Ark: Caliente

Though Guillaume Berroyer doesn't deviate entirely from the French minimal house sound heard on Ark's Alleluyark, two things in particular differentiate Caliente from that 2003 release: a broadened stylistic range that encompasses soul, funk, house, and hip-hop; and the new album's most distinguishing feature, its prominent incorporation of vocals and voice samples.

Caliente includes numerous great moments: the chopped stutter-funk of “AP Day” and especially the infectious funk-house of “Monapster” where writhing bass lines rumble, gleeful pianos dance, and voice slices yelp ecstatically; with its jittery loops of fragmented voice babble, the microhouse strut of the eight-minute “Eigil” impresses too. The quality level drops considerably, however, when it comes to Berroyer's vocal treatments. In some cases, they work: Jamie Lidell dons a lascivious faux-soul vocal to proclaim robot love in the spacey “R2D2” while a reverend's testifyin' in “Preacher” is palatable too despite an industrial whirr that drones throughout the song. In “Hips,” cartoon voice snippets and grunts overlap as if trapped in an inescapable maze while Berroyer works his favoured “Swing low, sweet chariot” sample into the jerk-house of “Sweet Rime.”

On the down side, “Sucubz” is ruined by Xavier Vindrard's clichéd DJ exhortations, which would be just as annoying in the club as they are here—a shame, given the song's deep funk potential. More lamentable is Berroyer's decision to include voiceovers which diminish rather than enhance the material. The grinding hip-hop crunch of “Home Street” would sound great, for instance, minus the distracting voice overlay, as would the skuzzy “1G2C” (which otherwise nicely splatters sax playing and synth bleeps over pounding Latin-funk rhythms). One reaches the same conclusion upon hearing “Fuites De Gaz” and “Me & My W.” Though there are strong moments (it's a Perlon release, after all), Caliente disappoints because it could so easily be better than it is. Berroyer errs in allowing excess, not restraint, to dictate too much of the album's content.

September 2005