Woolfy vs. Projections: The Return of Love
Permanent Vacation

Woolfy vs. Projections—the odd moniker adopted by California-based Simon James (aka Woolfy) and Dan Hastie since 2005—returns with its follow-up to 2008's debut outing The Astral Projections of Starlight. Apparently the earlier album was a concept album of sorts with Captain Starlight as its protagonist, and the sophomore effort carries the saga forward by having the astronaut return to earth following his space odyssey in search of his lost love. As per usual, no one need attend too strenuously to the narrative in order to enjoy the hour-long recording, as its twelve songs hold up solidly enough minus the storyline. Of more interest is how fast the duo recorded the material, as they decamped, so we're told, for three days in November 2009 to a log cabin in Californian Big Bear Mountains armed with “analog keyboards, pre-amps, laptops, and fine ales.”

How to characterize the Woolfy vs. Projections sound? It's vocals-heavy, for one, but rhythm-heavy, also, with the songs given a strong club vibe in their incorporation of breezy Balearic, space disco, and funk grooves. Skip the balladic opener, “Electric Storms,” which is a tad too twee and mellow for its own good, and instead proceed directly to the second track, “Cellophane.” It's here where the group's dreamy club vibe comes to the fore and, most importantly, its talent for wrapping seductive melodies in the most alluring of funk-disco arrangements. In this fabulous cut, spacey synth washes and guitar funk licks act as luscious support for the sensual purr of the vocal melodies. Hearing the two songs side-by-side also reveals clearly that the singing is more effective when presented as an atmospheric element within a larger mix rather than as a lead vocal per se, with all of the personality that's expected to go along with it.

There are some ear-catching stylistic change-ups, such as the breezy “Chameleons Tale,” which finds room for both jazzy trumpet playing and steel drums, and bluesy krautrock emerges in the form of “March of the Wizards,” which finds its harmonica and guitar playing powered by a slinky motorik pulse. “Nina,” the duo's collaboration with Tensnake, cops the laid-back opening of Steely Dan's “Do It Again” and then couples it with a chorus that's similarly indebted to another song, this time Madonna's “Papa Don't Preach.” There's no shortage of delicious hip-shaking funk (“In Your Own Worlds,” “Running Around Your Love”) on offer, though the album's atmospheric vibe can sometimes make a given track feel dangerously close to filler (“Me and You,” “Set Me Loose”). More often than not, however, the songs' lustrous arrangements draw the listener in.

November 2012