Parov Stelar (keyboards; programming)
The Princess (Etage Noir Recordings; 2012)
Jerry Di Monza (trumpet)
Cleo Panther (vocals)
Willie Larsson (drums)
Michael Wittner (bass)
We've discussed the amazing invention and qualities of Parov Stelar and his band of merry beatsers previously. Now they return with the massive double opus, The Princess which delivers more thumping beats, swings, twist and turns to put this DJ/Artist/Sound manipulator in a similar space as Quantic on the jazztronica mountain.
The first disc is more midtempo, thematic and lyrically focused. "Mila's Dream" starts off the journey with a soulful hip hop vibe. Deep piano and baselines and soothing shadowy vocals give the piece its dreamlike quality. "The Princess" portrays a cinematic hue that almost reminds of Massive Attack with a real focus on capturing your attention through it's repetitive and hypnotic notes on piano.
The resurrection piece "With You" has Lija Bloom sounding like Neneh Cherry at her best. It's sexy, soul and is beautifully impacted by Stelar's great orchestration and ability to write a piece that rises and falls with grace. "Beautiful Morning" with its romantic guitar, swirling cello and echo-y effects while not the closing segment of disc one, is a lovely jumping off point for what how things will dramatically change.
The second disc is where Stelar opens the group up for material that may be more familiar to the general masses (particularly North America). Yet this is no mere dancefloor session - this is a trip between time and space. Absorbing that swing era rhythm and blending it with modern dance aesthetics, Stelar creates a world that is both irreverent, reflective and futuristic. Stelar's programming and Di Monza's trumpet dominate this session but Stellar allows the ensemble to really rip through chords.
"Booty Swing" (utilized in a number of commercials globally) is a polished swing number fueled by a relentless beat that if you aren't dancing by the four chord you must be dead. Drum, bass and a heavy synth create a floor shaking event on "The Phantom." Dark but loose enough to enjoy every note and brief lyrical moment.
"Oh Yeah" drifts into Brand New Heavies/Jamiroquai territory. A funky slice of R&B that diverts from the swing jazz foundation of the set but still feels right at home somehow. "All Night," with some stomping bass and drums glistened with a vocal declaration of a return to the "old school" tailored for the dancefloor. "The Snake" adds another level of laser guided effects with a swing-era vibe that is hard to ignore - even for the ardent jazz fan.
Parov Stelar has been setting himself and his ensemble apart from most of the European dance scene for awhile now. The Princess probably does this better than any record previous. If you are adventurous with your music, Parov Stelar is a great alternative to what you've been listening to. Highly Recommended.