Au Rêve

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One thing Philippe Zdar and Boom Bass didn't learn from label mates Basement Jaxx on album number two: How to make a tight record. Part of the greatness of Basement Jaxx's own sophomore album had to do with its brevity -- it was a whirlwind of countless styles, with house as its launching pad -- that sounded honed without the edges smoothed out, and it blew by before you got the chance to catch your breath. Though the range of sounds isn't as vast, Cassius' follow-up to 1999 has all the ingredients for a perfectly constructed gale force of a record, but many of its ideas are given too much breathing room. Long-winded tracks that would've worked better as brief interludes or outerludes (or even left as decent, extended B-sides) slightly deflate rather than complement a clutch of great vocal tracks with impeccable production work. "I'm a Woman," despite a regrettably scorching guitar intro that might've been cribbed from a 1989 issue of Guitar magazine, settles into a nimble, uplifting groove with disco diva Jocelyn Brown (Inner Life, Musique) in booming, spectacular voice. Boogie king Leroy Burgess (Black Ivory, Logg) takes over for both "Under Influence" and "'Till We Got You and Me," two irresistible house cuts double dipped in funk and gospel. "Thrilla" is Zdar and Boom Bass' very own "I'll House You," with Wu-Tang's Ghostface Killah on board for some fast and furious rhymes. But the greatest of all is Steve Edwards' shot, "The Sound of Violence," with the album's most wickedly zapping bassline and tangles of funk guitars that scratch and wah-wah. Compared to 1999, Au Rêve is much more organic, thanks to both live instrumentation and the wealth of great vocal turns. In that respect, it's a step forward for the duo. Just keep that program button warm.

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