Black Orange Juice, a London-based group headed by Hyperdub satellite Ossie and featuring vocalists Paul Black and Tilz, has a noble musical vision, one that blends the halcyon days of classic Midwestern house with the airy, untethered synth patterns and pulsating thump that pervades the best of London R&B. On last year's Back of My Car EP, the trio mostly succeeded, and the outfit's sophomore effort, 3 Started Alone, seemed poised to live up to that promise. But the record, despite the pedigree of Ossie's previous work, and the fact that Black and Tilz are indeed capable of standing on their own as vocal performers, frustratingly falls short.
The EP's lone winner is its second track, "Alone." Across the song, Black and Tilz, whose ranges are strangely often at odds with each other throughout 3 Started Alone, find a common tonal and melodic space. At the same time, Ossie's nocturnal blend of intercontinental dance music steers away from the dancefloor and into a deserted corner, slowly transforming the song into a mixtape-ready, last-call jam, one that delicately balances a prevailing sense of melancholy atop a muzzled, anthemic boogie.
To the performers' credit, the right ingredients for 3 Stand Alone to function are there. Per usual, Ossie's thick, open-aired productions are vibrant. Lead tune "Started in Paris" features an ascending chord sequence and a crisp groove, but the song begins to slowly unravel as Black's vocals clash uncomfortably against the beat through a combination of inharmonious lines and woefully cheesy lyrics. Furthermore, an awkward breakdown has been shoehorned into the tune's back half. "I Don't Know," the EP's final original offering, struggles in a similar fashion, despite some interesting, strutting drum programming from Ossie. Not even a remix from Greco-Roman co-runner and Hot Chip member Joe Goddard can save it. There's little question that Black Orange Juice is a talented trio, but 3 Stand Alone simply fails to coalesce into a quality release.