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Audio Autopsy, 2018: Roosevelt & The Airbrushed Synthpop of "Young Romance" Leads to Chic "Passion" of Nile Rodgers
Roosevelt's New Deal: A musical millennial trapped in a 21st-century landscape littered with drum machines and Auto-Tune collaborates with a '70s disco legend, his longtime musical influence.
Herr Marius Lauber, Spitzname Roosevelt
First things first: The “airbrushed synthpop” phrase in the title isn’t mine. The Guardian used the phrase to creatively (and accurately, it turns out) describe the music created by one Marius Lauber, the German-born singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/producer who goes by the singular sobriquet, Roosevelt.
The 31-year-old Cologne resident debuted with the EP, Elliot, in 2013 (on London-based Greco-Roman Records), and the same Guardian called Roosevelt’s output “wan, washed-out techno,” and “listless disco,” claiming he sounds like a “displaced Angeleno” (like that’s a bad thing?).
While Paul Lester’s overwrought analysis from nine years ago sounds like a backhand to the chops, he may not be that off-center, at least regarding Lauber’s initial recorded output, which has matured markedly since then.
And, as far as “listless disco” goes, Lauber (originally a drummer) has taken care of that, with the May release of his inspired collaboration with, arguably, the king of disco (Robert Stigwood and Walter Murphy notwithstanding), Nile Rodgers, and the song, “Passion.”
But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
To hear Austin’s Kid With a Vinyl tell it in 2015, Lauber “crafts hypnotic, borderline psychedelic indie pop songs that seem to float and dance on their own accord. His electronic dance beats are enticing and almost supersonic.” They’re certainly catchy.
Young Romance: Novel
While 2016 saw the release of the self-titled Roosevelt album, it wasn’t until a year or so after his 2018 Young Romance album release that I managed to find a YouTube video that caught my attention. Roosevelt was performing four songs, three of which came from YR. I was instantly hooked.
Much like The Midnight, and their recent ear-wormy “Heartbeat” (featured in an “Audio Autopsy” accessible here), Roosevelt honors and reveres the classic pop songwriting of decades past.
Born in 1990, but growing to adulthood in a new millennium seemingly devoid of melody and harmonies, Lauber is using his tune-heavy talents to create new “synthy” soundscapes, with more than a nod to the past.
“Lauber streamlines the dance-music inspirations scattered in his [debut] album for a more singular sound in Young Romance,” asserted Spectrum Culture in October 2018. “A mix of classic house records, ’80s New Wave, and dollar-bin soft rock gets scaled up for big-stage synth-pop, tailored for an off-the-grid party in the desert.”
Immediate proof of the catchiness of Lauber’s compositions can be found where I first saw and heard them: In the four-song mini-concert in the Seattle studios of Avast! Recording Co., as broadcast on The Coffee Capital’s KEXP Radio, December 21, 2018.
Here, you’ll find Lauber singing, playing keys, as well as playing the “wocka-chocka”/muted guitar strumming called “chucking” that played such a large part in the sound of Chic, Nile Rodgers’ landmark, late ‘70s disco aggregate that’s a major Lauber influence (a brief Lauber interview is included midway in this video):
“I hope people enjoy my slightly different take on it.”--Lauber on their Fleetwood Mac cover
In March 2019 (and proving Lauber is more than just a one-trick disco pony), Roosevelt released a cover of Fleetwood Mac's “Everywhere” on W Records (a property of Marriott International’s W Hotels).
A Christine McVie confection, the song originally appeared on the Mac’s 14th album for Warner Bros., 1987’s Tango in the Night.
“We‘ve been playing this Fleetwood Mac cover for a few months in the live set now,” Lauber told Northern Transmissions in March 2019. “I’ve always wanted to record it properly. This was a great opportunity to do so, coming straight from the tour, and still knowing how the energy of the crowd felt every night. It‘s an all-time favorite of mine, and while nothing touches the original, I hope people enjoy my slightly different take on it”:
The Radical Chic of Two “Passion”-istas
Roosevelt and Nile Rodgers pay tribute to the iconic and notorious Midtown Manhattan disco loft, Studio 54 (1977-80), on their new collaborative single, “Passion” (featuring guest vocals by Bim Amoako-Gyampah).
“Nile has been one of my biggest influences over the years, so working on a track together with him was an absolute dream come true,” Lauber told DJMag.com recently.
“The track had many different shapes and forms over almost two years, so I'm happy to finally have a version that I'm happy with,” he continued. “Nile and I worked on the track remotely via phone calls and e-mails, before I finally met him in LA to celebrate the completion of it.
“The man is a living legend to me, and just talking to him about the early disco days was such a big inspiration. ‘Passion’ is an ode to Studio 54, an homage to the energy and ecstasy of late-70s disco.”
Roosevelt is enjoying a summer tour through Europe and the US, which concludes in Brooklyn, NY September 1. He’ll no doubt raise the roof wherever he plays, but early returns from his UK dates reflect that, indeed, he had them dancing in the Isles.
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