[dropcap]Dominatrix[/dropcap] is one of the more obscure, yet very interesting names of the 80s NYC underground. The experimental project of Ike Yard’s Stuart Argabright, best known for their 1984 NYC club hit The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight, which, according to NYC inhabitants of that time, got spun to death, was dug up recently by some DJs – Not a bad thing. The band’s only effort to date – until recently – was a really catchy, free-style dance hit – calypso-like synths, a cold female voice and an obvious reference to The Tokens‘ super hit The Lion Sleeps Tonight made the EP a standout one – accompanying two nearly equally strong songs, Chants and Beat Me (I do like to think they had an overlaying topic) and a superb mix of The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight, called the Dominant Mix, made the EP a sought-after rarity and collectors’ item for music nerds (guilty).

Equally interesting, put aside the extremely interesting and catchy “hit” song they had (it failed to be a bigger success due to the highly controversial, non-mainstream theme of the song), is the bands’ history. Stuart Argabright, who met an elder woman who worked as a professional domiatrix and listened to Bowie records with him, eventually teamed up with vocalist Claudia Summers, Ivan Ivan, Ken Lockie and Peter Summers, being deeply fascinated by his friends’ occupation – unfortunately, Dominatrix existed for a short glimpse of time only, forming in 1984 and disbanding in 1985, but gained enough reputation to support acts like Run-DMC. Another thing making Dominatrix very interesting to me is the is the background story of the band – which even goes back to the Cold War politics and the CIA – somewhere between myth and truth, yet giving the band a very interesting background.

It only makes sense that Stuart Argabright has now teamed up with the Berlin-based label Instruments of Discipline to provide you with unheard material of Dominatrix – a new 12″ EP, called You Never Forget Your First Dom, was released recently. So what exactly is to expect from the project’s vaults? A first look on the cover and the tracklist shows that not much differs in the band’s topical direction compared to the 1984 release: You Never Forget Your First Dom, In The City That Never Sleeps, Dominatrix Party and Dominatrix Beatmaster offer a good insight into Stuart Argabright’s mind set in the heyday. Starting with the title track, which transcends from an ambient piano/synth sphere into a somewhat uncomfortable track mixing glitchy, analogue and dirty basslines with synth pads clear as a bell, Dominatrix is still a child of its time and that is alright – the two opening tracks prove the band’s relevance and their exceptionally well reception while existing.

Even today I have a hard time actually categorising the band. The bands’ tracks definitely have a disctinct pop feeling without being pop; they are somewhat intimidating and the Ike Yard No Wave influence brought in by Stuart Arbabright are easily trackable in the bulky bass lines and hectic drum patterns of You Never Forget Your First Dom, and the task is not made easier for me after various rotations of this excellent release. Maybe I should stop trying to do what I have to do as a journalist and give an overall impression: Dominatrix’ vaults have harboured one very interesting record that has now been made available for the public’s pleasure / pain. It is hooky and hard to resist – giving good insight why Dominatrix was such a hit project in 1984’s New York. Surprisingly enough, the material sounds completely timeless and is perfectly danceable (and of course you can whip along it) – A clear recommendation if you are into strange stuff.

Tracklist:

  1. You Never Forget Your First Dom
  2. In The City That Never Sleeps
  3. Dominatrix Party
  4. Dominatrix, Beatmaster

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