Sarah Goldfarb & JHK: Heartbeat City

First things first: the inspiration for Jean-Vincent Luccini's alias, Sarah Goldfarb, comes from the film Requiem for a Dream, specifically the speed-addled psycho played by Ellen Burstyn. And, yes, the title of his first artist album on Treibstoff does in fact reference the ‘80s album of the same name by The Cars. It's also worth mentioning that, having issued his share of 12-inch discs, Luccini apparently wasn't too keen on writing a whole album's worth of material so called on his friend and neighbour, Jean-Christophe Hallary, to join him for the ride.

With an unnecessary overture (“Here We Come”) out of the way, the album gets down to business. First up is “The Noise Electric,” a ponderous electronica setting that'll leave the dancefloor empty with Luccini and Hallary more intent on weaving flutes, strings, and percussive colour into a mildly interesting set-piece. Punctuated with horn flourishes and tympani accents, “Jacki” fares better in its Perlon-styled fusion of techno and South American swing. Shadowed by a tribal, “Heater”-like vibe, “Lights at Night” works its minimal funk into a dizzying lather that elevates it over other album tracks. “Back in Town” likewise stokes mildly funky fire with a synth-heavy tech-house pulse. The slow-builder “Never Stop” takes the listener on a nine-minute trek through atmospheric climes replete with murmured vocal accompaniment and reverb-drenched sound design, after which the title cut works up some sorely-needed heat in its raving house thrust.

Despite that late-inning surge, Heartbeat City's well-dressed dance tracks could often do with a little more heat. Or to put it another way, the hour-long collection is less a dancefloor than home listening album that happens to include a fairly pronounced techno dimension. There's no denying the material's sonic appeal, as Luccini and Hallary ornament their tracks with no shortage of rich instrumental colour, including strings, acoustic guitars, pianos, voice samples, and synthesizers. But many tracks lack urgency in the rhythm department, and consequently don't generate the kind of excitement one craves from material of this genre type.

January 2010