Twice Thomas

I really love Azier's single, "Ghost City." It's got the perfect mix of 80s new wave, 90s techno and 00s electro. Also, it moves. More of a slink than a canter, but that enough to find the groove. In addition, Azier uses his falsetto to perfect effect. The soaring chorus is just lovely.

So I was expecting more of the same on his debut album. Turns out that Hylas is more Tangerine Dream than Kraftwerk. Even when the tempos pick up, they're leavened by long stretches of synth washes and drawn-out phrases. This is one moody pile of bits and bytes.

Thomas Azier

Thomas Blondet
(Rhythm & Culture Music)

While I it's likely would have been happier with an album full of songs like "Ghost City," I think Azier has marked some interesting territory. His song construction trends toward the gothic (and maybe a little goth, but you'll understand my differentiation if you hear this), and he has a real knack for the dramatic chorus. The most common song here is the slow-jam electro anthem, and that's unusual to my ears.

With a less-deft touch, this sound could get dreary fast. Azier throws in plenty of ideas for each song, though, and he manages to drag this album to a satisfying conclusion. Not the sort of album you'd crank in the car, but it is pretty good if you're looking for an intensive chilldown.

I do still think that "Ghost City" is the best track here, but that song is a bait-and-switch. Azier has his sights set on more introspective territory, and he does a pretty fair exploration here. This album had all sorts of chances to fall into a torpid mess, but Azier made it shine instead. It can be hard to warm up to cold steel, but Azier's talent should be more than enough to warm your ears.

Thomas Azier has a song called "FutureSound." Thomas Blondet brings us an album called FutureWorld. Despite the obvious differences in rhythms (Blondet is a definite dub aficionado), the concepts are surprisingly similar.

Blondet fuses his dub work with vocal guests from around the world, which makes this album much more than reggae 2.0. There are bits and pieces from Asia, India, Africa and South America, as well as the requisite Jamaican patois. Blondet is the producer. He built the stage for his guests to shine.

The album title is an obvious reference to "world beat" music, a now-archaic term that was pretty lame even when it was in popular use. I think the idea here is to take sounds from all over and spin them into a tasty concoction.

Blondet's greatest accomplishment is mixing all those influences without turning them into grey goo. All the personality and unique traits remain. His structure is more than generous enough to give room to all of his collaborators.

This does lead to the occasional problem of identifying an actual "Blondet sound." If you want to call that a problem, of course. I'm more inclined to call it a strength. This album floats and bounces all over the world, even while its electronic soul resides in the Caribbean. That's a pretty cool trick.

The way forward is to put together old ideas in new ways. Blondet and Azier have succeeded in fusing electronic past and future. And now, the future.

Jon Worley

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