The Juan MacLean

The Brighter the Light

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In 2013, the Juan MacLean resumed releasing singles after a short hiatus, starting with "You Are My Destiny." Curiously, the song and its follow-ups "Feel Like Movin'" and "Get Down (With My Love)" didn't appear on the group's third full-length, 2014's In a Dream, and the trail of non-album singles continued throughout the remainder of the decade. The Brighter the Light collects the majority of these tracks (barring a pair of non-DFA releases), and it easily stands up to the act's three strong full-lengths. As expected from a collection of singles by a dance group, this focuses squarely on club burners -- no synth pop ballads or interstitial experiments here. Practically all of the vocals heard here are by Nancy Whang (if John MacLean himself sings at all, it's just as backup), and the lyrics are typically preoccupied with either love, dancing, or both, but "What Do You Feel Free About?" and "Can You Ever Really Know Somebody" probe for deeper meaning without getting too heady. While the group's new wave and post-punk influences are still present -- there's no mistaking the New Order nods during "What Do You Feel Free About?" and "Get Down (With My Love)" -- these tracks feel a bit more fixated on early-'90s house and rave, from the orchestra stabs and acid squiggles of "Zone Non Linear" to the punchy beats and ecstatic pianos of "Feel Like Movin'" (although the latter track's choppy vocal samples place it a bit closer to the 2010s). The second half of the release is deeper and less immediate than the first, but just as thrilling. "Quiet Magician" is an intoxicating piece of underwater dub-house, while the sublime "Can You Ever Really Know Somebody" is the Juan MacLean at their most trance-inducing. The collection concludes with its title track, a dreamy blend of starry arpeggios and reflective yet buoyant pianos. A magnificent release from an act who have remained DFA's most reliable signing without ever sticking to a tried-and-true formula.

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