This is not the first time the musical paths of Elton John and Pnau have crossed, for the elder statesman of piano-led rock music has had the Australian duo of Nick Littlemore and Peter Mayes in his sights for some time. He signed them after listening to their self-titled debut in 2008, which he proclaimed to be the ‘greatest record I’ve heard in 10 years’, and then had considerable creative input into their follow up Soft Universe, released last year.
Here the tables are turned; the Australian duo let loose on the master tapes of early Elton John material and positively encouraged to work them in to totally new songs. They have therefore come up with blended reworkings of songs such as Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word, Curtains and Friends, taking more than one song for a track on occasion. It is to Littlemore and Mayes’ immense credit that they work in the elements of their source material with enough intricacy to make the album sound like a long-lost collection of Elton originals, upgraded with more contemporary beats, in a similar way to Ashley Beedle’s transformation of Are You Ready For Love?, back in 2003.
The beats themselves are ideal, set firmly on the dancefloor, with the rest of the production sending ‘Reg’ to the Balearics in a heat haze. The lead and title track sets the tone, reminding us at the same time of how Elton’s voice used to be more direct and cutting. Pnau’s woozy production, with hot weather atmospherics and straightforward four to the floor beats dominating for much of the time, works a treat. On Karmatron they let themselves go, encouraging more direct comparisons with the welcome weirdness of Littlemore’s Empire Of The Sun. That also comes to the fore in Foreign Fields, which bears more than a passing resemblance to the final track of that project’s debut album, Without You.
Pnau can do slow, too, and Telegraph To The Afterlife becomes the most emotive track on the album, backed with a chilled but poignant production that could make for a perfect closing number to a twilight DJ set. “Open up your heart and let your feelings flow”, runs the vocal sample, taken from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album track Harmony, immediately backed up by Love Song’s “Do you know what I mean, have your eyes really seen?” This seamless transition betrays the amount of work that Pnau have clearly put in to this project, and the resultant song will melt the hardest heart.
This is then a collision of musical styles that is totally appropriate and which reflects well on both parties. The only considerable regret is that there is not more music, for eight tracks seems short change for fans and first timers alike. That said, with the old adage that it’s about quality and not quantity, this ‘Volume 1’ – for there could well be more – will be welcomed with arms outstretched on the dancefloor.