shit Robot, is no exception. Originally hailing from Dublin, Lambkin landed State side thanks to a green card lottery, and eventually landing a carpentry job that led to his debut album From the Cradle to the Rave. It’s a bit of hyperbole to say that Lambkin has been working on thisalbum for over twenty years, but he began DJing in Ireland in the late 1980s, continued his gigs in the United States in 1992 and eventually met up with the now-infamous James Murphy of DFA Records. While crafting the cabinets for what is now DFA headquarters, Murphy and Lambkin shared favorite records, played Nintendo, and eventually coined the name Shit Robot. And while Lambkin has only been recording under the moniker Shit Robot for about five years, his path to this debut has been both long and filled with lucky twists of fate.

From the Cradle to the Rave works largely as a catalogue of Shit Robot’s work to date, featuring plenty of new material along with tracks that were originally released as far back as 2006. And it’s this “greatest hits” attitude that both helps and hinders the album; some of the best material has been released for years, causing From the Cradle to the Rave to feel more like a gathering of songs than a cohesive album packing a surprise punch. But that’s not to say I’ve turned my back to the half of the album that’s new, as Lambkin and Murphy have enlisted some of DFA’s most popular artists to help round out an amazing record.

Along with the recycled tracks, this list of featured artists only adds to the sense of familiarity for anybody listening to Shit Robot for the first time. When Alexis Taylor’s soft vocals layer over the looping piano track in “Losing My Patients” you can’t help but think you are hearing a new Hot Chip single. Immediately following that is “Take Em Up,” a classic disco house anthem featuring the vocals of Nancy Whang who has also done work on the latest Juan Maclean and LCD Soundsystem albums. While there is no doubting that Lambkin is second to none when it comes to production, Rave feels all too familiar through the first few tracks.

But on “Grim Reciever,” the album’s fifth track, Rave finally explodes into an acid house album that sets Lambkin apart as one of today’s most brilliant producers, making what most are calling a 20 year wait well worth it. And while “Grim Reciever” is a slow and brooding hook for the first few minutes, Juan Maclean’s yearning vocals add to the feeling of running to a finish line that barely inches closer. Mix in a stylistically minimal guitar solo in the middle and end of the track, and “Grim Reciever” manages to expand the boundaries of what dance music is all about, a trick that DFA might know a thing or two about.

What remains fascinating about From the Cradle to the Rave is that I feel like I’m spoiling the album by even mentioning some tracks that have been released on 12” formats already. The original Shit Robot single “Triumph” and “Work it Out” featuring Saheer Umar of House of House fame are two of the better tracks on the record. I’ve also personally experienced Lambkin set a cold Minnesotan dance floor on fire with “Simple Things (Work it Out)” featuring the vocals of Ian Svenonious. And so Rave ultimately feels like a reward for those folks yet to jump onto the Shit Robot bandwagon; ready to experience the piano interlude in “I Got a Feeling” for the first time, waiting to freak out when Svenonious screeches on “Simple Things,” and reveling in the beauty that is Lambkin’s true opus: “Triumph.”

And it’s that same word that sums up the essence of one of the year’s best electronic albums, From the Cradle to the Rave is a triumph of sound in a world where so much music is monotonous and careless, and while Lambkin certainly took his time, I think I speak for every Shit Robot fan when I say I hope this is just the beginning.


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