2017, Blair French came out of hibernation to release contrasting but similarly sun-kissed EPs on Rocksteady Disco and Claremont 56. Here, he returns to action with a scintillatingly sunny and sensual six-tracker on NuNorthern Soul that may well be his strongest release to date.
Given French’s chameleon-like musical history, that’s certainly a bold claim. Over the years, he’s been a member of a multitude of musical collectives – most notably Cosmic Handshakes and Formless Figures – established his own DIY record label (Fat Finger Cosmic) and released music that touches on a dizzying array of styles, from award-winning movie soundtracks and Afro-fired deep house, to skewed techno, blissful ambience and experimental hip-hop.
On Patio Pastel, French is in full on sand-between-the-toes Balearic mood, delivering a range of lucid, ear-pleasing compositions that will sashay their way into your consciousness. Contrast, for example, the drowsy organs, glistening pedal steel and undulating hand percussion of opener “Patio Pastel” with the Serge Gainsbourg style chanson-goes-tropical bliss of “La Playa De Tercipelo”, which features some deliciously breathy vocals from Stephanie Lyon.
Then there’s “Morning Sail”, a sumptuously evocative soundscape rich in toasty, dub disco bass, shuffling percussion and lilting, Jonny Nash style guitar solos (see also the effortlessly horizontal “Lounsbury Gardens”), and the kaleidoscopic, saucer-eyed Balearic pop brilliance of “Human Make Human”, where new age synthesizer melodies and the fuzzy vocal refrain of Kasi Seguin gentle dances above an Afro-flecked, mid-tempo groove.
Throughout the EP, French mixes electronic and acoustic instrumentation, drawing together musical elements from a myriad of styles to create sumptuous new fusions. It’s particularly evident on superb closer “Belle Isle Sunsets”, where colourful synth motifs, eyes-closed guitar riffs and Mediterranean-warm chords wrap themselves around a gently pulsating, impressively layered groove. Like the rest of the EP, it’s perfectly pitched, expertly executed and wonderfully atmospheric.