Review: The Blaze’s Disappointingly Chilly ‘Dancehall’
Important things to know before pressing play on The Blaze’s new album: This French electronic music duo, composed of cousins Guillaume and Jonathan Alric, are not to be mistaken for Blaze, the veteran house producers from New Jersey known for dancefloor favorites like “Funky People.” And The Blaze’s new album, Dancehall, has nothing to do with the Jamaican genre of the same name — it’s about something more abstract and historical (more French): 1940s dancehalls where “people lived, loved and [of course!] danced.”
The Blaze’s fame, in contrast, is entirely modern: They went minor-league viral in 2017 with “Territory,” a compact piano-house cut accompanied by a video that captured an Algerian man’s emotional reunion with his family. The clip amassed roughly 15 million views on YouTube in 18 months, and it won the Grand Prix for Film Craft at Cannes.
But the success of the “Territory” video obscured some of the weaknesses on The Blaze’s debut EP — also named Territory — and on Dancehall. Almost every song is a condensed take on piano house built on layered drum lines and a basic, unvarying riff on keyboard or organ. Piano house offers a reliable formula for liftoff, but surprisingly, The Blaze appear to have forgotten piano house’s crucial pleasure: the predictable and immensely satisfying ritual of build-and-release. There is precious little of that dynamism on Dancehall. The coldness of the instrumentals is compounded by the duo’s vocal delivery. Lines like “in my one life I’ve never felt so free” are delivered in an odd chant-croon that flattens feeling into something impersonal and distant.
Once again, the music uses the visuals to provoke emotion; the clip for new song “Queens,” which depicts the heart-rending aftermath of a funeral, is sure to move some viewers to tears. But the music stays chilly.
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