- DFA's Markus Lambkin doesn't have the charisma of James Murphy or the conflicted persona of Juan Maclean, and he is surely not as freakishly out there as Gavin Russom. He seems more than happy to let the machines (and his cute little robot logo) do all the talking for him. With only a handful of releases under his Shit Robot guise in the past four years and a few low-key remixes here and there, Lambkin comfortably operates from the margins of the imprint. If you thought Black Van's "Yearning" single constituted a more than welcome electronic addition to the increasingly diverse roster, From the Cradle to the Rave might be right up your alley.
In that very spirit, album opener "Tuff Enuff" is a surprisingly pristine slice of 1982-like synth-pop that has no equivalent in the sparse but focused Shit Robot discography. "I Found Love" might go for kooky vocals ala Detroit Grand Pubahs, it also does so over stiff, precise bleeps and overtly simplistic synthetic arrangements reminiscent of Computer World-era Kraftwerk. In both cases, this is electro in the old, vintage sense that owes more to Drexciya than to ESG or Arthur Russell. "Losing My Patience" even comes across as a beefier La Roux; that said, with Hot Chip's Alexis Taylor as the guest vocalist, it also has understated vulnerability stamped all over it. Following that trend, "Take 'Em Up" ranges on the Chromeo side of the '80s spectrum, suiting Nancy Whang's impassive interpretation quite well.
"Grim Receiver" starts the album's second, more adventurous half, especially as its first three minutes meander like a lost jam session between The Crystal Ark in somnolent mode and the Juan Maclean. Incidentally, the latter guests and gives the track a sense of direction as he competes with abstract guitar solos and enrobing synthesizers. But the album's true acme is reached with the tracks Shit Robot followers already know. "Simple Things (Work It Out)," with American indie weirdo Ian Svenonius on vocals, chronicles—not without delightful irony—the hardships of having to abandon the pleasure principle associated with youth over pleasurably reverential house. And "I Got a Feeling" still feels as jubilant as it did when it was released as a single last March, the participation of House of House's Saheer Umar—with his rousing "You took away my love / I knew that you would" chorus—adding soulful warmth as the track bursts into cheering piano house mode.
The album ends with the James Murphy-enhanced "Triumph," an elegiac track that combines traces of acid house, Krautrock and disco-not-disco. It is the oldest piece of music on here (it actually goes back to 2006), so it gives you access at the very last minute to a moment in time when the very idea of Shit Robot's aesthetic hadn't been fully formed yet. On the basis of Cradle to the Rave, though, we can now says that Shit Robot seems absolutely perfect for those who prefer less drunken girls in their happy house.
01. Tuff Enuff
02. I Found Love
03. Losing My Patience feat. Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip
04. Take 'Em Up feat. Nancy Whang
05. Grim Receiver feat. Juan Maclean
06. Simple Things feat. Ian Svenonious
07. Answering Machine feat. Planningtorock
08. I Got a Feeling feat. Saheer Umar
09. Triumph feat. James Murphy