Tantalising and stimulating eardrums, Dan Black has been hailed as pop’s bright new hope by everyone from Zane Lowe to Perez Hilton and was a regular feature in the 2009 "One To Watch" polls. Now the Paris-based Englishman has updated and fleshed out his blogospherically massive Notorious BIG tribute "Hypntz" into the fully fledged space pop anthem "Symphonies". Fusing the ubiquitous beat from Rihanna’s "Umbrella" with heavily chopped-up samples from the film soundtrack of John Carpenter’s Starman
, this is a perfect, effortlessly joyous marriage of laptop hip hop with tip top hip pop. The rest of Black's debut album Un
continues this vein of quirky pop, apprently melding the musical attributes of Paul’s Boutique, Hatful Of Hollow and Supa Dupa Fly with a lost 80’s sci-fi soundtrack.
Despite rap's reinvention of other acts through sampling dexterity, Notorious B.I.G's estate wouldn't let Dan Black use the lyrics of Hypnotize for Black's Hypntz. Wily Black kept his own vocal melody, along with a beat also used by Rihanna for Umbrella, but re-wrote the words. Symphonies, the resulting ditty, is simple, cheerful pop with a sharp 2009 slacker anti-hit edge. The rest of the songs on 'Un' don't have as interesting origins but are at least as sonically involving.
U + Me ='s only downfall is its idiotic txtspk title. Juggernaut synths fight it out with cool Hot Chip syncopated kick drums, nursery rhyme keys and Black's fey Liam Gallagher yelp.
Home Counties hipster hero Black has namedropped Prince, DJ Shadow, Beck, De La Soul as influnces on 'Un' and he clearly has the perspicacious production savvy of those acts.
Alone has a bassline so filthy that suspicious looking men had to smuggle it from the studio in plain paper bags. Yours is slickly furtive and snappily voyeuristic breakbeat fun, like Lo Fi Allstars on a stakeout in Paris (where Black made this accomplished album). Pump My Pumps is terrific post-Soulwax disco that would work terrifically alongside Thieves Like US and Mylo on the dancefloor.
Not as good but more unusual is Cigarette Pack. This lacks the bite of the better album tracks but is an intriguing blend of vampiric, charming and cheesy, like Smashing Pumpkins covering Baywatch incidental music.
Dan Black has made a smart, confident record that is far more accessible than many made by such an overtly cool customer. It should even see him gain some mainstream popularity. 'Deux' should be worth waiting for. --Lou Thomas
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