While being from New York is not a prerequisite for being cool (hey, we should know, right?), it certainly appears to help from time to time. Just look at the effortless style of grooving Big Apple three-piece Jessica 6. Nice.
Take the further kudos endowed by part-time associations with Hercules And Love Affair (singer Nomi Ruiz toured and recorded with the DFA-signed act) – not to mention a prominent guest spot for Antony Hegarty – and you have a formula for dancefloor fireworks. Or sparklers, anyway.
But life is rarely that simple, and on full-length debut See The Light, Jessica 6 – named for the lovely Jenny Agutter’s companion to the eponymous hero in ’70s sci-fi classic Logan’s Run – often seem to labour a path through myriad retro dance styles, from disco to house and Eurobeat; a Soylent Green of the great, good and not-so-good of said genres.
All is not doom and gloom, of course. The opening pairing of lead single White Horse and the titular track is a strong one; the former thudding intro Donna Summer-esque retro-styled glory, the latter adopting a Bollywood stance without dialing back the funk.
A triple threat is completed with Prisoner Of Love: featuring the aforementioned Hegarty, it’s less Russ Columbo‘s number-of-the-same-name, more Röyksopp‘s Only This Moment. Having said that, Hegarty’s timbre isn’t a million miles from that of ’30s crooner Columbo.
Such curious similarities continue, in fact, as Jessica 6 continue to fling ideas at the wall, though only some of them stick: Ruiz could pass for Ilya‘s velvety-voiced Joanna Swan on piano-led ballad Not Anymore, but is a mere stone’s throw from a Human Nature-singing Michael Jackson on Blessed Mother. It’s a knack that, for what it’s worth, steals the show.
Taken as a whole, See The Light feels like it’s driving at CSS territory without success; without landing that required, distinctive je ne sais quoi. Perhaps it’s simply an unfortunate consequence of such a formidable opening trio of tracks: In The Heat struggles in the wake of its precedents – sounding like a Calvin Harris cast-off, to put it harshly – while Freak The Night would sound more at home on Now That’s What I Call 1997 (not necessarily a criticism, admittedly).
But throwing your lot in with nu-disco-by-numbers, it seems, is a leap of faith that does on occasion reap rewards. Good To Go, while as firmly entrenched in En Vogue territory as any of its trackmates, is alluringly androgynous, and simply lolls from speakers in great, generous strokes.
Further, Champagne Bubbles/Remember When sees Jessica 6 earn their musical chops with Janelle Monáe-type cross-pollination – sci-fi references notwithstanding – while closer Stars In Your Eyes strips affairs back to a previously-absent sense of timeless melancholia.
Nevertheless, See The Light is an album that, while far from terrible, is not going to set the world on fire. Sure, there is a handful of magic that could cause significant flame damage to a dancefloor somewhere, but, beyond that, Jessica 6’s toil to sculpt killer from filler is an endeavour that only occasionally pays off.