“Strobelight,” the second song on Gorillaz’s April release, Humanz, is arguably the most retro-sounding track on the album. Its beat struts along with a unabashed post-disco stomp, the synths are more “1999” (the song) than 1999 (the year), and guest vocalist Peven Everett’s big, powerful voice is about as classic-sounding as you can get these days. Especially when sandwiched between songs that feature fire-and-brimstone bars from Vince Staples and auto-tuned caterwauling from Popcaan, respectively, “Strobelight” sounds like a definite throwback.
Until now, Canadian producer/DJ Kaytranada has made a career off of blending popular genres like house, hip-hop, funk, soul, and even various strains of world music into a sonic gumbo that represents the futuristic dream of cosmopolitanism. He too is capable of retro plays, such as his foray into neo-soul with Craig David on last year’s 99.9%, but more often than not, his music is thoroughly modern. That’s assuredly the case on his future bounce remake of “Strobelight.”
The song’s main melody is reduced to a vocals-only exercise while Kaytra punches up the atmosphere previously only provided by background synths. Under this rich swath of sound he adds a slinky, jerky beat and some stray keyboard plinks to give the backdrop’s wishy-washiness some grounding. All of this space age tweaking makes the remix sound like the original “Strobelight” as heard reflected off of hundreds of satellites to a planet millions of miles away.
This remix is part of an ongoing campaign by the Gorillaz, during which various Humanz tracks have been reworked by electronic artists such as Baauer, Bonobo, Banx & Ranx, and Purple Disco Machine. You can check out all of those, as well as the recent video for the original version of “Strobelight,” on Gorillaz’s YouTube page.