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Gatekeeper – Giza review

Chicago duo Gatekeeper aren’t your average nu-disco act. While others fiddle around with tiresome sample presets and desperately ape mediocre records, Aaron David Ross and Matthew Arkell are happy doing their own thing – which, if their press is to be believed, includes hosting vast music and light performances and other art school escapades. Of course, such grand designs and lofty ideas would mean nothing if the music they made was sub-standard. The thing is, their music is good – very, very good.

Giza is their second release, following the acclaimed Optimus Maximus 12” on Kompakt offshoot Fright Records. Like that release, Giza plays host to a selection of weird and wonderful disco experiments that hold cold, dark horror – or, more specifically, the 80s slasher movies of John Carpenter – as their overriding inspiration. Musically, Carpenter’s own themes are an obvious point of reference, alongside Giallo music (weird and wonderful Italian thriller soundtracks from the 70s and 80s), Italo disco, EBM and, more recently, darkwave.

As the hype says, this is slasher disco – and it’s just as moody, intense and brooding as you’d imagine – and spookily cinematic to boot. Across Giza’s six tracks, the Chicagoan duo explore a variety of horror movie themes and styles, from the fist-pumping pomp of the titles (“Chains”) to the climatic chase scene of closer “Oracle”. In between, there’s plenty of ominous pomposity (“Storm Column”), moody introspection (“Serpent”), twisted nightmares (“Mirage”) and chilling scene stealing (“Giza”). It all adds up to a set that oozes authenticity (this could easily have been made in the early 1980s), yet offers up something fresh and involving. Clearly, Gatekeeper is a name to watch in 2011.

Matt Anniss