- Deniz Kurtel's debut album, Music Watching Over Me, sounded deeply personal, a connoisseur's distillation of house music history. Kurtel's second—a collaboration with the extended Wolf + Lamb family, The Marcy All-Stars—is much less precious. Mournful four-four club tracks have been replaced by heavily bass- and beat-driven tracks which, while you might spot the occasional house music motif, owe far more to vintage electro, '80s synth pop, hip-hop and bass music. (There is least one low-end wobble here that Benga would be proud of.) Is this a welcome evolution? It may be too early to tell. The Way We Live is certainly less singular, less stark, less compelling than Kurtel's debut. But, at its best, it has a charm, a vitality, an eclectic adventurousness, that suggests it could set Kurtel on a very interesting trajectory.
Across the closing quartet of tracks particularly, Kurtel switches styles and builds textural interest with a rare adroitness. "Wake Me Up" with crooners Pillow Talk is sparse blue-eyed soul, all bleeps, clip-clop percussion and a two-note, lo-fi acoustic guitar riff, reminiscent of Sign "O" The Times-era Prince. "Blackness" is limpid, late-night digital-pop, as close as Kurtel comes to reprising the introspective house music of her debut, the track raised a notch by her consistently clear, luminous production. "Thunder Clap" with Voices of Black is like an updated Art Of Noise, all faux-naif sampling, while closing track, "The Beat Drops" with Tanner Ross and Jules Born, could, through its incessant bassline, retro drum machines and cheeky jazz samples, be an early, if unusually subtle, Skint Records big beat track.
Elsewhere, The Way We Live is more mixed. Opener "I Knew This Would Happen" is flat; the Kenny Glasgow-featuring "Don't Wanna Be" isn't wildly different, lacking the emotional heft of his best Art Department work. "Safe Word" doesn't work: a light S&M interlude with Soul Clap and Navid Izad, it's a weak joke that (20 years after Club 69's "Let Me Be Your Underwear") doesn't bear repeating.
Disposable Hero of Hiphoprisy Michael Franti's stentorian tones sound good on "Right On," although his references to police brutality jar in this otherwise lighter context. The slippery and atmospheric "Hypocrite" or the coquettish, cosmic synth fandango "Love Triangle" are more where Kurtel is currently at. After the finely-wrought Music Watching Over Me, this is a more playful work. But one that certainly maintains interest as to what Kurtel will do next.
01. I Knew This Would Happen with Tanner Ross feat. PillowTalk
02. You Know It's True with Gadi Mizrahi
03. Love Triangle (Instrumental) with Wolf + Lamb
04. The Way We Live with Gadi Mizrahi
05. Hypocrite with Gadi Mizrahi
06. There's Enough for All Of Us with Gadi Mizrahi feat. Michael Franti
07. Don't Wanna Be with Kenny Glasgow
08. Safe Word with Soul Clap feat. Navid Izadi
09. Wake Me Up with Pillowtalk & Thugfucker
10. Blackness with Pillowtalk & Thugfucker
11. Thunder Clap with Voices Of Black
12. The Beat Drops with Tanner Ross feat. Jules Born