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Disco used to be a dirty word. For a few decades, the much maligned genre was little more than the punchline to a joke, a stain on the continuum which saw music liberated from concert halls, transformed by jazz, brought into homes on television sets during the rock ‘n roll era, turned upside-down by punk and then hip-hop, then invigorated yet again by the electronic movement. However, somewhere around the turn of the century, the current generation of rising artists began to actually listen to those 1970s cuts and began to see the silver lining around that pitiful, disco cloud. Suddenly, tastemakers were looking to Giorgio Moroder and long-forgotten Italo disco 7″s for inspiration, and the dead genre began working its influence into everything from Balearic house to hipster rock.
Kisses, the new project from Princeton frontman Jesse Kivel and Zinzi Edmundson, claims long-format, instrumental disco as its main inspiration, especially the work of Kivel’s longtime friend and golden-age disco producer Alec R. Costandinos. However, it’s a connection which may not even occur to a listener tuned into the duo’s first single, “Bermuda,” slated for an April 27th release on the new Surrounded by Sound label. For most, a more immediate reference point will be Jens Lekman; there is a striking similarity between his voice and Kivel’s, and both acts share a sense of appreciation for the more dramatic touches of the bygone disco era.
To these ears, “Bermuda” is a winsome, lo-fi pop composition filled with unlikely, cheap synths, a delightfully handclap-heavy drum machine thump, and a terrific sense of melody. Indeed, one of the most defining traits of both of Kivel’s bands is his gifted hand when it comes to whipping up large, flowing melodic passages, and this track is no exception. Singing of “Bermuda in the night” is potentially fraught with all kinds of kitschy peril, but Kisses’ tunefulness is too sweeping and uncomplicated to resist.