XLR8R - logo

  • Filed under: Review
  • 10/18/2012

Benoit & Sergio New Ships EP

Though DC-based Benoit & Sergio first debuted their summery, feel-good electronic pop back in 2009, 2011 was the year that Benoit Simon and his studio partner Benjamin Myers (a.k.a. Sergio) officially arrived. Placing high on numerous year-end lists thanks to ever-present dancefloor hits like "Everybody," a mildly progressive turn for DFA; "Let Me Count the Ways," which melded both their soulful and techno inclinations; and, of course, "Walk & Talk," the pair's career-defining ode to a ketamine-addled girlfriend for Detroit/Berlin label Visionquest. Now, after a year that saw mostly touring and rumors of album work, the playboy producers return to the label that broke them with the New Ships EP, a subtle affair that thoughtfully furthers their position as purveyors of nuanced, pop-leaning house music.

Fully acknowledging where Benoit & Sergio's biggest success lies, EP opener "Lipstick & Lace" recreates the elastic bass of "Walk & Talk" almost to a tee, clearly aiming to cash in once again. Nevertheless, in comparison to the foggy melancholy of "Walk & Talk," "Lipstick & Lace" is brighter and more buoyant than its big sister. The song can almost be viewed as a continuation of the storyline, with Benoit & Sergio's male protagonist coaxing his girl out of her k-hole, getting her dolled up, enticing her out, and bringing her onto the dancefloor. "I'm tired of getting by in this little room/I want to go out tonight and dance with you," Myers sings, as Talking Heads-like '80s synth flourishes burst intermittently over the rhythmic march of the drums. A simple piano melody eventually asserts itself, swelling in the track's final moments with the addition of strings and guitar. It's a sound that's quickly becoming signature Benoit & Sergio, and while it is already very familiar here, the plot—for lack of a better word—of the song helps it avoid sounding tired or cliché.

"Lipstick & Lace" isn't alone in sounding familiar. Swirling with a looped vocal in its slow-burning intro, "Not in Your Nature" immediately recalls the drawn-out crescendo of "Everybody," but it's a pleasant reminder rather than a rehash. The same hypnotic appeal is present, but "Not in Your Nature" sheds any potential progressive-house comparisons. Instead, it sets a pace somewhere between leftfield pop and deep house with its funk-groove bassline, intricate mosaic of warm accents, and Myers' soft croon, which here is one element among many rather than a lead voice in the mix.

The EP's title track, full of slinking guitar riffs, sunny keys, and blue-eyed soul, could be redubbed "New Yachts" for its nod to yacht-rock originators Hall & Oates. It captures the sentiment more so than being an outright light-rock track, obviously, but there's still a hint of "Private Eyes" floating around in there. Throbbing with thick bass tones and keeping time with ever-present hand clapping, "New Ships" is a sleeper hit. Pooling Benoit & Sergio's best qualities, it has all the makings of a rebellious pop tune, defying any of the scene's tired formulas.

Across this EP, Benoit & Sergio seem comfortable in their own skin, and their own sound. Early work from this twosome didn't exactly smack of attempts to perfectly recreate a sound, but a song like "Let Me Count the Ways" still comes across as what Benoit & Sergio sound like when they're making techno, as opposed to simply being an example of what Benoit & Sergio sounds like. With the New Ships EP, the duo's sound is more than the sum of a few of the producers' varied influences—from Bryan Ferry and Paul Simon to the oft-referenced Ricardo Villalobos—it's now something that's cohesively Simon and Myers' own. Benoit & Sergio are more decisive at the helm here, and no less ready to set sail on yet another sonic joy ride.

Follow us on...

Get the lowdown weekly newsletter

XLR8R Downloads Player