Every so often in this Pop Idle (sic) world, just when you think you will succumb to the branded corporate rock out of sheer desperation, an album will leap out of the pile and remind you what tickled your fancy with this music lark in the first place. Sadly this isn’t it.
Louisiana’s Dustan Louque’s (pronounced Luke) debut So Long is gumbo of many flavours reflecting his move to New York, from electronic trip-hop, New Orleans funk, Jamaican dancehall rhythms, deep soul and backwoods Cajun music, creating what he calls a musical style known as Faya. Does this sound familiar so far? I’m not thinking the paranoid magpie-ism of Tricky, but that other musical chancer, Finley Quaye. Definitely more downbeat, and lighter on the rasta, but there is an undeniable feeling of d�j� vu surrounding the depths aimed aim with too slight a weight.
Taking hypnotic Massive Attack beats on Perique, melded to downbeat soul creates an edgy, bruised opener summed up by Louque questioning “Am I lost here, all dignified?”. Before things get too maudlin Whoa Now redresses the balance with a summer ripple of lazy piano and synthetic loops in its warm, cosy fluff. You can almost hear him cringe singing, “I’m alone today, but the waiting here is nice”. Nice? That’s a biscuit isn’t it? Art is something like a hip Randy Newman meeting Ben Folds Five for a bit of lame bit of cod hip-hop to try and inject some urgency into a track that is firmly DOA.
The styles may change but the pace remains the same. Loops of authentic instruments intertwine with effect-laden spikes of chants, synths and found sound, to build a backing, over which Louque intones his latest ponderous heartbreaks, before it falls away in a spacious dub echo chamber, only to return to insipid fade. The rubbery Jamaican funk of Kenny the Jet is mauled by club-footed rap. Still In Waiting manages to squeeze in a cheeky reprise of Mr Vegas‘ Heads High dancehall hit at the outro from an initially lame, bit of loose dub-skank. The curio here is an intriguing cover of Mazzy Star‘s Cry Cry, that neither expands or detracts from the original, and feels like a smug polished apple of credibility brought for teacher.
Lifeline is reminiscent of former new hope of global soul music Merz, in its insistent beat, faya chants and fusion of technology coupled with soulful delivery. It’s the closest Louque comes to finding his own voice. I Did has a spooky fairground organ underpinning the shimmery twang of guitars to the nocturnal tale of leaving yet another unfaithful partner. Again.
There’s no doubting the talents of Louque, in his sultry vocals, possessing a swooping falsetto to rival Chris Martin of Coldplay, and his original musical combinations. It’s just a shame they’re let down by dross lyrics that bathe the ears to sleep, like a socially conscious bubble bath. For all its seeming invention, the album is devoid of inspiration, and stays on the same emotional plateau of lovelorn whinging set to many styles.
Despite the fact that most of So Long is driven by cold computer-generated beats, samples and synthetic loops, it’s, ultimately, Louque’s sultry voice and soulful delivery that gives this album its undeniable human touch. It’s just not a touch you’d want to be afflicted with. Schizophrenic and dull.