Booka Shade has had somewhat of a charmed career. The success of “Body Language,” their breakthrough 2005 single with M.A.N.D.Y., gave them entre into disco techno university; they’ve never had trouble getting a gig since. Still, there’s room to grow into Hot Chip status, and on More! we get the impression they just might go for it… someday. Instead of pop songs fitted into a dance context, we hear a duo stretching their skills and experience around a song, with sleight of hand (and push of buttons). Booka Shade instills confidence in the album format for dance artists, delivering a composed sonic story from start to finish, keeping each song at five and a half minutes or less, and offering a variety of sound and sensibility to make a compelling case for their continued relevance.
Though 2008′s The Sun & The Neon Light was a balanced and tight album, it was ultimately a reiteration of their previous work; synthy and melodic, it maintained the status quo of the Booka Shade sound. Things are a little different on More!. For one, there’s a sense of humor track like on “Havana Sex Dwarf” and “Divine” where BS collabs with Swiss ‘tronica duo Yello. The baritone whisper vocal is perhaps the techno descendent of Serge Gainsbourg, but nothing is lost in the accompanying beat. There are definite melodies throughout, structured with the confidence of songwriters who don’t need to catch your attention with an obvious hook.
While More! starts a little slow, when you get to the drop on “Regenerate” that you realize you’ve been seduced. Only an artist who spends equal time in dark bass-throbbing main rooms and tiny little green rooms knows how to tweak a tune with the ideal blend of danceability and listenability. The melodies and countermelodies on “Teenage Spaceman” weave subtely in and out of each other, and the opening pulse of “L.A.tely” is edgy but still inviting. It’s a progression from the days of “Body Language” and an evolution beyond the retread of The Sun.
Not everything hits the mark. The lyrically juvenile vocal from Chelonis Jones on “Bad Love” undermines an otherwise mature production. Regrettably, this is the album’s lead single. Perhaps it would do better with an audience that doesn’t understand English. At other points, as on “This Is Not The Time,” Booka demonstrates that they have the chops to do something beyond their a trademark sound without disrespecting the elements of their success. They tour North America briefly starting this month.
The More Tour
Tue 5/25 Brooklyn, NY Music Hall of Williamsburg
Thu 5/27 Los Angeles, CA Henry Fonda Theatre
Fri 5/28 Irvine, CA Lighting in a Bottle Festival @ Oak Canyon Ranch
Sat 5/29 Morrison, CO Bisco Inferno @ Red Rocks Amphitheater
Sun 5/30 George, WA Sasquatch Festival @ The Gorge
Mon 5/31 Detroit, MI Movement Electronic Music Festival @ Hart Plaza