Release Date: Jan 31, 2012
Record label: Asthmatic Kitty
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Club/Dance
“Be ye doers of the word not hearers only.” When the good ship Pepe Deluxé was launched in the mid-‘90s, it was largely the work of DJ Slow, JA-Jazz, and James Spectrum. As they came together during the peak of big beat and trip-hop, the trio used a lot of samples for their beat-driven compositions. Containing traces of the psychedelic funk, classic rock, ‘60s camp, and breakbeat style that became their calling card, their 1999 debut album, Super Sound, leaned towards club-oriented repetition, catchy enough to earn them widespread recognition in the U.S.
Review Summary: An ambitious rock opera that remembers to be fun.Queen of the Wave starts inauspiciously, with its near-titular opening track "Queenswave" - the music's pretty great and it's got a nice melody, but the lyrics (the opening couplet runs 'let me sing a song for you/let me spin a tale that's true') is reminiscent of every dreadful, everything-in-excess lame rock opera you've ever heard. At this point, the album could just as easily be a Tommy-style stinker or a Hazards of Love-esque masterpiece, or something merely passable like S.F. Sorrow.The answer is none of the above.
Self-described as an "esoteric pop opera in three parts," based on a cult 19th century novel about the lost civilization of Atlantis and featuring instruments including the Tesla Coil Synthesizer, Edison's Ghost Machine, and the Psychical Predictor, it's unlikely that 2012 will produce a more unashamedly "bonkers" record than Scandinavian duo Pepe Deluxé's fourth album, Queen of the Wave. Their first release to feature the new lineup of Finnish founding member James Spectrum and Swedish musician Paul Malmström (who replaced JA-Jazz) throws in everything but the kitchen sink on 12 experimental tracks that recall the cut-and-paste approach of the Avalanches, the inventive big beat of Fatboy Slim, and the avant-garde tendencies of the Go! Team. Occasionally, the pair's eccentric streak threatens to become too overwhelming, particularly on "The Storm," which veers from theatrical show tune to Hammer horror score to proggy wig-out in three chaotic minutes.
Finnish dance trio Pepe Deluxé date back to 1995 but their first album of quirky big beat grooves didn’t surface until a few years later in 2000. Their latest - and fifth - record, Queen Of The Wave, is billed as “an esoteric pop opera in three parts”. Some lesser records may struggle to live up to such a title, but there’s no danger of that here.
It's never been easy to put a label or genre on what Pepe Deluxe do in their music. Although they've gone from being a hip hop/DJ group to a quirky indie pop band, the most cohesive thing about the Finnish duo seems to be their overarching eccentricity that is always redefining their music. In Queen of the Wave, Pepe Deluxe’s fourth release, they are still as in-your-face and colorful as they've always been, but for good or bad, this time everything feels cranked up and really interested to make a memorable first impression.
Anyone who’s caught one of the annual Radio City Christmas Spectaculars knows that the show is an aural-occular overload of flashing lights, blasting brass, diverse musical numbers, and high-kicking dancers. Sure, there are moments when the spectacle becomes almost too much—perhaps when the audience dons 3D glasses to take a virtual sleigh ride with Santa—but if you’ve got a taste for the tacky and a stomach for the saccharine, it’s a lot of fun. Pepe Deluxé‘s Queen of the Wave is a similar beast.
Truth be told, I probably won't listen to Queen of the Wave ever again, but "The Storm" will always have my undying respect. There are plenty of times where I doubt whether I can legitimately be surprised anymore, but upon encountering this song in anticipation of Finnish duo Pepe Deluxé's new album, I was on some straight Trapaholics "DAMN SON, WHERE'D YOU FIND THIS?" shit. Pepe Deluxé have been around since the late 1990s as sample-happy, electro-pop jokers and you could put "The Storm" in a lineage of va-va-voom bombast ranging from Shirley Bassey to the "1812 Overture", so it wasn't totally out of nowhere.
Pepe DeluxéQueen of the Wave[Asthmatic Kitty; 2012]By Ricky Schweitzer; February 17, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetI'm often asked which musical attribute I hold in highest regard during my analysis of a song. Though my response has wavered from coherent and logical melodies to thick tonal density and so on, at this point in my life I find that the most honest answer is originality. When a band produces something truly original, I believe that it deserves to be applauded, even if it is not an unmitigated success.
This is the kind of album that comes along once a generation, a groundbreaking, game-changing work of art that forces all others to re-evaluate the effort they put into their craft. Never in recorded history has there been an album of such audible variety, distinctive fidelity and lyrical intensity. Sound scientist James Spectrum and composer pal, Paul Malmström scoured the planet for the finest ingredients and came up with a Tesla Coil synth, a Model 80 wire recorder, a magnetic amplifier, an aether modulator based on a Thomas Edison theory, and pretty much every organ ever made, including the Great Stalacpipe Organ, which is the world's largest instrument.
Crams more creativity into a dozen cuts than most bands exhibit over entire careers. Mike Diver 2012 The Finnish ensemble Pepe Deluxé, ostensibly fronted by James Spectrum and Paul Malmström, are the kind of collective that piles its plates high come a turn at the buffet table. For these characters, spread across an album sold on its packaging as “an esoteric pop opera in three parts”, there is no fear in the coronation chicken spilling into the prawn cocktail: the more flavours, and the more mixed they become, the better.