23
Dec 14

WAMDUE PROJECT – “King Of My Castle”

Popular41 comments • 4,350 views

#842, 27th November 1999

wamdue A question that haunts a project like Popular is how you review things that have a very specific context – no, more than a context, a specific use – when you have never put them to that use. We’re now shifting out of the time when I was going, even occasionally, to clubs that played mainstream dance music, and a record like “King Of My Castle” is plainly built for those clubs. Not just in an “it’s good to dance to” sense. While the Wamdue Project obviously bring a hook or two, this is still one of the track-iest of number ones, built from the crunchy house beat out.

In a club setting, you imagine, the spidery synth line and the haughty vocals would be the sauce for that beat – memory and sense triggers to enhance rhythm and motion. But listening at home, the voice and melody jump to the foreground, taking on a weight of attention they can’t really bear. The result, in the unsympathetic circumstance of kitchen or desk, feels something like Eiffel 65 for grown-ups – remorselessly repetitive nonsense. Except “King Of My Castle” isn’t even designed to work as a song, and isn’t using annoyance as a deliberate aesthetic effect. It’s annoying because listening to it as a standalone single breaks the use of it.

That said, this track sold so excessively compared to the usual American house imports – it moved a few million across Europe – that it must have had some crossover appeal. Even if it doesn’t progress much in its single edit, “King Of My Castle” has a memorably cryptic hook – free in my what? – and enough sass in its stomp to pass muster as this year’s equivalent of The Tamperer: something you could strut to in party season. Still, it’s hard not to feel this is a neutered record, stranded outside a DJ set.

4

Comments

  1. 1
    Rory on 23 Dec 2014 #

    The vocals by Gaelle Adisson were lipsynched in the video and on stage by an Argentinian model, scuppering any chance for Adisson to capitalize on its success. Why this was deemed acceptable in the wake of Milli Vanilli escapes me.

    The track itself seems fine, nothing extraordinary. 5.

  2. 2
    lonepilgrim on 23 Dec 2014 #

    I was listening to a lot of Brazilian pop in 1999 and enjoying the vocals as a series of open vowels and percussive consonants and I’m happy to do the same with this. There’s not a great deal of variety but occasional touches (like a flute sound at one point) provide some interest. It doesn’t sound like the most obvious number 1 though.

  3. 3
    flahr on 23 Dec 2014 #

    Aw man, this is a great pop song and I’ve never even BEEN to a nightclub*. One of the videos was a compilation of clips from Ghost in the Shell (the first Western AMV?), which must have been TERRIBLY hip in 1999.

    Anyway, the vocal hook is great, the boingy synth line is even better, the incredibly synthetic ‘poing’ sound that comes up a couple of times is best (remind me in 2014 when we hit another song that gets a surprising amount of mileage from an occasional poing). A little joy: [7]

    *technically a lie but it wasn’t my choice and I didn’t enjoy it much

  4. 4
    Tom on 23 Dec 2014 #

    I think I was a little harsh on this last night – should have been a 5.

    Meanwhile, 100 entries in a calendar year, which I’ve not managed since…. well, since quite early on in Popular.

  5. 5
    JLucas on 23 Dec 2014 #

    I’ve never been a clubber but I enjoyed this at the time and I like it now. The repetition of the vocals – no verses here – and that thudding industrial beat give it a rather hypnotic quality. I like how airy and detached her vocals are too, it gives what could have been quite a heavy handed song room to breathe.

    Not my genre of choice in general, but one of 1999’s more intriguing chart toppers.

    Also notable for possibly the most frequently mis-heard lyric in a dance hit since Gala and her lover’s strong beliefs. Free in my trasseau? Trousseau? I had no idea what that might mean (she’s actually singing ‘trapped soul’ obviously) but it just added to the mystique at the time.

    6.

  6. 6
    Rory on 23 Dec 2014 #

    #4: Cracking progress, Tom – nice to have the last two songs of 1999 coming up over the equivalent period of this year, too.

    The UK number one version of “King of My Castle” was apparently a “remix by techno producer Roy Malone” (says that article I linked above), so I was curious to hear the original. It’s here.

  7. 7
    Tom on 23 Dec 2014 #

    I always heard it as a mangling of “threshold”, which had a nicely archaic ring – “free in my threshold” is the sort of thing you can imagine turning up in medieval jurisprudence.

    I planned to mention the ambient original but didn’t get around to it – a thoroughly generic bit of chill-out. Another trivia bit that didn’t get in the review – “Wamdue” is apparently short for “What I’m Gonna Do”.

  8. 8
    Matt DC on 23 Dec 2014 #

    Prior to listening to this again, the only thing I could actually remember about it was the titular vocal hook, and my brain had somehow retrospectively reconstituted it into some kind of shonky trance beast. Listening properly, it sounds really weedy and rhythmically stilted, like a quickly assembled Sing It Back knockoff.

    We’re not far off from the point when the sort of high street clubs where this would have had a home would stop playing new dance music altogether and these kinds of #1s are about to die off, for a while at least. Listening to this you can really hear why.

  9. 9
    swanstep on 23 Dec 2014 #

    Dreary washing-machine stuff for the most part; the track-makers aren’t even trying here, nothing builds, nothing moves, and we’re bored to tears by about 2m in. I mean, sure, you’d dance to this if there were no alternatives, if no other dance music had ever been made, but otherwise? One of the crappier octaving bass sounds I’ve ever heard:
    2

    P.S. Well done Tom on cranking these reviews out, and happy holidays to everyone.

  10. 10
    James BC on 23 Dec 2014 #

    The only interesting thing I remember about this is that it got the Wamdue Project nominated for Best British Dance Act at the Brits, until they realised no one involved was British. Quite embarrassing as it made clear what everyone had always suspected, that the organisers knew nothing about British Dance Music and just skimmed down the charts in December or January to find a few nominees. I think I still did care about the Brits at this point, though, just about.

    EDIT: The award went to the Chemical Brothers in the end. Jamiroquai were also nominated.

  11. 11
    Chelovek na lune on 23 Dec 2014 #

    I find the minimalism of KOMC rather attractive (without realizing there was a whole Black Box situation over the singer. Tut tut, this is really not acceptable at all, in fact), but none the less agree (I think) with Matt DC at #8 that this is the sound of the closing of an era musically. One can find the antecedents of this sort of thing on various labels (white or otherwise) as far back as, at least, ’89, and consider Positiva and others positively churning out the stuff a few years after that…to this at number one almost at the end of the decade. No innovation, nothing remarkable, but with a breathy freshness characteristic of this model of deep house (this is what we called this, broadly, right? The current incarnation of the term is rather different….).

    No 1 material? In a time of less high-turnover chart-topper churn, almost certainly not. But in 1999, for one week, it’s neither the most objectionable nor the most incongruous member of the no 1 club.

    6

  12. 12
    AMZ1981 on 23 Dec 2014 #

    The next bunny along was already attracting the column inches and was breathing down KOMC’s neck in the number two position. It’s worth noting that KOMC would have been a two week runner in most normal circumstances, as it was it was forced to number two the following week but outsold both the final Boyzone single and Mel C’s more than passable Northern Star.

  13. 13
    mapman132 on 23 Dec 2014 #

    Fifth straight Popular entry that made no impact in America…unlike the others this one’s actually by an American. Despite never being into clubbing, I usually like this type of music, but this just seems dull and repetitive. 4/10 sounds about right.

  14. 14
    Mark G on 23 Dec 2014 #

    This was ‘originally’ on Creation Records in the UK wasn’t it? I guess as a grower, by the time it had caught on the license had run out for McGee.

  15. 15
    wichitalineman on 23 Dec 2014 #

    Ah! Mark, you got there first. Yes it came out on their dance spin-off label run by Chris Abbott whose name I shamefully can’t remember. It says a lot about Creation in 1999 that they issued it first but still dropped the ball.

  16. 16
    Ben Cook on 23 Dec 2014 #

    It was actually really common in the 90s for eurodance acts to have fake singers – most notably Corona, Cappella and Real McCoy.

  17. 17
    Ricardo on 23 Dec 2014 #

    @#1: That “Milli Vanilli” thing is very much usual in dance music. Most of the singers in these tunes are mere session musicians, with no particular visual appeal; hence the recurrent gimmick of filling the promos with miming models.
    We actually had that same thing ocurring a bit earlier in the year, when Alice Deejay’s “Better Off Alone” reached #2. The girl miming in the video wasn’t the actual singer, but just another hired model. The next promos, though, would feature the actual singer.

  18. 18
    Tom on 23 Dec 2014 #

    It’s still happening now – UK pop vocalist Kelli-Leigh has been on two separate 2014 bunnies, uncredited and invisible. So expect this to be something we keep on covering.

  19. 19
    thefatgit on 23 Dec 2014 #

    Umm…yeah, well it’s that branch of dance that I’m not entirely fond of. There’s some rather perfunctory, clumpy-clumpy beats and some nice little touches like the flute motif, but on the whole I agree with Tom. Outside the club, this makes little sense. I remember the anime video from MTV (late night post-watershed showing because, boobies), and a few radio plays, but with little going on, those beats just marked time until the next track came along. I’m all for minimalism, but this feels like wading through treacle. I’m more open to an uptempo, busier remix, like this one by Sander Van Doorn:
    http://youtu.be/OMs0PZywruc

    5 is about right.

  20. 20
    wichitalineman on 23 Dec 2014 #

    “Free in my tressle”.

    Well done Tom, that’s a fierce and much appreciated workrate!

  21. 21
    Rory on 23 Dec 2014 #

    #17: So I gather, but in this case the singer’s visage seems perfectly appealing to me (see Google images) (see also 2014 bunny which sticks two fingers up to narrow notions of visual appeal). A substitute in the video is dodgy but might be justifiable on some level (but not really), but keeping up the pretense by having the model lipsynch in live performances goes too far, I reckon, when it’s denying a young singer her break.

  22. 22
    glue_factory on 23 Dec 2014 #

    #14 and 15, Eruption/Infonet ?

  23. 23
    wichitalineman on 23 Dec 2014 #

    It was Eruption, so I’m not sure if Chris Abbott was involved.

    Misha (McGee’s mate from on holiday) and Technique (McGee’s wife) were Creation’s priorities in 1999 though, so a no.1 single slipped through their fingers.

    They also dropped Kevin Rowland’s My Beauty like a hot potato around the time of King Of My Castle. I wish it sounded as extreme as its cover, but I found it very tame.

  24. 24
    Hofmeister Bear on 23 Dec 2014 #

    To follow on from #8 and #11 you could argue that most of the number 1’s coming up over the next 12-18 months or so which are commercial Dance were symbolic of the impending ‘end of an era’, and indeed it’s been touched upon already on the ATB post (I stand by my Milky claim). However, scanning down the list of chart toppers from this period I’d say the first number 1 of 2001 was probably the real watershed.

  25. 25
    Mark M on 24 Dec 2014 #

    Re23: Mishka! I had forgotten all about him. There was an inordinate number of terrible signings in the history of Creation, but none ever felt more wrong than this coffee-shop reggae bollocks merchant. Basically, the annoying trustafarian playing Bob Marley covers down the beach who you chuck a shoe at (according to Wikipedia: ‘He represented Bermuda in 1991 and 1992 in the windsurfing world championships’). Fuck me.

  26. 26
    Chinny Reckon on 24 Dec 2014 #

    The review could have at least mentioned that the version that got to number one was a remix by Roy Malone. The soundalike follow up, again remixed by Malone, was ‘You’re the reason’, which if my memory serves me right only scraped into the Top 40. If ‘You’re the reason’ had come first, it would have been the better tune. Maybe it is anyway.

  27. 27
    The Clapton Pond Regeneration Project on 24 Dec 2014 #

    Must be a reason why I’m free to mud wrestle

  28. 28
    hardtogethits on 24 Dec 2014 #

    This number one set a new record, at 14 – and I don’t believe it’s been equalled or surpassed. 14 what? Anyone?

    Apols if duplicating/crossposting.

  29. 29
    enitharmon on 24 Dec 2014 #

    @28 It sold 14 copies, the singles-buying market being at its nadir?

  30. 30
    Erithian on 24 Dec 2014 #

    #28 Ah yes, the ultimate bit of trivia. The title “King Of My Castle” uses 14 letters, all different, and is thus the longest No 1 title where no letters are repeated!

  31. 31
    Erithian on 24 Dec 2014 #

    Since we’re onto trivia questions, here’s one – not relevant to this record, but if I put this somewhere more relevant it’d be too obvious. Where is Haus Schliechte, and why is it – almost – connected to Popular? (Clue – you’ve quite likely seen it in the last week or so).

  32. 32
    speedwell54 on 24 Dec 2014 #

    re 28 and 30.
    Assuming 30 is on the right track, I’ll see your 14, and raise you 15, with a Cheryl bunny earlier this year. There may be others, I don’t know a quick way to check.

  33. 33
    Mark G on 25 Dec 2014 #

    Oh, I thought at first it was ‘Biggest jump to number one’ but/and I looked it up and the week before it had charted on import at 61. So maybe that’s possible.

  34. 34
    hardtogethits on 25 Dec 2014 #

    Well done Erithian. Speedo, my mind is blown. Well done to you too.

  35. 35
    hardtogethits on 25 Dec 2014 #

    I know the answer to 31, but I have learnt lessons from something which happened 12 months ago (ed – checks date). See, you posed the question yesterday and I don’t think it would be right for me to share things freely within 24 hours. If I did, you might decide that in future you’d share things with other people, to spare you pain and torment.

  36. 36
    weej on 27 Dec 2014 #

    No memory of hearing this before but it’s not that bad, just a mid-tempo club track that does exactly what it was supposed to do, and in a fairly pleasant way with some few nice production touches. Seems a bit odd at #1, but doesn’t deserve to be marked down for that.

  37. 37
    ciaran on 30 Dec 2014 #

    The most unilkely Number 1 of the year (ATB aside). I found it decent at the time but it’s not something I’ve seeked out since. More like the sound of most people’s early noughites ringtone than a Number 1.

    Still though would rather have this than ‘Better off Alone’. ‘The Launch’ or ‘Freestyler’ if I had a choice.6

    Dont know if this would be a track that signals the end of an era for dance .There was still some proper stuff to look forward to in 2000/01. Sandstorm, Time to Burn,Zombie Nation, Chase The Sun, and at least 2 bunnies.

  38. 38
    Cheesyjim on 31 Dec 2014 #

    Must be a reason why I’m freeing my trestle?

  39. 39
    Erithian on 31 Dec 2014 #

    Must be a reason why I’m queen of my pretzel?

    The “crunchy” beat certainly stands out from the off, and yes the vocal is beguiling to begin with, but this is a 3.30 record that deploys its last idea at about 1.10, apart from the idea of engineering the verse to sound like it’s down a crackly phone line one time around. Tedious. (Actually 1.10 is good going by the standards of certain bunnies to come – thinking of one Steve Winwood-indebted bunny in particular.)

    Incidentally, if anyone is still puzzled by the question at #31, Haus Schliechte is the chalet in the Swiss ski resort of Saas-Fee where the “Last Christmas” video was filmed – although the interiors were filmed elsewhere. The chalet and resort held 30th anniversary celebrations earlier this month!

  40. 40
    Shiny Dave on 1 Jan 2015 #

    #37 The first of those bunnies barely counts as 2000s material, but we’ll come to that when we get there in a few months.

    This was enjoyable for me at the time, though it certainly isn’t an obvious crossover hit – maybe this getting to the top was as symbolic of how powerful club culture was on the charts at this point as any multi-week Eurodance run could be. Almost certainly at its best at rather higher volumes than I can stand to listen to anything, though. I don’t dislike it, and I can recognise I’m not in a position to appreciate it as much as I could, so it’s a solid 6 for me.

  41. 41
    punctum on 2 Feb 2015 #

    Apparently the biggest-selling single in the history of the pioneering House music label Strictly Rhythm, “King Of My Castle”‘s determined minimalism is more enervating than hypnotic; Wamdue Project was essentially Atlantean producer Chris Brann with singer Gaelle Addison adding the rather bored sounding four-line roundelay vocal. Its spaces are deep, punctuated mainly by grunts of “uh-huh” and ghosts of seventies funk flutes, but it plods along rather dully. “Must be the reason why I’m king of my castle,” she strangely sings, or signifies, going on to declare (over and over) that she’s “free in my threshold” and “making examples of you.” Since said reason is never revealed, and blankness is situated where there should be mystery, it sounds nonsensical in a am-I-bothered kind of way; not that such things matter at two a.m. in a suburban nightclub, having just downed one’s sixth Bloody Mary, where its hugely hidden majesty was no doubt revealed – and its sliding scale of biting-back, vaguely martial snare-cracking beats may have been the crucial factor. Since I indulge in neither, it simply remains a barely functional dance track; whereas a pioneering minimalist House track such as Mr Fingers’ “Washing Machine” from 1986 relies on even fewer elements, but I could both listen and dance to it forever.

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