From beat-happy jokes to beat-happy songs, James Murphy’s evolution is a music fan’s dream: He courts the absurd and the vulgar, the squelchy and the smooth. He cracks about losing his edge before he’s released his first album, then pens “All My Friends” to remind Franz Ferdinand that he’s got his eyes set on a John Cale level of craft. On the evidence of
Sound of Silver, Murphy hasn’t yet recorded his masterpiece—a muse this restless may never hear past the self-amused synth squirts with which he still pads albums—but his obsession with musical chronicling suggests that he doesn’t want to escape history so much as become part of it.
Murphy and Pat Mahoney’s entry in the Fabriclive series sequences two dozen disco and post-disco tracks from the mid-’70s through 1983, at least half of which (if not more) are obscurities to all but DJ Shadow and other dedicated vinyl-trollers. Too abstract lyrically and vocally for a boho who flexes his wit as often as Murphy does, the mix foregrounds percussion, bass burps, and synthesized and real strings into a narrative as ethereal and euphoric as you could expect. Donald Byrd’s “Love Has Come Around,” which is like Chic playing 10cc’s “I’m Not in Love,” summons an ascetic side of disco not often heard on compilations or at clubs. The segue from Junior Brown’s sequencer-crazy “Dance to the Music” to the James Brown “Payback”-style riffage and organ swells of JT’s “I Love Music” is both seamless and unexpected—it demarcates several undiscovered presents, or maybe futures, if another consumer as avid as Murphy is listening. This is disco as soul-sonic force, sweat wiped from the forehead, eyes fixed on heaven.