Weekend Players

Pursuit of Happiness

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Groove Armada wizard Andy Cato finds an appealing match for this project in Rachel Foster, who broadens the disembodied aesthetic of trip-hop vocals with a throaty, suggestive sensuousness. Cato creates a noir ambience; Foster, whose background includes theater performance, projects herself into it with no apparent effort. Her gifts are most evident where the instrumental tracks are simplest, as on "Angel," or in settings fashioned specifically to show her off through subtle vocal processing and arrangement, such as "Into the Sun." Throughout Pursuit of Happiness, Foster comes across as a less strident, more seductive Annie Lennox -- exactly the right complement for Cato's precise technique, sleek pads, and breezy beats. On the standout track, "I'll Be There," he lays a 4/4 melody across an accompaniment drawn from "Electric Counterpoint" by the minimalist composer Steve Reich; the result is a polyrhythmic interplay whose heat animates Foster's cool delivery, and from concept to execution it's a textbook lesson for excellence within this genre.

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