[B]Phillipe Zdar[/B] and [B]Hubert Boombass[/B] are the latest neo-retro post-house hedonism revivalists to rock the French disko bandwagon....
Phillipe Zdar and Hubert Boombass are the latest neo-retro post-house hedonism revivalists to rock the French disko bandwagon. Except they’ve already spent almost a decade producing, remixing and collaborating with just about anyone worth a Gitane on the Parisian beat circuit. Now it’s payback time, with their first official album under their new shared alias.
Naturally, being Frenchmen, [a]Cassius[/a] seize the essentially Anglo-American hybrids of house and disco and invest them with ample quantities of je ne sais quoi. Like much Gallic dance music, this is smoother, sleeker, glossier and more effortlessly sexy than most of its British contemporaries – but maybe also a little less witty, sassy and spunky too. Without wishing to restart the battle of Waterloo, the rich French tradition of style overruling content runs throughout much of this record.
Of course, this mastery of chic is precisely the quality we farty little Brits cherish and envy in our nearest European neighbours. But just don’t expect much emotional clout or saucy punk attitude from [a]Cassius[/a]. In fact, don’t even expect the conceptual gimmickry or genre-busting ambition of their fellow Parisians, Air and Daft Punk. This album is slight as a souffli and sweet as a sorbet: no alarms and no surprises here.
Within these snug parameters, though, lies quite a tasty tapestry of sound. Fleet-footed snippets of helium house and elegantly coiffured garage set the pace, punctuated by six-minute electro interludes and Barry White homages. The duo’s much-vaunted hip-hop leanings are never fully indulged, although ‘Somebody’ qualifies as the heaviest track here with its burly bassline and old-skool beatbox pulse.
Despite the pair’s protestations, Daft Punk remain an obvious point of comparison for the slow-building processed funk of ‘Mister Everready’ or the glitterball shimmer of ‘Foxxy’. Backwards drum fills, marshmallow basslines, knowingly synthetic Philly-disco flourishes, beats which slide from muddy soft focus to pinpoint clarity – all the familiar Parisian hallmarks are here. Like the Punkers, [a]Cassius[/a] have hit upon the wheeze of deconstructing and artfully reassembling the simple components of ‘handbag’ house, thus appealing both to commercial club crowds and to egghead rock hacks who prefer a sophisticated pastiche of dance music to the unmediated real thing. Result: Hubert and Phillipe can have their [I]gateau [/I]and eat it too. Which is genius, of a sort.
[a]Cassius[/a] have all the bells and whistles in place, then. What they lack, crucially, are [I]anthems[/I]. There is no ‘Da Funk’, ‘Sexy Boy’ or ‘Music Sounds Better With You’ here. Their closest candidate is the single ‘Cassius 1999’, an elasto-limbed blast of primary-coloured Fisher-Price samba-house which not only opens the album but, in its naggingly infectious radio version, closes it too. One stupendous tune and a dozen elegant grooves do not add up to greatness itself, though, just a sophisticated pastiche of greatness. But in these lean times, maybe that’s enough.