Pepe Deluxe

Queen of the Wave

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Self-described as an "esoteric pop opera in three parts," based on a cult 19th century novel about the lost civilization of Atlantis and featuring instruments including the Tesla Coil Synthesizer, Edison's Ghost Machine, and the Psychical Predictor, it's unlikely that 2012 will produce a more unashamedly "bonkers" record than Scandinavian duo Pepe Deluxé's fourth album, Queen of the Wave. Their first release to feature the new lineup of Finnish founding member James Spectrum and Swedish musician Paul Malmström (who replaced JA-Jazz) throws in everything but the kitchen sink on 12 experimental tracks that recall the cut-and-paste approach of the Avalanches, the inventive big beat of Fatboy Slim, and the avant-garde tendencies of the Go! Team. Occasionally, the pair's eccentric streak threatens to become too overwhelming, particularly on "The Storm," which veers from theatrical show tune to Hammer horror score to proggy wig-out in three chaotic minutes. But for the most part, the album cleverly manages to combine the sublime with the ridiculous. "Contain Thyself" and "Iron Giant" are convincing, if unexpected, forays into medieval acoustic folk, the wonderfully camp "My Flaming Thirst" is the best James Bond theme Shirley Bassey never recorded, while "Go Supersonic" is a brilliantly playful slice of art pop that borrows the melodies from Air's "Sexy Boy" and merges it with shouty CSS-esque vocals and an authentic '60s girl group production. But the most mellow track, "In the Cave," is likely to receive the most attention, thanks to its use of the Great Stalacpipe Organ (the world's largest instrument, found in the Luray Caverns of Virginia), which provides a unique and suitably creepy atmosphere to the haunting neo-classical interlude. Those only aware of Pepe Deluxé through their Levi-assisted one-hit wonder won't know what hit them, but fans who have continued to keep up with their abstract brand of electronica should enjoy most of the ride.

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