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.