Hotel Amour

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The highly mutable Terranova, who emerged in the 1990s as an eclectically funky, pan-European trip-hop/hip-hop/techno collective, reinvented themselves for the second decade of the 21st century after a lengthy absence from the scene, signing with Cologne kingpin Kompakt for a pair of well-received 2011 12"s, and following with Hotel Amour, their fifth full-length and first since 2004. Still essentially the province of Berlin-born, Paris-based producer/DJ Fetisch, now with the Ghanaian-German &ME as his primary co-conspirator, Terranova remain as restless and collaboration-prone as ever, although the stylistic blueprint has shifted quite a bit. Basically everything on Hotel Amour could be described as house of some sort, and although there's a range from the title track's swanky French coos and jazzy vibraphone plinks to the sparser, tech-y throwback of "I Want to Go Out," to the murky, clattering noir dub of "Take My Hand," it's all pretty smooth, sleek and, for the most part, fairly subdued. Except perhaps the tougher, vaguely punky electro-schaffel of "Ain't No Thing" (probably the biggest outlier here), any of these cuts could fit right in on the sort of turn-of-the-century downtempo compilation evoked by the album's rather unfortunate title (which unwittingly suggests a garden-variety knock-off of Stéphane Pompougnac's Hôtel Costes series.) Which isn't to suggest that this music is utterly drab and faceless (or strictly for lounging -- indeed, much of it is quite pumping.) In typical Terranova fashion, every track here features a vocalist. While all of them acquit themselves in fine style, top marks must go to Tomas Høffding of WhoMadeWho; his dulcet, elegantly soulful falsetto is simply a revelation on the achingly lovely, perfectly constructed "Question Mark," and who also turns in a more than passable Justin Timberlake impression on "Paris Is for Lovers," a somewhat curious tech-house recasting of "My Love" (which bizarrely omits every other line.) Longtime out-Kraut fellow traveler Khan shows up four times, helping to elaborate the album's shadier undercurrents with his darkly understated vocals, the best being his sinister, whispery turn on the funky, minimalist "Boogie for the Dollar." Darkest, strangest, and most stylish of all, the closing "Prayer" boasts a couple of minor German media icons -- a torchy vocal from actress/model Nicolette Krebitz (who was also featured on Terranova's first album 13 years prior) and a campy voice-over from horror/exploitation actor Udo Kier.

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