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Refreshing ambient electro-pop,
This review is from: Premiers Symptomes (Audio CD)
Even though the French duo became known by the public at large after the 1998 release of their debut Moon Safari, a refreshing ambient electro-pop album that succeeded in uniting Anglo-saxon and continental influences (ranging from Gainsbourg and Françoise Hardy, Bacharach and Mancini, Kraftwerk and Jean Jarré to Massive Attack and Kruder & Dorfmeister), they'd already been tinkering and refining their sound for a few years. Premiers Symptomes basically gathers the material that was released in the two years preceding Moon Safari, on different labels and for different occasions (some of this previously appeared on a label sampler). Even though there's a less song-oriented approach (in fact, it took me several listens to be able to distinguish these songs from one another), the seeds of the successful debut album are already here. There's a reliance on vintage keyboards (Moog, Rhodes, Korg, etc), while the soundtrack-styled, laidback vibe has more in common with the music of Broadcast, Stereolab and Massive Attack than most other French acts at the time, like Etienne de Crécy (who produced "Modular" and "Les Professionels") or Daft Punk. As such, the duo succeeds in fusing analogue and digital elements into a warm, fluffy blanket of sound - comfy keyboard sounds, serene beats, swaying basses and the occasional muffled horn - that's an aural delight. Since this music was (or seemed to be) more about vibe than anything else, you won't be focusing on structures, melodies and choruses, which aren't the core of the music to begin with. By result, the first five songs will glide by as if they're one extended composition, although the semi-legendary "Le Soleil Est Près de Moi" - easily recognisable because it's the only track featuring vocals - does offer the purest distillation of their approach. The final two songs (which are bonus tracks that were added to earlier editions), and especially "Brakes On," disrupt the mood and tempo a bit by offering a louder, more 'aggressive' style, but modern technology will undoubtedly offer a solution: SKIP!