Pansoul album cover
Pansoul

Motorbass

1996
Different

In hindsight, Motorbass’s brief but memorable mid ’90s run was an important opportunity for Philippe Zdar to build a bridge between La Funk Mob’s trip-hop excursions and the house-focused sound of Cassius. Flatmate and good friend Etienne de Crécy’s influence would prove useful when Zdar’s usual collaborator Hubert Blanc-Francart seemed initially reluctant to join Zdar in making the transition that Cassius would finally complete. And after a string of buzzworthy EPs from ’93 to ’96, Pansoul turned Zdar and de Crécy’s partnership into a scene-sparking phenomenon: before the arrival of Daft Punk’s Homework the following year, this was the record to point to when it came time to see if this emerging French touch scene could sustain an entire album, and only its initially limited distribution kept it from catching fire beyond its intense initial buzz. And it’s aged spectacularly, a warm reconciliation between hip-hop’s break-building and house music’s euphoria that wasn’t beholden to either genre-purist reverence or smirky iconoclasm. “Ezio” and “Flying Fingers” are the two hottest tracks to carry over from those initial EPs: the former’s a warm bath of a deep house slow-burner that gives the characteristic filter-disco treatment to a track where the big build arrives with a harp glissando, while the latter builds a skybound atmosphere befitting of its titular Larry Heard nod but lays it down over a heavy funk drum break that sounds like Teddy Riley going four-on-the-floor and ladles on some slick scratch-work in its last couple minutes for good measure. Their beats get almost hyperactively restless even as they envelop the dancefloor in a reverb-tweaking warmth; the slap-bass-heavy disco excursion “Wan Dence” and the techno-organic kick/snare hurricane “Pariscyde” are masterclasses in how to screw around with house drum patterns without actually derailing their motion. And at their most audacious, like the lively yet contemplative acid house workout “Neptune,” they push that characteristic filter-disco tendency into the kind of hazy echoscapes that give your third eye as much of a workout as your lower body.

Nate Patrin

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