Release Date: Aug 26, 2016
Record label: Because Music / Warner Music
Genre(s): Electronic, House, Electronica, Club/Dance, Progressive House
Absent from the album bins for a decade or so, French house duo Cassius finally returned in 2016 with Ibifornia, and the easy thing to say is that Daft Punk's 2013 LP, Random Access Memories, is what likely drove them back. This sorta concept album -- about a mythical partyland that combines Ibiza and California -- comes with so much disco, and just enough Pharrell Williams, that a Nile Rodgers appearance seems just around the bend, but there's more going on here than a bunch of wannabe "Get Lucky" cash-ins. Ibifornia comes with enough funk and cool from guest vocalist Cat Power that it could be the spiritual sequel to the Tom Tom Club's debut album, plus all the faux exotica, busy soundscapes, and chugging basslines suggest the Swiss duo Yello.
It’s a decade since this pre-Daft Punk French electronic duo’s last album, 15 Again, but they’ve kept themselves busy producing other artists such as Phoenix and the Rapture. On Ibifornia, Philippe Zdar and Boom Bass’s bulging contacts book produces an A-list guestlist, from Pharrell Williams to Cat Power. Go Up, featuring both, is a glistening club banger, while Power’s sultry ballad Feel Like Me and speaker-quaking Action are the best things here.
In the 10 years since Cassius released 15 Again, dance music has been reinvented approximately 2,413 times. A day. A question then: how to return and be relevant? First, have a concept. A portmanteau of Ibiza (night/hedonism) and California (day/vibes), Ibifornia is a fictitious tropical island where French electronic duo Philippe Zdar and Boom Bass are free to blend deep house, yacht rock, synth pop and Balearic comedown – sometimes, as on the title track, all at once.
A comeback from a much-missed French electronic duo, with an eclectic guest list that includes Pharrell Williams, Cassius’ Ibifornia (Ibiza-meets-California, might work better in French) shares much theoretical shelf space with Daft Punk’s magisterial Random Access Memories (2013). Featuring the likes of Cat Power (often singing against type, on songs such as Action), Beastie Boy Mike D and hit-maker Ryan Tedder, these squelchy tunes pack much summer sunshine, and even kitsch jungle noises on the title track. But the long-range outlook is a little more mixed.
On their last album, 2006’s 15 Again, the French duo Cassius found themselves faced with a not-uncommon problem for European dance acts in the 21st century. Here they were, in mid-career and on their third album, trapped beneath the overlapping shadows of Daft Punk and Basement Jaxx. The result was a mixed bag of funk and house and funky house, broken up by the occasional grab at pop’s brass ring.
Let’s take a minute to look at how the dance class of ‘99 has fared. 1999 was a stellar year for dance music in general which saw the release of some notable albums. The king of them all was Moby’s inescapable electro-blues monolith Play. Nonetheless, the dance field was ably represented by leftfield’s Rhythm and Stealth, Death in Vegas with their Contino Sessions, and Chemical Brothers’ boisterous big beat workout Surrender.
Cassius 'Ibifornia' (Love Justice SARL/Justice SARL/Interscope)Anyone who’s followed Philipe Zdar’s production career over the past few years will undertand why the band’s new album has been jokingly dubbed “Cassius & the Family Stone”: with cameos from the likes of Pharrell Williams, Cat Power and Beastie Boys’ Mike D, ‘Ibifornia’ is a lush, exotic album with star-studded collabs which sounds as inspired by the jungle as it is by the dancefloor. It’s also not scared of playing pop in the same way that ‘1999’ and ‘Feeling For You Did’ – ndeed, ‘The Missing’ with Ryan Tedder and Jaw sounds like a soulful update of ‘Starlight’ by The Supermen Lovers. Mike D also appears on ‘Love Parade’, too, although ‘Go Up’ with Pharrell and Cat Power is ‘the album’s true jewel in the crown.