Photo by Tim Deussen
Burning House is the coming together of beat-maker and one of the founding members of Bay Area Hip-hop collective Quannum Projects (Blackalicious, DJ Shadow, Latyrx), Chief Xcel and keyboardist/vocalist Hervé Salters (aka General Elektriks). It is a project that has been on the cards awaiting the time to be born since the pair met in San Francisco a few years ago where they realised a shared passion for funk infested things and irreverence when it comes to music. The union now offers an encounter in debut album Walking Into A Burning House, which takes the listener on a heady dance and ride through numerous exotic, exciting, and almost psychotic adventures.
The pair since their meeting has played on certain songs and releases of each other, whilst the French wizard of the keys Salters joined Blackalicious on their 2005 tour for The Craft album. Uniting again in Paris, the duo set about working on composing and creating music for the album, coming together a few months later in Berlin to finish the release and then later joining up in San Francisco again for its mixing. A fusion of dance, jazz, funk, pop, and plenty of more melodically enthused and varied temptations.
Released via French imprint Naïve Records, the album is an intriguing and riveting release if with niggling issues at times which rub against the grain slightly of the pleasure installed by the fourteen slices of warm and refreshing encounters. The main moan is that many of the tracks do not have an apparent ending, the tracks either drifting from view whilst seemingly in full flow or even worse at times they as good as just stop without warning or build up. Despite that irritant once in the arms of each enchantment it has to be said that persuasion is full and virulently infectious as shown by opener 28 Steps To…, the riveting track a stroll through a sinister noir clad scenario with floating glances of light within welcoming shadows. It is only brief but the perfect intro to a cinematic or TV fifties sci-fi/crime thriller, and to the album.
It is followed by the recently released single Turn Off The Robot, a track which did not exactly light our fires when making its debut but one easy to warm to; though under its balmy funk bred skies the urge to shout “Shaft” here and there is hard to resist. With appealing electro kisses to the flowing breeze of summery yet chilled jazzy sounds it is a more than decent stroll soon left in the shade of the likes of Post Party Stress Disorder and Tokyo Airport. The first of the pair immediately has a presence and vibrancy which reminds of Heaven 17, vocals and electro flames seducing the ear with harmonic finery whilst further tempting from the keys and the anthemic beats lure in thoughts of the Tom Tom Club. From its sizzling and drifting away climax the song passes the album over to its successor which instantly wraps excellent vocals and elegant mystique around thoughts to stir up another eager waltz of fiery melodies and feet hustling beats. With a definite sixties gait and seventies disco heart, the track is a welcome tease though with one of those messy endings.
Through tracks like The Nightbird and the bustling jam of Emergency Exit imagination is toyed with within the artists and the listener, even if the tracks fail to whip up the excitement of earlier songs. The good reactions they do breed though are soon lit up for greater results through songs like the sultry and mesmeric Copy That with its workman efficiency and eager seductive flourishes within a vibrant productive dance. It is matched in contagion by the agitated hive of hypnotic beats and bewitching pulses wrapped in jazz spawned eccentricity that is Scatterbrain and the absorbing Whispers In Your Headphones. The last of the trio is a song which merges shadows and light into an outstanding blaze of invention which is as equally menacing and sinister as it is poetically animated and lingeringly beautiful, coming with a loud whisper of Yello to its flourishes for extra tantalising.
Closing with the kinetically crafted romp Rhythm In The Machine and the electro rock based Boomerang, two more tracks which reinforce a heavy hunger for release and project which are brewed across the whole album and much against expectations to be honest going by personal preferences going into the encounter. Walking Into A Burning House is basically a scintillating collection of mini soundscapes and dance-floor provocateurs which leaves a long lasting and richly satisfying experience; just wish they had taken as much care on the ends of tracks as they did everywhere else, though maybe that was the intention all along to rile things up.
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