Arts & Entertainment
2 min

Music reviews: Air & Cut Copy

Something old, something new

Dance music, since its disco inception in the late 1970s, has evolved, metamorphosed and splintered into so many genres and subgenres that it is mind-boggling. Music snobs the world over could be fawning over one thing, but dissing the other, based on subtle nuances that are inaudible to the average person. So it’s pretty special when something comes along that can unite these disparate tribes. Fans of Junior Boys, MSTRKRFT or even Daft Punk could all find something to love about Cut Copy and its new, second album In Ghost Colours. Hailing from Melbourne, Australia this rock-dance (dance-rock?) trio is the current master of buzz, blog and beyond. Whereas hard-core dance beats alienate many, Cut Copy has accomplished a rare thing indeed: an album full of songs that could be equally comfortable on the dancefloor or Mix 99.9FM.

Led by songwriter and main man Dan Whitford, Cut Copy’s In Ghost Colours is a highly pleasing, seemingly effortless blend of vintage disco, synth-pop and rock with a dash of dispassionate vocals that evoke an icy, distant yet danceable soundscape somewhere between post-punk London and pre-DFA New York with a dash of Blondie/Talking Heads new-wave pop irresistibility.

On “Hearts on Fire” Whitford sings, “I’ve been searching for a love alive/ Drowning in the silence as we walk the night/ Your hand is out and brushes mine/ A moment that is frozen as we hang in time.” He’s backed by galloping synths, beefy percussion and unidentifiable yet somehow familiar ’90s dance samples. “Out There on the Ice” and album closer “Eternity One Night Only” could not make better examples of Cut Copy’s multiple talents: amped-up, discofied rock swagger and pure Eno-esque atmospherics. “Eternity” could almost be a track from Eno’s Music for Airports.

In Ghost Colours takes the best sounds from all the imperial phases of dance music and throws them all in the blender. The result is an interesting pop record that transcends boundaries, trends and general categorization.

Air, the eclectic French duo of Jean-Benoit Dunckel and Nicolas Godin, have a lot to be proud of. Since their 1998 debut Moon Safari they have gone on to infuse their laidback electro groove with techno, pop and prog-rock overtones to such brilliant effect that they, as a downbeat experimental pop band, have had a surprisingly huge influence on the new school of French electro, pop and dance.

Moon Safari is undeniably important in the electro canon. It took elements of electronica and Eno-isms and mixed them with influences ranging from ELO to Burt Bacharach and Serge Gainsbourg to create something beautiful, hypnotic and completely other-worldly. From the chilled Café Del Mar-type groove of “La Femme d’Argent” to the weird robopop of “Sexy Boy” and “Kelly Watch the Stars,” there was something special and different at work, an album that encapsulated indie credibility, a finely honed yet strange musical sensibility and hip Euro-chic.

Smartly, Astralwerks and EMI have repackaged Moon Safari for its 10th anniversary, aimed at a new generation of listeners as an expanded triple-disc set, comprising the original album, a second disc of remixes and live BBC performances and a DVD containing their Eating, Sleeping, Waiting and Playing documentary, in addition to music videos and album graphics.

This repackaged set is squarely aimed at completists. For the average person the original single disc version will do just fine. But this 10th-anniversary collection serves as a gentle reminder that a decade ago two would-be French “pop” stars actually came closer than anyone before to claim a bizarre musical throne of pseudo pop, ambient and lounge. A decade later it is well worth repeated listens.

Cut Copy perform in Toronto to a sold out house at Lee’s Palace (529 Bloor St W) on Fri, May 9. The trio plays Vancouver on Tue, Apr 29 at Richard’s on Richards (1036 Richards St).