Last year saw the Sound Pellegrino imprint launch its Crossover Series, intended as a platform to pair up producers from different corners of the electronic-music spectrum. Following two collaborative efforts from Bok Bok & Tom Trago and Joakim & Bambounou, the third installment in the series brings together arguably two of the most influential producers to appear on the label yet—New Jersey garage legend Todd Edwards and French house/electro mainstay Benoit Heitz (a.k.a. Surkin). As individual artists, the two perhaps have a little more in common in terms of production traits and style than the series' previous pairings, and on I Want You Back, the collaboration occasionally proves to be a genuinely unique and interesting combination of forces.
This isn't the first time that Edwards and Heitz have worked together. After Surkin's breakthrough run of 12"s on the now-defunct Institubes imprint—on which he formed his own identity via a refreshingly unique take on Todd-influenced micro-sample tapestries—Edwards contributed a remix to Heitz's fifth EP, Next of Kin. The "Re-Kindled Mix" of the title track was a classic, straightforward Todd Edwards production, offering woven vocal/string samples doused with elation over a simple but infectious house beat. Repeating the process could have been an easy win for the two veterans on this EP, but—consciously or otherwise—they've thrown a curveball in the form of "I Want You Back," a contemporary take on the Timbaland/Timberlake-era pop song with Edwards himself on vocal duties. In its untouched form, his voice is welcome to the ears; it's softly yearning and certainly more mature than his contribution to Daft Punk's "Face To Face" back in 2001. The vocals are complemented impressively by Surkin, who brings a militant, grime-leaning rhythm that bears some resemblance to Joe's "Claptrap," with massive synths boosting the chorus.
The two club-oriented tracks that constitute the rest of the EP are less of a surprise, and come across as more obvious attempts to combine Edwards' soulful garage groove with Heitz's rough-around-the-edges electro euphoria. It's more successful on the Surkin-dominated "Mighty Love," which takes tough percussion, fuzzy basslines, and French touch-referencing riffs and intertwines them with tasteful cuts from Todd's seemingly endless sample library. In contrast, "This Way" feels rushed and a little clunky. Some of the vocal cuts are effective, and Todd's basslines are as funky as ever, but the song's numerous voices ultimately overcrowd the mix and the brash stabs of synth are a little jarring.
I Want You Back is an adequate release, but without the title track, the EP flirts with predictability, perhaps suggesting that attempting to re-hash the "Re-Kindled Mix" isn't a worthwhile exercise after all. It's when Edwards and Surkin veer from their past formulas that the results turn out best, and the pair has come up with "I Want You Back"—an unexpectedly solid pop tune—in the process.