- You've gotta adore Circus Company. Whether flirting with damp-cellar jazz skronk or simply turning up the humidity on another woozy organic house jam, the label's willful eccentricity and sense of play has always seemed like an embrace of Bizarro community, one you'd like to be a part of if you could just get over your fear of costumes and goofball antics.
Over the past decade, the Parisian imprint has negotiated that jagged line in dance music between heady experimentalism and stark floor crashers. Formed in 2001 around a core circle of producers like Ark, Dave Aju, and co-owners Nôze and Sety themselves, Circus Company has always given off an in-the-family vibe, relying on these close compatriots to establish its core aesthetic and allowing newer recruits to paint around the edges. As such, it's no surprise in peeking at the tracklist to Snuggle & Slap to see plenty of material by their old friends alongside more recent additions like Guillaume & the Coutu Dumonts, My My, and Detroit's Ryan Crosson.
With so much new exclusive material spread over two discs, thankfully Circus Company has done a bit of the classifying for us. Disc one is Snuggle, illustrating the label's fluttery, silkier side, while disc two houses Slap, an assembly of the kinetic, headstrong deep house jams. On the former end, Guillaume & the Coutu Dumonts turn in the smooth foggy-night ambience of "Odyssee," while both dOP and Dave Aju's "Alligators" and Nôze's "Drums" are chugging, organic rhythmic workouts that don't so much lather up as spread a thin bead across the brow. My My's excellent "Bonus Jack"—the only track here to previously appear—undermines an oil black dubstep rhythm with funky keys and shaky flutes, while Dave Aju's own "Hide and Go Seek" sounds like an understated house take on a P-Funk singalong. With similar self-explanatory tracks like dOP's "Turff Blues" and Homewreckers' "Chicago Urban Blues" and the cryptic midnight tones of Nicolas Jaar's "Waltz Jazz," this wafty, café-jazz sensibility dominates the disc's atmosphere.
For the Slap portion of the menu though, Circus gives its acoustic, deranged-band sound a bigger room to romp about in. With sparse piano plonks and stormy horns, Nôze's "Boredom" is more of the duo's delirious dance-floor theatrics, while Ark's "Hey Glizz" winds the producer's strutty sample-based funk around a simple warm organ part that begins to sound like thick sugary things left to melt in the sun. One of the compilation's bona fide swooners, dOP's "Stock Option," twinkles and flutters against wooden beats and moaning horns, a strange contrast of warmth and heatless cool that begins to feel stifling before its end. Elsewhere, both Audio Werner and Destination Danger—Oleg Poliakov and Guillaume & the Coutu Dumonts in tandem—offer jumpy keyboard-driven house anthems in "Bakshi and "Du Rififi Au Katanga." As you can see, Snuggle & Slap's a lot to imbibe in one setting. Played front to back, it's like retracing a lost endless night—three cabaret joints, curbside witness to seven street performances, two stops at impossibly hip dance clubs—but ain't that exactly what we love about Circus?
CD 1: Snuggle
01. Ark -Back to Sleep Back
02. dOP feat. Dave Aju - Alligators
03. My My - Bonus Jack
04. Nôze - Drums
05. Guillaume & The Coutu Dumonts - Odyssee
06. Dave Aju - Hide and Go Seek
07. Ryan Crosson - Slow Down
08. Homewreckers – Chicago Urban Blues (Live at Café Bohemia)
09. dOP - Turff Blues
10. Nicolas Jaar - Your Waltz
11. Antislash - Trafic Jam
12. Ezechiel Pailhes - As We Are
CD 2: Slap
01. Nôze - Boredom
02. Ark - Hey Glizz
03. Nicolas Jaar - Love Teacher
04. dOP - Stock Option
05. Destination Danger - Du Rififi au Katanga
06. Sety - Le Bourdon
07. Audio Werner - Bakshi
08. Guillaume & The Coutu Dumont - Peneloppe
09. Le K - Rahan
10. Oleg Poliakov - Keep Blooming