Published Mar 01, 2000Sometimes it feels like the 80s are a bigger phenomenon today than they were when we lived them. Aside from the usual proliferation of retro club nights and compilations, there's the excess of nostalgia that you hear in the tacky synthetics of Les Rythmes Digitales; hip-hop's pimp-producers sampling old school records (themselves samples of older schools to begin with); and the nostalgia nausea of Pop Up Video. But it'd be a mistake to slip in the latest from Sylk 130, titled Re-Members Only, as a part of this retro-rewind. The disc features the voices of Alison Moyet, Kathy Sledge and ABC's Martin Fry, but as bandleader King Britt insists, "it's not a straight 80s record.
"Everyone has this preconceived notion of what the 80s sound like," he says. "Human League, New Order, Pet Shop Boys and really heavy synthesizers and everyone's trying to do that. I mean, why would you try to sound just like the Pet Shop Boys? You may as well just buy the Pet Shop Boys."
The beauty of Re-Members Only is that it rediscovers the 80s, and in a way that's as sensual as it is experimental. Like when the Sylk take on Nu Shooz's "I Can't Wait" with the live pairing of sultry vocals and their horn-y, JB-styled funk band. There's a similar switch-up when Britt borrows a few avant slow-jam motifs from the Art of Noise to turn out an extravagant ballroom of sound for "Incident On A Couch Pt 2." More than just going back into the past, Re-Members Only looks forward to making love.
"I always try to bring a sexy vibe to whatever I'm doing," enthuses the King. "On the album, I tried to bring a Frankie Beverley-Maze type of vibe on the drums and the bass, and then add the Trevor Horn and Sade nuances to it. Because all of those type of influences are really passionate, but to put them all together is like boom'."
The impact also comes from Britt's innate ability to navigate different genres, and fuse them together as though they had once been cut from each other. The reunion is most evident in the beat-patched flow of "One and Only" and "Rising," bringing together not only the vocals of Martin Fry and Kathy Sledge, but also the styles of synth-pop and electro-funk, and for Britt, the significance not just musical, but cultural as well.
"I always loved Martin Fry and his whole vibe in the 80s. His songwriting is so kitsch, yet funky. And I wanted to hear him over some kind of dance tune an 80s, black dance tune. Mostly because I really wanted to show how every type of music is relative. You just have to find a point where you can bring them together."