Animal Nature

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Compared to Escort's self-titled album that preceded it by four years, Animal Nature comes across more as the work of a band than of a studio project. The entirety of Escort was driven by founding instrumentalist/production duo Eugene Cho and Dan Balis, and a portion was written and originally recorded before the vivacious Adeline Michèle, the singing and bass-playing dream of a ZE label fanatic, joined the lineup. The more collaborative Animal Nature trails numerous gigs, including a performance in front of thousands at the 2012 Montreal International Jazz Festival. Its base is the four original songs the band self-released on singles during 2013 and 2014, and each one is represented here, with the references to specific disco and post-disco artists and bygone production touches less obvious, a little more concealed than they are on the 2011 album. The MNDR collaboration "If You Say So" edges closer toward contemporary sounds while embodying the bounding, bursting spirit of early-'80s pop-R&B, while "Barbarians" switches between tight disco-funk and pounding drums that could trigger flashbacks to Black Blood's underground classic "Wela Wela." Their transformation of St. Vincent's "Actor Out of Work" into zipping electro-pop that resembles Aneka's "Japanese Boy" is here, too. All of the older material is upstaged, however, by "Body Talk," a gleaming compound of early-'80s boogie and early-'90s house in which strings sway through dancing piano, prickling synthesizer, and one of Michèle's most athletic vocals. "Helium," another new highlight, belies its title with a hard house groove and a rapid bassline, and a storming cover of Gino Soccio's "Dancer," recorded live, raises the temperature a few degrees and closes the album proper. The digital edition adds value with nine remixes, edits, and dub versions. Among them are a remix of "Cabaret" by Little Boots (whose "Satellite" was remixed by Escort), along with individual contributions from Metro Area's Morgan Geist and Darshan Jesrani. Some of the selections originally appeared on the singles.

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