I recently read that italo disco is making a resurgence; I can believe it. The amazing popularity of the ZYX Italo Disco Collection compilation which spotlights awesome 1980's italo disco tracks, and the success of 21st century italo disco architects like Johnny M5, Systems In Blue and Fresh Fox prove that this resurgence is quite real.
But there is a big difference between 1980's and 21st century italo disco. In the 80s, aside from (some of) the italo gods, like Modern Talking and Bad Boys Blue, most italo acts were interchangeable faceless studio groups created by a cadre of producers. Not this go round, in this italo resurgence actual acts/bands whose members as little kids grew up listening to 80's italo, have grown into italo loving adults who use 80's italo as the foundation on which they build their delicious 21st century italo confections. What I find fascinating about this italo resurgence is that the current purveyors of italo each interprets the 80’s differently, so, unlike in the 80s, none of the present day italo makers sound like anyone else, they each have their own unique identifiable sound signature.
When I read about this italo resurgence I trolled the web looking for the stuff and discovered the site Space Sounds Records, who specialized in italo disco. To my delight I discovered that Space Sounds has a roster of artist who create fresh 21st century italo disco. One of these artists is a young German guy named Mirko Hirsch, who has just recently released his very first album called "Obsession."
On the Space Sounds' site I read some positive stuff about Mirko Hirsch's Obsession and decided I wanted the album. I have downloaded many music files, but something told me not to purchase downloads from Obsession. Being that Mr. Hirsch was new I wanted something tangible that I could touch feel and interact with. So I went to Amazon.com to see if they were selling an actual CD, and to my delight, they were. I purchased Hirsch's Obsession and after just one listen I am so very glad I did, this guy is not just good, he's damn good.
Mirko Hirsch's Obsession has become my obsession of the moment because the CD is wonderful. Like his fellow 80s aficionado, Johnny M5, Mirko Hirsch states unashamedly in his intro that he is influenced by the 80s, actually he says the 80s is “My obsession” (now you know how the CD got its title). When I heard that I was a bit hesitant, I am not into going retro and I've no desire to relive the 80s. But just like with JM5, Hirsch’s work may be rooted in the 80s but its execution is fresh and modern, not retro. Hirsch uses some keyboard riffs that are reminiscent of the 80’s but built on top of those riffs are elaborate up to date thundering electronics, thunder, being the operative word.
Speaking of thunder, prior to the arrival of Hirsch's Obsession I'd just received my new MTX ThunderPro2, 12" woofer, 300W, 2 way speakers. Man, do those speakers.....well, let me quote the Robot from the TV series Lost In Space. There was this episode in which the Robot danced to throbbing tribal drums. While the mechanical man grooved to the drum’s pounding beat he ecstatically sang, “BOOM-BOOM, BOOM-BOOM, BOOM-BOOM-BOOM!” That’s my new MTX speakers, booming house shakers and window rattlers. For months I had to listen to music that I could not crank up loudly because the woofers of my JBL speakers were busted, creating annoying rattles, distortions and vibration noises. Hirsch’s nice clean sounds thumped, pounded and thundered out of the new MTX speakers. The sound seemed to come from everywhere, no matter where I stood or sat, mostly stood, make that danced, because Hirsch's grooves made my body move involuntarily; it was like dying and going to music heaven.
When I first listened to Obsession, I thought “These songs all sound alike.” But then I’d say, “Wait a minute, there is something different going on with this track that is different from the last track, I think I'll stick with it.” And stick with each song I did and discovered not to be fooled by the intros as each song contains its own unique keyboard driven electronic brilliance.
Mirko Hirsch's voice is like a low electronic growl, which sometimes makes his English sometimes hard to understand, but that’s okay, its italo disco, where broken English only adds to the appeal.
Every track on Obsession is a winner. In the rousing anthem like "Turn Me On," Hirsch shouts, “Turn me on! Let me hear you sing my song!” I granted him his wish and I sang....loudly. I close my eyes and I'm in a crowded where all the club patrons are joyously singing out loud, "Turn me on!"
The melodic "Sweet Surrender" with its slow burning vibe contains some engaging electronics and satisfying synths that caress and envelope you in their soft electronic sizzle.
With "Pandora’s Box" Greek mythology collides with 21st century "laser beams and electric shocks." It is written that Pandora opened her box and loosed evil upon the world. Well Hirsch opens his electronic tool box and let’s loose caustic electricity that will singe your electronic soul.
The title track, "Obsession" is one pounding piece of music, it will shake the walls. This tracks throws a barrage of hard hitting beats at you. Listen to it with headphones or earbuds and those rapid fire thundering drum machine beats will cause the most wonderful headache.
"Shout It Out" sings about the joyous rapture and sizzling high one receives by listening to beautiful “Italian harmonies” coupled with energetic synthesizer music. This song is all about the ecstasy induced by listening to electronic music, as Hirsch would recommend, "All night long.”
Hirsch cements his place as a god among the other gods of the italo disco universe with the thumping "All The Night." What does he do? In "All The Night," he breathes life into electronics and gives birth to the newest deity in the royal family of italo disco suzerains, the Queen of Thunder ("You are my queen of thunder; I can't break the spell I’m under"). Hirsch's Queen of Thunder joins the ranks of the other infamous and legendary italo queens like the Queen of Hearts, Queen of the Night, Witch Queen, Voodoo Queen, and the Gypsy Queen, all introduced into italo mythology by the italo gods Modern Talking, Fresh Fox, Bad Boys Blue, and Systems In Blue.
Then there is the phenomenal "Fire." This song is wonderful; I don't know where to begin. Hirsch sings this song in his low husky electronic voice, which reminds me of the Ohio Players smoldering funk masterpiece, “Fire”. His vocals are sung in broken English, so I don't know if he singing "Fire-got me burnin’ now," or "Fire-can we burn it down?" (which reminds me of a line from the Trammps classic “Disco Inferno,” you know the line, “burn that mutha down ya’ll’). But does it really matter that Hirsch's vocals are inaudible, no, because no matter what he's singing, it’s hot. Yes, I could go to the beautiful, full colour CD booklet and read the lyrics, but that would be too easy, I like guessing at them (yeah, I know, I’ve got issues but you know that all ready). Then we get to the chorus at the end of "Fire" and that’s when things really ignite, literally. Near the end Hirsch sings "Fire,” then a slight pause and "Fire” again, then the caustic scream of a muffled electric guitar kicks in, Hirsch releases an "ahhh” and the song burns up sound like a gasoline fire burns off of the fumes. Hirsch sings lyrics that sounds like, "FIRE! SHALL WE BURN IT NOW?" Add to that the repeated "aaahs," and the muffled electric guitar, he creates an electronic maelstrom, it is excellent!
I can't say enough good things about Mirko Hirsch's wonderful Obsession. With its thick and throbbing electronics, caustic keyboards and pounding drum beats, this CD brought me (and is still bringing me) many hours of musical enjoyment and pleasure. If you are into italo disco, you cannot miss Mirko Hirsch's Obsession, it is one exceptional piece of music, I kid you not.
(c) 2011 Rix Roundtree-Harrison
Artist Link: http://www.mirkohirsch.com