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super sound
Pepe Deluxé
Super Sound
Emperor Norton

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This probably won't happen to you, but if it does, you'll be prepared.

For reasons known only to himself, an international supervillain captures you, drags you back to his underground lair and straps you to a table in his lab. As giant "lasers" prepare to slice and dice you, he offers you one chance for redemption:

"I'll let you go," he says, "if you can name a cut-and-paste techno/big beat/hip-hop act from Finland."
(See, I told you it was improbable.)

This, of course, is the time to drop some knowledge and scream "Pepe Deluxé" at the top of your lungs.

Meanwhile, back in the real world...Pepe Deluxé aren't really doing anything you haven't heard before. They're three guys with some keyboards, samplers and turntables, and they use their tools in fairly predictable ways. The fact that they're Finnish doesn't really make much of a difference -- they're not throwing Värttinä samples around -- but at least they're not another bunch of tracksuit-wearing Frenchmen. So it's not what they do that's important, so much as the fact that they do it quite well.

In particular, I'll direct you to "Thru the Motion", a menacing keyboard melody topped with heavy beats and a disconcerting jazz-styled vocal. Lodged between ass-shaking sensuality and skin-crawling discomfiture, it's disturbingly danceable. See also "Woman in Blue", a boldly poppy tune that pairs a swanky looped riff with scratching and sampled vocals; listen close and you'll hear shades of Pierre Henry. For a change of pace, "Everybody Pass Me By" trots out a raw 'n' bluesy slide guitar loop, chunky hip hop beats and one of those "found" vocals recently popularized (note the sarcasm here) by Moby and Fatboy Slim. And for rabble-rousing arena hip-hop with a techno edge, the buck stops at the delightfully named, subwoofer-taxing "Big Muff".

If you've ever enjoyed an Arling & Cameron record, reveled in overtaxing your speakers with Big Beats or enjoyed the more anthemic, production-intensive side of hip-hop, Super Sound is for you. Not every record in your collection needs to be a ground-breaking, classification-defining, intellectual agenda-toting classic. Perhaps it's lightweight, but Super Sound is also consistently entertaining -- a thoroughly worthwhile aspiration for any record, and something that many critically-adored releases can't pull off. Plus there's that whole escaping from the underground lair thing...though I wouldn't assign too high a value to that.

-- George Zahora
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