Whether it's his real name or not, Sonnington James III doesn't exactly sound like a moniker synonymous with the breakbeat dance scene, but recording under the guise of Sonny J, the Liverpool DJ's debut album, Disastro, is a melting pot of kitsch pop, classic TV samples, and psychedelic soul that could well be the closest thing listeners get to the long-awaited second Avalanches album. Inspired by his fascination with tracking down forgotten vinyl records in various charity shops, its 12 tracks certainly adhere to the mantra of the more obscure, the better. The country-gospel-led "I'm So Heavy" is based on the "I'm in Your Band" skit from Neil Hamburger's 1992 prank phone call album, the Bentley Rhythm Ace-esque title track samples '70s Italian singer Mino Reitano's "Nella Mia Mente la Tempesta," and the blissfully chilled-out closing track "Sonnrise" borrows the melody from New York '60s baroque pop outfit the Free Design's "I Like the Sunrise." But even on the more familiar source material, Sonny J cleverly interweaves vintage vocals with a quirky modern production to create a sound that feels both recognizable and original at the same time. Donna Hightower's Northern soul standard "If You Hold My Hand" is surrounded by squelchy synths and big beats on a Fatboy Slim-style makeover, Shirley Bassey's powerhouse vocals on "Puh-leeze! Mister Brown" are inventively chopped up on the Latino-inspired "Doing the Tango," and "Cabaret Short Circuit" is a surprisingly melancholic reworking of '60s icon Jack Jones' "How Much I Love You." Best of all is the brilliantly feel-good "Can't Stop Moving," which takes bits from the Stooges Beautiful Zion Choir's "Brand New," the Hues Corporation's "Miracle Maker," and '70s talent show Opportunity Knocks and turns them into a glorious slice of euphoric disco-pop reminiscent of a long-lost Jackson 5 classic. But with several entirely self-penned tracks, Disastro is more than just a ragbag of recycled oddities. "Sorrow" is a gorgeously introspective acoustic folk ballad, featuring vocals from This Is the Kit's Kate Stables, which could have been lifted from Cat Power's last album, while the robotic vocals, backwards guitar solos, and techno bleeps on "No-Fi" constitute a self-assured attempt at ambient trip-hop. Possibly the only album to contain rapping French schoolchildren, avant-garde U.S. punk comedy, and a Welsh singing dame, Disastro is a joy of undiscovered and intriguing musical treasures from start to finish.
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