LA production duo Michael David and Tyler Blake's début album as Classixx, 2013's Hanging Gardens, nestled comfortably between the tramlines of Vapour/Chill wave (Delete to taste): long on Miami Vice era 80's retro to just the right side of pastiche, it was a midnight drive for minds with the top half down.
Three years later, there's still nothing it seems quite as contemporary as the past, so the duo have rebooted their love affair with the 20th century on Faraway Reach, a title evocative of youthful hedonism and the giddy rush of our in between days. Superficially then little has changed, but whereas Hanging Gardens sat largely within a creative circle defined by Blake and David's production abilities, this time round they've shifted a gear into collaboration mode, squaring that circle by song writing for their guests to a level beyond the slightly cut-n'paste efforts of before.
This approach creates a different kind of pressure of course, but fitfully at least the hired hands lend some succour and flame: fellow avatars Passion Pit teleport the fragile house of Safe Inside to parties and dance floors, whilst Tom Krell aka How To Dress Well's peeling falsetto on Just Let Go works acrobatic overtime on what otherwise is a middle of the road slab of EDM. That and other touches prove at least that the two are mindful of not being slaves to period detail, managing to buff their circa '86 Cocktails and Corvettes sheen without going full nerd and resorting to use of the era's clunkily flawed technology.
This keeping it surreal attitude throws up some other apexes, notably T-Pain's auto-tuned mentalist warbling on Whatever I Want's underplayed r&b, whilst Holy Ghost's Alex Frankel ably turns the cheesy funk and fretless bass strut of I Feel Numb into Faraway Reach's finest moment. It's in this closed loop however that the duo occasionally trap themselves; over its dozen tracks they prove that they can spritz up their old skool obsessions into something capable of independent flight, but they spread their ideas too thin; this is not a genre high on innovation, but there's sometimes a flat, two dimensional vibe, like something that's been photocopied too many times.
The problem here is one many have faced to varying degrees of success, where moving from a comfortable niche to the pop mainstream means achieving a balance which few can master (Hurts, Disclosure being at the top of this game). The result is that there's nothing here when the duo are operating in either mode - wispy instrumental introspective or four to the floor banger - as good as Hanging Gardens title track or All You're Waiting for respectively. The good news is that Blake and David still have time on their hands to get it right: about 40 years of it, by our last reckoning.
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