Clever As A Fox
By Rix Roundtree-Harrison
It is written that the term “Italo disco” was invented in 1983 by the late and legendary founder of ZYX Music Bernhard Mikulski. I wonder if Mr. Mikulski knew that by the second half of the 1980’s that like a hungry galaxy the Italo disco would begin to cannibalize its neighboring musical galaxy, synth-pop.
Italo disco would bite off choice pieces of musical meat from the synth-pop galaxy adding to it elements of the Human League, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, Alphaville, and Gary Numan. This merger of musical genres created an exciting new universe filled with a plethora of Italo Disco acts like Modern Talking, Bad Boys Blue, London Boys, C. C. Catch, Silent Circle and many others.
Like our own universe, the Italo universe is still expanding and it now includes a large variety of new acts like T.M.-Joy, Johnny M5, Mark Ashley, Systems In Blue and Plazma who have built upon the Italo trademarks of keyboard wizardry, high pitched vocals, electronics and a succession of rocketing beats per minutes. All of the aforementioned bands are excellent but for me there is one that really stands out, the dynamic German duo known as Fresh Fox.
I keep mentioning Italo, but Fresh Fox is so much more than that. True, the basis of their sound is Italo but their music is constructed from a template formatted with elements of synth-pop, 90’s eurodance, 80’s hi-nrg, techno, electronica, a pinch of Pet Shop Boys, a dash of Erasure and of course, Italo disco. Fresh Fox uses these elements as if they were the carbon and other building blocks of life found in our own universe and siphon it through a 21st century funnel. With this mixture they take Italo to dizzying new heights and in the process create layered and textured keyboard driven dance music with an unrelenting electronic bite. With their Italo concoction Fresh Fox has created two albums that will leave you breathless, “Sexy” and “Tonight.”
The Fresh Fox albums “Sexy” and “Tonight” were born from an Italo universe that is populated with glamorous icy mythical queens. Many beautiful majesties reside there, among them are witch queens, gypsy queens, voodoo queens, and the queen of hearts. Fresh Fox seeks the “totally forbidden love” of the vainglorious and most notorious suzerain of them all, the infamous "Queen Of The Night." “Queen Of The Night” is a stellar track from the album “Tonight.” It begins with some sort of electronically altered vocal sound. Along the way it throws some subtle, sparse yet effectively placed guitar licks. Later towards the end of the song comes some piano work that gives “Queen Of The Night” a house music like feel.
Now, not every woman in Fresh Fox’s repertoire is an unattainable regal beauty, they also introduce us with some lovely ladies. These ladies are beautiful, chic, classy, and vivacious, ready for fun and romantic adventure. Fresh Fox sings of the oh so desirable and alluring “Sexy Lady.” “Sexy Lady” from the album “Sexy” is featured twice. There is the Radio mix and the Maxi Fox Mix, both versions are first-rate but the Maxi Fox Mix is the best because during the instrumental break there is some engaging and mesmerizing back and forth synthesizer-piano play.
Within the sizzling tracks of the “Sexy” album, Chris and Ronny (the two wunderkinds that make up Fresh Fox), cook up some catchy and infectious hooks. After just one listen to “Dr. Love” you won’t be able to stop yourself from singing “gim-me-gimme your lov-in’ doctorlove is hereeeee.” And once you hear the ultra-infectious “Take The Chance” you will be whistling it’s swirling keyboard hooks all day long as this song will be embedded in your head for the rest of your life.
Then there are the two bombastic power dance pieces “Love Is like a River,” and “No Goodbye.” In “Love Is like a River” when Chris and Ronny sing “we are going up,” the gravelly vocals soar and take you right up to heaven with them. The pain filled, angst ridden “No Goodbye” is a runaway locomotive that you must ride it to believe. Never has the pain of losing the one you love been so pleasurable, it’s phenomenal. Both “Love Is like a River” and “No Goodbye” hit the eardrums hard with throbbing, pounding, brain numbing beats and synthesized high pitched electric vocals that are filled with ohms.
“Tell Me Why” moves at breakneck speed and contains this electronic reverb that sort of wraps you up into it and then weaves your mind in and out of the music.
The album “Tonight” runs the gamut of musical emotions. The rousing lead track “Tonight” lifts your spirits when Fresh Fox sings of heroes who can make real any wish for the one they love because, anything is possible when you possess, the power of love.
The introspective “The Tears of Love,” opens with some beautifully poignant piano playing. Then suddenly the tune has you weeping as you dance to its heartrending droning keyboards and thick thumping beats.
“Sweet Taboo” with its 90’s eurodance vibe (I can almost hear the repetitive 1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4 keyboard work of the 2 Brothers on the 4th Floor classic “Dreams” buried beneath the rhythm) will have you singing along while your fingers move along the imaginary keys of your air synthesizer.
Ubiquitous glistening frozen tears fall from the heavens creating the hauntingly beautiful sound of techno-tinged weeping “When The Angels Cry,” it’s a spellbinding piece of music.
In the new world order of the Italo universe Moscow must be the new place to enjoy Italo disco. We have been taken to Moscow by several acts immersed in the Italo universe like Patty Ryan & Systems In Blue’s “One Summer Night In Moscow,” and Johnny M5’s “Moscow Nights.” Fresh Fox also takes us there, and has us dancing with the "Moscow Party Girl."
I mentioned that in the track “Tonight” Fresh Fox sings of heroes. Well they go one further when in vocoder voices they align themselves with everyone’s favorite heroic super spy, James Bond and the 007 film “Die Another Day” with their pop culture conscious track “Back For Eternity.”
The production of the albums “Sexy” and “Tonight” is not slick and polished. The production work of both albums is pleasantly a little rough around the edges giving them a more accessible feel, a feel that you can embrace.
Between “Sexy” and “Tonight” there are only two ballads (“Only You” and “Ballerina Girl”) and two up tempo numbers (“Summertime” and “Everytime I Miss Your Smile”). The rest of the tracks are earth quakin’ 130+ bpm gems. So when I said these albums would leave you breathless I meant that both figuratively and literally.
The excellence of Fresh Fox’s work has garnered them a favorable reputation in the German music community. A reputation so good that since 2006 they have had limited time to work on a new album as they have been busy producing the music of a variety of other German music makers. One of the acts they have recently produced is the 80’s German icon Fancy. But now after four long years Fresh Fox is about to return with a new album of their own.
I have gotten an advance listen of Fresh Fox’s upcoming new single “Life Was Made For Me” and let me tell you it’s one fantastic piece of music. The sound and quality of “Life Was Made For Me” is consistent with their work on the “Sexy” and “Tonight” albums. The track has got me hungry for the release of their new full length album “Another Mystery” which will hit the streets in September 2009.
If you are a fan of Italo, 80’s hi-nrg, techno, 90’s eurodance, euro-pop, synth-pop, the Pet Shop Boys, Erasure or Ganymede I guarantee that you will enjoy Fresh Fox. I suggest you invest in the albums “Sexy” and “Tonight” because if you don’t I guarantee that months/years down the road you will hear a track by Fresh Fox, love it, and then kick yourself for having passed them by and missing out on their exceptional music. So add Fresh Fox to your collection, you will not be disappointed.
Artist Link: http://www.fresh-fox.com