Call up your folks and tell ’em disco ain’t dead, baby! Jake Kaufman‘s newest release, the soundtrack to WayForward‘s 3DS puzzle-platformer Mighty Switch Force! 2, harkens back to the glory days of dancehall greatness, yet still keeps things fresh by throwing in some of electronic music’s more recent innovations. Nearly every track on this album will make you want to stand up and get down. I guarantee it. So grab your white suit and let’s groove!
This album has a very distinct, classic dancehall inspiration behind it that strings the whole album together, but different tracks approach that unifying sound from various angles. Numbers like “Rainbow Love Zone,” “Got2BAStar,” and even the short little “Title” track bring the funk like only old-school-inspired dance music can. I honestly thought Maurice White or Barry Gibb was going to start singing when I cranked up that opener. You can imagine my surprise, then, when “Rescue Girl” comes around at the end and actually kinda delivers on that feeling, in the form of Kaufman himself singing with a couple friends, no less.
Meanwhile, other tracks take the album’s disco sound and brilliantly mix it into something more contemporary. “Exothermic” lays that sound over a drum-and-bass beat that slides into classic dubstep, but without following that old and busted build/drop formula that loses the beat. In fact, the closest thing this album has to a modern dubstep track is “Soak Patrol Alpha,” but even that song has more in common overall with 80’s pop music, and the drop isn’t even really a drop so much as a random section of wubs. Somehow it works, oddly as that may strike you.
Other tracks fit into a kind of gray area between these two extremes, and I think that’s where the album truly shines. “The Afterblaze” has got to be the catchiest thing I’ve heard so far this year, and gives “Exothermic” a run for its money in terms of being my album favorite. Tracks like “Soft Collision” and “Dalmatian Station” owe as much to 70s disco as they do to modern house music, yet both manage to synergize those two genres, rather than imitate one or the other. “Rescue Girl” is so incredibly fun to sing they probably can’t play it in countries where joy is frowned upon by the State, and “Glow” sounds like the opening theme to a Powerpuff Girls movie in the best way that sentence can be read.
My only real gripe with this album is that it can be repetitive at times, but that doesn’t even feel fair considering that’s my default problem with any video game soundtrack. “Title” forms the basis for much of “Got2BAStar,” while “Rescue Girl” is just a longer version with words. This isn’t inherently bad, but I could definitely understand people taking issue with it. Beyond all that, the album in general is built upon the soundtrack for the previous game in the series, which Kaufman also made. However, where the MSF1 soundtrack had chip, MSF2 has disco, so if you’re familiar with the previous OST, you may or may not prefer this one.
The album closes with several remixes by other artists of some the album’s core tracks, which are great from a standalone perspective but might feel repetitive if you’re listening to the album cover-to-cover. Under his “virt” handle, Kaufman turns “Rescue Girl” into a slow-jam R&B song, which was pretty rad, while his remix of “The Afterblaze” lives up to its “Bonus Chip Mix” subtitle. Coda drops the dubstep trappings of “Soak Patrol Alpha” and replaces the main melodies with delicious funk basslines. Finally, DJ Bouche‘s orchestral remix of “Glow” could easily be a tune in a Zelda game.
Just like the firefighter heroine of his song, Jake Kaufman is here to rescue us. His disco- and funk-inspired music rises above the jaded wastes of modern dance and reminds listeners that, in the future, electronic music can still have a soul. This is the music we’ll be listening to when we’ve all got virtual reality glasses grafted to our faces and we’re dancing in German diskotheks in the Metaverse. Except we haven’t left out living rooms.
Danwich once deconstructed a post-modern novel. He is still too irradiated to risk personal human contact. You can reach him through his email or his radio show’s page.