If a band splits up before their first album is even set down, then the warning sounds might be loud and clear. Yet there seems to be no cause for worry in the case of Aeroplane, who are pressing ahead with just the one pilot after a seemingly amicable parting of the ways.
Said pilot is Vito Deluca, pressing ahead with the transition from highly regarded remixer to fully fledged artist. In the former discipline he and Stephen Fasano made their name with some spacious, disco-house flavoured work, with Grace Jones‘ Williams Blood and Sebastien Tellier‘s Kilometer among their best reworkings. Despite their nationality – Deluca is Belgian and Fasano Italian – the pair seemed destined to be linked to the French dance music tradition, a link strengthened by the recruitment of Bertrand Burgalat as a producer for the debut album. Deluca plays all the instruments on the album, helped out here and there by a guest vocalist – so it seems the project will press on as his sole responsibility.
The worry is that he might have lost an important element of the Aeroplane approach. To start with there are several plus points, notably a talent for exploring several different styles in the course of an album that only artists like Groove Armada seem to be able to do successfully. A fair amount of it comes off well, too – the twisty funk of We Can’t Fly and the single Superstar, vocoded within an inch of its life, are memorable tunes. My Enemy makes its mark as a strutting piece of disco, led initially by pizzicato strings, while I Don’t Feel has genuine diva pretensions, starting off like a Tina Turner imitation but revealing some unexpected twists and turns as the song progresses.
Despite these favourable elements, there is still something lacking. The production is beautifully polished, so no complaints there – indeed there is a sheen that would do credit to any 1980s Italian dance floor, or any 1990s French one come to that. And yet for all its chic turns and cool, lightly funky asides, it seems We Can’t Fly lacks the presence of a real killer song, or indeed a hook to lift it from being a record that’s easy to hear to being one that’s impossible not to like.
This doesn’t mean of course that Deluca can’t fly without the presence of his band mate – and nor should he have a fear of getting airborne. But it seems that the first principles that got Aeroplane their quality remixes – a real sense of atmosphere, and slow disco-house beats that might be regarded as ‘cosmic’ in some circles – are only fleetingly glimpsed. Deluca has proved that he can comfortably write in a number of different styles of music – but on the next record it might work better to stick to the ones he has truly mastered.