Thunderball

ESL

Now that ultra-lounge cool, which takes its style cues from the clean lines and urban swank of early-’60s Europe, has peaked, it’s become a sort of genre of its own—retro-kitsch as present tense. That means the genre is existing without actually evolving, and what sounded so icily exciting just last year, like the global stutter of London’s Badmarsh and Shri, now takes its place amid the nightclub wallpaper. Which is fine so long as the Eighteenth Street Lounge label wants to put out its classy compilations and give local partygoers a giggle with an olive garnish. What’s less OK is that consortia like D.C.’s Steve Raskin and Sid Barcelona, here known as Thunderball, come to the party bearing the same six-pack everyone else has brought. Ambassadors of Style takes one trope—skittery beats—and repeats it over 11 hypnotically lengthy tunes with minor variations. Just so you know what you’re getting into, the opener, “Hijack,” is all skittery beats. The rest is mix ‘n’ match from a very short list. “Prime Minister” adds a hard, elastic groove to the s.b. background and interludes of squeaky bubble noises. “This Girl” removes the groove and folds in ethereal girl vocals (by “Miss Johnna M.”). With “Chronic Dose,” the girl’s out; spacey keybs are in. “Selector” features “Hutchy”‘s quick-lipped toasting over spacey bubbles (and piano chords, presumably meant as a joke—instruments! Like Jell-O, something our 20th-century forebears used to use all the time). “Pop the Trunk” puts the reggae-ish samples and a vocoder thingie over ye olde skittery beats, and so on. Accomplished and clean, predictable without being trancey, Thunderball can’t do much, but does it with such gelid confidence it seems churlish to ask when the boys are going to make a real record. —Arion Berger