One night last month, I found myself lolling on the patio of a massive pile — one part Mies, three parts Mobutu — in a well-heeled part of Dakar, Senegal. Try as I might, the irony machine set itself awhir: If only I had the right music on the stereo, I could be enjoying a moment right off the pages of Wallpaper. Alas, one month too late, the music has arrived.
Considering that we last heard from Trance Groove three years ago on the group’s debut, Paramount, it’s about time. Acid jazz has always been a dicey proposition — when classic Blue Note and Stax recordings are a genre’s touchstones, there’s a long way to fall. Happily, this rather dashing (albeit motley) German sextet has never had a problem with footing. Whatever you think of its Fassbinder-meets-Beastie Boys look or the unfortunately square name, the talent is undeniable. The band seems at once well-tutored in the classics and fearlessly willing to extrapolate from them, fashion be damned.
“Saudade” is little more than atmospheric synth wash, flügelhorn noodlings and some Astrud Gilberto-esque cooing from one of the bandmember’s molls laid over a hypnotic beat. But it’s eight minutes of absolute cool. As is “Qu’es-ce que tu fais.” The opening track, “Helsinki Snow,” is a flawless, ballsy conflation of acid jazz with house-flavored trance, sounding as if it were a gem kept on ice for the past decade while trip hop came and spent itself. “Vegetarian Popstar,” a pure funk throwdown, stepped out of a time machine set for Chicago, 1975. The only misstep is a dub number, “Radio Faya,” that’s far too cheery for its own good.
The charm of Trance Groove was and still is muscular ensemble riffing. No smooth-jazz pantywaists or geeky knob-twiddlers are these gents from Cologne. There’s nothing original or particularly intriguing about what they do, but they do it with a considerable amount of cheek and a lot of energy. Despite the many inflections to many swinging antecedents, the music never seems precious or kitschy, as is the case with, say, Dmitri from Paris, a fellow Continental traveler to the space-age bachelor pad. Solid sound, solid vibes.
We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.
Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.
Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.
Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.