The deal hasn't changed: the world's best known couture indie label is still releasing everything from pop to polo shirts, having unearthed the likes of Years & Years, TDCC, Citizens! and, most recently, BeatauCue as they mix style with Gallic substance.
'New Faces 2' is one of their periodic compilations which has a says-it-on-the-tin vibe: 14 tracks (plus a bonus extra on the CD) all released by acts which should - unless you've been hanging out in all the right Shoreditch bars - be new to you. By way of setting expectations, if their previous collections were anything to go by, they confirmed that label supremo Gildas Loaëc is a man with a musical vision that sits somewhere between Europhile gloss and the preppy, Ivy League jangle of American outfits like Vampire Weekend and, perhaps less obviously, 'Kids'-era MGMT.
If that sounds like an odd combination, much of 'New Faces' is determined by these slightly narrow operating parameters and, by extension, a frisson of orthodoxy. Opener 'One Wing' by New Yorkers Beau is a sixties-indebted torch song in the mould of Lucius, whilst Suisfine's 'Heat' is glorious slacker rock, but, largely, the texture of most of the songs here is pristine and synthetic. This doesn't mean that, in series tradition, the odd gem isn't unfurled: RIVRS' 'Last love' is naked, almost prone R&B, with singer Charlotte delivering the band's dark pop in crystalline words; Danglo's 'Catch My Eye' is as sludgy as the Thames by which it was made; whilst Jai Wolf's mix of Mocki's 'Weekend' re-frames its New Jack feel with beeps and bleeps, giving it the authentic je né sais quoi of the week's best two days.
In between those high points, there's a slew of mildly diverting stuff - To Be Frank's 'Shot', the cherubic revenge synth pop of 'Turnaround' by Pawws and Marian Hill's soulful, ass-shaking 'Got It' - but, inevitably, there are also things which are not. Leading this category is the bland EDM of One Bit's Chicane-esque 'Won't Hold Back', the over-programmed and under-tuned 'Minerals' by Monogram and, least but not last, New Park's worthy but ineffectual 'Look In Vain'.
Loaëc has talked in the build up to this release about the label "Regularly escaping its comfort zone", but everything's relative. Being critical, those familiar with the Kitsune sound in recent years will be pleased or bored with nearly everything here, depending on their point of view. Only right at the end does the promised stylistic breakout seem even remotely possible; Mura Masa's dappled trip hop via 'Shibuya' mining Teebs in a mash up with Susumu Yokota, and the pinched afro-beat of Savoir's 'Malala' bending, if not breaking, the mould. It's these final two shots that could pave the way forward; brave and against the tide, they still don't explain why people who sell expensive jumpers want to bring out music, but they do point to a redefinition in musical scope that Kitsune badly need.