....at least it'll give us a rest from fucking [a]Moby[/a].
It’s not quite water into wine, but turning Liebfraumilch into Chardonnay still ranks as a fair trick. That’s the art of [a]Bent[/a] – two blokes from Nottingham called Simon Mills and Nail Tolliday who conjure sophisticated sampladelic house out of some of the naffest second-hand records in Britain.
As a final twist to the whole cocktail-toting easy-listening boom, ‘Programmed To Love’ mercifully swerves the horrid old so-shit-it’s- good conceit by building genuinely beautiful music out of whatever [a]Bent[/a] have scavenged. There’s a thin line between clever and ironic, of course, but much here tends towards elegance rather than the car-boot-crazed wackiness of Bentley Rhythm Ace.
Easy-listening ‘classics’ by the deadly likes of Geoff Love are chopped up and recycled as peculiarly chilled pieces of horizontal dance music. The fearlessness of [a]Bent[/a] is extraordinary, not least when they steal the voice of specky Greek warbler Nana Mouskouri, beloved of Radio 2 and deaf grandmothers, and recast her as an alluring trip-hop chanteuse. The result, on ‘I Love My Man’, is as beguiling as anything Air produced with Beth Hirsch on ‘Moon Safari’.
That downtempo wing of the French music renaissance is a powerful influence; Kid Loco‘s marvellous ‘A Grand Love Story’ is clearly a key constituent of [a]Bent[/a]’s unsampled record collection, too. More lucratively, perhaps, the likes of ‘A Ribbon For My Hair’ and ‘I Remember Johnny’ deftly turn all the old syrupy string samples and reedy angel voices into the kind of dream house that ruled Ibiza a decade ago, music forever associated with flotation tanks and little fluffy clouds. Indeed, ‘Always In My Heart’ pretty much gives the game away by being a virtual companion piece to The Beloved‘s ‘The Sun Rising’. Really, it was beautiful, man.
Occasionally, the naffness rises to the surface: Nail affects an excruciating Edwyn Collins croon for the arch tossery of ‘Chocolate Wings’, and we could happily do without the posh voices singing, “London Bridge is falling down” on the final track. Still, this is sweet but knowing, highly engaging stuff. And, if the ad execs and the people who soundtrack dramas about late 20-something graphic designers with tangled love lives get to hear it, at least it’ll give us a rest from fucking Moby.