The debut self-titled album by Wolverhampton production duo Andy Harber and Richard Roberts, aka Letherette, is a party album. That’s not to merely denigrate it as a vacuous collection of upbeat euphoric house bangers. Instead, Letherette mirrors the dynamics and feeling of a real party. It is an album of moods and feelings, exultant euphoria and dreamy spaced out reflection. The anticipatory build, ecstatic release and blissful bittersweet comedown are all present, sometimes at once in the one song.
It’s clear throughout the album that the duo have been heavily influenced by Daft Punk’s meshing of disco house grooves and cut up vocal samples. D & T’s alluring stuttering beats, funk guitar and luxurious groove is heavily redolent of the French duo circa Discovery right up to the ’70s rock guitar solo. Other moments of sunburst sound washes also share a similar sound. Opener After Dawn has a lucid and spacey future disco sound. The synths and fractured samples float off into the distance. Classy and smooth, I Always Want You Back is full of slinky symphonic samples and a lovely sashaying airiness. The fluttering pitch shifted vocals provide a constant joy.
The best moments here are when the duo are at their brashest and most audacious. The One is a brilliant case in point. It’s a piece of restless electro funk that packs countless ideas into one song. Veering from distantly abstract and ambient to riotously euphoric by way of some gaudy and garish synth blasts, it is a wonderfully celebratory piece of progressive disco funk.
The album’s second half sees it drifting off into a pensive comedown, punctuated by psychedelic and hallucinogenic explorations. Gas Stations And Restaurants provides the separating midpoint. Pared down, sleepy and subsumed, it’s a gorgeous languorous lullaby. If the upbeat tracks were reminiscent of Daft Punk then these subtle and deep cuts bring to mind Air in their spaced out evocations.
Cold Calm continues the immersive hypnotic state. The grooves here are nagging repetitive loops; the vocals are barely perceptible RnB styled whispers. The songs become longer and ever more drawn out. The brilliant Warstones provides a second wind, dizzying and trance inducing, it represents the desire for an endless transcending groove that can go on all night.
The softer songs and slight jams that make up most of the second half of the album suffer to a certain extent by being slightly too long. They seem to be aiming for a hypnotic heightened emotional state but sometimes there is nothing to truly connect with. Tracks like Boosted are certainly pretty and twinkling, but they lack the force of personality of the exuberant highlights as well as the psychedelic reverie of the spaced out slumbers. As a result, some of the album’s second half drifts by.
Penultimate track Hard Martha does possess some interesting rhythmic touches. Its skittering percussion and hi-hat’s are compelling and suggest that the duo are miles away from being mere late ’90s French house revivalists. This music is more redolent of auteur-like oblique producers like Nosaj Thing; perhaps they may proceed further down that path.
The album’s final track, Say The Sun, is an example of when their RnB electronic soul does properly hit home. It provides five minutes of warm and luscious bliss into which you can drift off into a contended dream. It concludes a debut album of soaring highs and some affecting melancholic soundscapes tempered slightly by just a few forgettable lulls. Letherette is still a very fine debut, however, from a production duo that show great promise.