Album Review: Italians Do It Better presents... After Dark 2

Album Reviews
Gerrit Feenstra

For nu disco bands, there is no greater home than Italians Do It Better. Johnny Jewel and his cohorts have been driving the genre in daring, exotic directions since 2007. Back then, Jewel released a stellar DJ mix of his signees called After Dark. The collection sparkled with all the glitter and finesse of disco's finest hour in the 70s, but also pushed the envelope in terms of experimental endeavors and personable artistry. Italians Do It Better picks their acts carefully, and not a one among them is ignorable. Now, more than half a decade into the label's heyday, Johnny Jewel has curated a sequel to his interstellar mix to show how far he and his friends have come in the past six years. After Dark 2 was announced July of 2012, and after a year of cutting the record down to size, we now have it. After Dark 2 shows that every act on Jewel's label has grown and flourished in the last couple years, and not a single track on this mix deserves to be ignored. It's the perfect one stop shop for spacey grooves, disco vibes, and endless finesse. Jewel and his team have curated a near-perfect representation of all Italians Do It Better has to offer. After Dark 2 is worth your immediate attention.

After Dark 2 grooves - there is no doubt about that. While its predecessor was a continuous DJ mix, After Dark 2 is made up of separated offerings from each band, but the break in energy never once interrupts the underlying tone or vibe of the collective. Italians Do It Better hosts a lot of bands with a lot of different sounds. The sexy, effeminate wandering of Glass Candy is entirely separated from the computerized introspection of Mirage. Of course, neither of these host the harmonic and instrumental overdose that is Chromatics, and none of the above chill your spine with the druggy, pulsing genius of Farah. There are plenty more to mention - Desire, Symmetry, Appaloosa, and more are all worth their individual introductions, but with After Dark 2, they all get their place in the spotlight at just the right moment. Johnny Jewel has an uncanny gift for timing (the telling of a truly noteworthy DJ and producer), and After Dark 2 is perfectly placed. With it, Italians Do It Better gives each of their minions a perfect sense of individuality amongst the collective wonder.

Thankfully, After Dark 2 isn't an altogether predictable sequel. Most of the bands on Jewel's label have shifted slightly in sound and direction. The disco decade has evolved into the next, embracing new wave and electro in more than a couple ways. The combination of the two makes After Dark 2 a new beast, carrying a lot more size than its predecessor. Even the best of the disco tracks like the Mirage cut "Let's Kiss" hold a much more epic groove than the toned back, fuzzy overtone of After Dark. Meanwhile, Chromatics "Cherry" and Glass Candy's most excellent "The Possessed" move us into the 80s with a divinely synthesized sense of excitement. Johnny Jewel's sense of motion has evolved from a dance hall relic to a full out dance hall competitor. While Italians Do It Better cuts still hold their own sense of identity in the sprawl, they carry just as much sensual mystery as the dance music's best.

With After Dark 2, Johnny Jewel helps us celebrate his label's insane progress into the modern age in the last six years. While Chromatics and Glass Candy have entered a phase of widespread critical appeal, the rest of the Italians Do It Better acts aren't far behind. After Dark 2 is a perfect introduction to all and shouldn't be ignored.

After Dark 2 is out now on iTunes. CD copies will be available through the Italians Do It Better store in June, and vinyl copies will be available shortly after. See Chromatics and Glass Candy this summer at Capitol Hill Block Party! Tickets are still available on the Block Party website.

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