The Juan Maclean - In A Dream
A career-high return from the DFA-signed disco electronicists
With the demise in recent years of LCD Soundsystem and The Rapture, it seemed like the early 2000s vintage of ‘punk-funk’ (for that’s what it was excruciatingly known as) had died a death. Yet the label which curated the style keeps on kicking, and previously minor players on it have come out with some increasingly outstanding work in recent times. First we heard a resurgent Shit Robot, and now The Juan Maclean, three albums after their 2005 debut, have produced a career-high record.
In a Dream is well-named, for its style is blissed-out and blurry at the edges, although there’s a sublime groove running through the whole album which merges the dense electronic stylings of vintage house with a fluid feel that’s straight out of the disco handbook. The Juan we’re talking about is John Maclean, the driving force behind the group, although this time his partner in composition Nancy Whang – a key driver of LCD Soundsystem – has been pushed further to the fore. Her voice is integral to almost every track and it plays off Maclean’s well, a layer of cape-wearing disco frost alongside his warmer tones.
Every song on this record is strong, from the John Carpenter synth churn of ‘A Place Called Space’ to ‘Here I Am’s Whang-tastic Korg groove and ‘Love Stops Here’s strong impersonation of mid-80s New Order. The tone shifts impressively while keeping that same incessant groove throughout, strutting into the incessant nu-soul of ‘Running Back to You’ and coasting through on open-hearted version of acid house with subtle Asian notes on ‘A Simple Design’. On the one hand it all feels strangely old-fashioned – retro, even – but that’s down to the masterful balancing of influences the pair have woven together. It’s reminiscent of the sound of Chicago in 1988 by way of Dusseldorf in the 70s, but it’s all New York.
The Juan Maclean plays Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh, Sun 21 Sep.