One particularly compelling aspect of Berlin/DC-based duo Benoit & Sergio's music has been the producers' ability to feel comfortable playing with a wide breadth of sonic terrain without coming across as dilettantes. 2011's "Walk & Talk" and last year's New Ships EP saw the pair refining sounds from earlier work, and beefing up its pop appeal in the process. Now, just a few months after the release of New Ships, the duo is back with Bridge So Far—a 12" that suggests that Benoit & Sergio are continuing their trajectory toward a more mainstream sound, most likely with hopes of bringing their audience along with them.
"Bridge So Far" opens with a buoyant house beat and chopped vocal line that unfurls into an understated refrain. While Benoit & Sergio aren't especially retro-minded in their production, the track gives vocalist Benjamin "Sergio" Myers a chance to slip into a buttery R&B intonation that sounds firmly at home amidst the track's lush production. Myers does well in the role of de-facto frontman, and "Bridge So Far" wisely positions him atop the mix. "It's like I'm walking tall on a bridge so far/I can't see you anymore," he sings amidst a warmly supportive backbeat. While the lyrics may be melancholy, there's also a confidence (or, possibly, cockiness) to Myers' delivery, the affect playing like a more immediate version of his vocal turn on New Ships' "Not In Your Nature." This slightly more glossy production works nicely, with Benoit & Sergio's typically abbreviated chorus serving its purpose throughout the course of the song. It's a change to hear such slickness from Myers' vocals, as opposed to his usual breathy croon, but the rest of the track's bouncy house vibe would have been right at home on any of the duo's more recent releases.
Yet there's more to Benoit & Sergio than mellow house tracks, and from the group's chic press photos to the lyrics' occasional drug reference, the project has always mixed party-boy playfulness with more emotional fare. Revisiting the funk strut of New Ships' "Lipstick & Lace," "$100 BILL" is a slickly produced electro-funk jam that plays up the duo's playboy persona. "Got a $100 bill in my back pocket and I already forgot that I've got a girlfriend," Myers sings with a wink. The synth breakdown unabashedly evokes Discovery-era Daft Punk, and the vocals aren't a far cry from a Romanthony guest spot. With a track as brash as this, it's easy to forget how emotionally resonant the duo can sound when it wants to. "$100 BILL" may even be Benoit & Sergio's most blatantly pop-oriented track to date. Although it's good fun to hear the pair's talents deployed in this context, "$100 BILL" still sounds a bit shallow compared to its a-side counterpart.
While Bridge So Far is largely a continuation of what we've heard recently on New Ships, the record continues the duo's steady trajectory toward a more populist sound. If Benoit & Sergio can continue their evolution without sacrificing their knack for detail and subtlety (which they've largely continued to preserve here, especially on the title track), it could mean great things—not to mention mainstream success. Only time will tell where they ultimately end up, but for now, Benoit & Sergio sound confident with their choices, and Bridge So Far serves as another example of the duo's mercurial nature and penchant for sticky grooves.