Diskodiktator is best known for the contrarian anthem, “Just Say NO to Democracy,” but Johan Billing’s main project also churns out remixes and remakes of classic poptronica. Four years ago, Diskodiktator Electric Orchestra & Friends produced a remake of S.P.O.C.K’s Five Year Mission. Like Senor Coconut, the tracks were re-imagined in unexpected musical styles; in this case, with a pronounced jazz-lounge bent. Now, to mark the 20th anniversary of another S.P.O.C.K album, Alien Worlds, Diskodiktator Electric Orchestra is back with a new collection of remakes.
Alien Alien Worlds is more clearly electronic than the previous effort; more Shultze than Puente. Indeed, if Jarre or Schnitzler were to have created a S.P.O.C.K cover band, it might have sounded like this: ping-pong delays, sweeps and Theremin warbles stretching and distorting the feeling of the original tracks into a space-lounge format (coming soon to a cantina near you). As a former member of S.P.O.C.K, Billing has lived with these songs for a long time, and his approach suggests tension bred by familiarity. Does he love them? Does he resent them? Perhaps both, as the transformation is in places more experimental than attractive. This is no shrine to the original material; but, while being broadly faithful to it, the tracks here test its elasticity to a greater degree than on Five Year Mission.
What made the original S.P.O.C.K songs so enduring was composer Eddie Bengtsson’s instinctive feel for pop structures, which were OMD-class, even if the subjects were lifted from cult sci-fi. Slowed down and put into another mode, they can start to sound less iconic than ironic, but there are clever moments here: Billing is a talented programmer and performer, and on tracks like “Astro Girl” he provides a setting that is closer to R&B than classic poptronica. One test of a quality song is whether it can be performed in a different style: one day, someone is going to make a million dollars with a country and western cover of Yazoo’s “Only You.” The transposition works here, too.
Alien Alien Worlds is on iTunes.