Steven Warwick knows his cheese. On last year's Déviation EP, he mixed Casio jams with a Serge Gainsbourgh-like sense of wink-and-nod humour. The French connection became explicit on "C'etait Un Rendez-Vous," in which a car chase through Paris is narrated in spoken-word while a blearing saxophone slurs itself over a slow, lo-fi groove. That the narration managed Italian Job-style thrills while name-dropping 19th century Parisian city-planner Georges Haussmann is just one example of Warwick going beyond simplified ideas of "high" and "low" art.
On Re-Engineering he reuses some of the same tricks, but this time the tone is different and more varied. There are some proper beats, though Warwick never lets them get too obvious. Take the opening few bars of "Speculative," with its big room kick drum quickly overtaken by a jaunty bassline and, eventually, an '80s synth-pop-style lead melody. Lyrics describe a clubbing experience with "crowd crystals" and "5AM portal reflection," while each element of the music draws on a different style of what we call club music—the pounding drums, house chords, jazzy sax and a sleazy Italo synth. It's hard to imagine anyone else pulling off such a blend.
Thankfully, the sense of humour hasn't disappeared behind the higher production values. "U1" is a short field recording of someone playing a woeful version of "Wonderwall" on Berlin's U-Bahn. "Watermark" has cheesy Spanish guitar and guest vocalist Hanne Lippard saying things like "Welcome to L.O.L." Balancing this kind of stuff with more serious material is a genuinely rare skill. When was the last time an electronic producer tried to make you laugh?
"Clear Channel" sits at the heart of the record and is probably its most straight-forward track. Six minutes of woozy synth, bubbling bass and echoing drums combine for a slice of colourful, if not outright psychedelic, house music. It's a kind of anchor at the centre of the album, a reminder that even when things head towards satire or sound-collage there is a keen musical mind at work, underpinning everything with a loose but infectious sense of groove and timing. Anyone who has heard Heatsick play live will attest to that.
Re-Engineering is very much an album designed to be played as a seamless whole. It's warm, fun, curious and deeply entertaining. It's also proof that a little bit of mischief can go a long way.