Grenier & Archie Pelago: Grenier Meets Archie Pelago
Melodic Records

It's amazing what can come from a week-long collaboration. Assembling for the first time in the basement of a San Francisco art gallery, the Brooklyn trio Archie Pelago (multi-instrumentalists Greg Heffernan, Zach Koeber, and Dan Hirshorn) and DJ-producer Dean Grenier little knew that their collaborative efforts would produce the thirteen cuts featured on their Grenier Meets Archie Pelago full-length. Though before meeting face-to-face they'd believed themselves aesthetically compatible, nothing necessarily guaranteed that the material they'ld create would end up sounding so seamless and polished.

On paper, the project seems like a natural: formed in 2010, Archie Pelago had become known for its adventurous sound, an electronica hybrid rooted in woodwinds, horns, strings, turntables, and digital software, while Dean Grenier likewise had developed an interest in a musical approach that would allow equal space for luscious texture, melody, and clubby rhythmic drive. Working together, the four immediately found a way to unite all of their respective strengths in the service of a collective vision.

That the album is something other than a standard club-styled collection is apparent the moment “Swoon” augments plaintive string and muted horn figures with an infectious groove, the punch of its attack nicely sweetened by steel drum accents. Much of the opening cut's appeal lies in the way acoustic instruments such as saxophone, strings, trumpet, and acoustic bass are transplanted into a clubby rhythmic context, a theme that the subsequent twelve tracks explore in consistently refreshing and inspired manner. To the credit of its creators, the music never sounds forced or contrived: when a violin solo soars over an insistent club pulse during “Jellyfish Supernova,” for example, Grenier and Archie Pelago manage to make it sound like the most natural thing in the world.

Though house rhythms are present, the material doesn't locate itself in one genre only: hints of hip-hop and drum'n'bass seep into the resplendent, horn-burnished worlds of “Hyperion” and “Classon,” for instance, while a bass-powered funk groove gives the strings, horns, and woodwinds of “Phosphorent” a jubilant charge. Elsewhere, “Two if by Sea” and “Pliny the Elder” get their ecstatic jump from breakbeats-powered fury and African rhythms, respectively. It's interesting, though, that as satisfying as the clubby cuts are, the album's loveliest settings, “Octavia” and “Monolith,” are wholly beats-free, with the focus primarily on the entrancing interplay between woodwinds, strings, and horns.

In contrast to the icy, machine-like character of minimal techno, the marvelous music created by Grenier and Archie Pelago overflows with warmth and humanity. Imagine an outfit like The Cinematic Orchestra rhythmically re-conceived with the dance club in mind and you'll have some idea of the sixty-seven-minute album's sound. Here's one collaboration that can be recommended with no reservations whatsoever.

May 2014