Panic! The new album from Caravan Palace (Wagram/Cafe de la Dance)

On a first listen, opening trackQueens‘ may leave you worried that Caravan Palace have somewhat lost their edge. Its discordant gypsy-jazz guitar and melancholy rhythm aren’t exactly pumping. In short, those looking for some toe-tapping dance music will be left disappointed.

But as we move on to ‘Maniac’, its clear that this was only a kind of dark prelude. A catchy synthesised melody with a bouncy rhythm now takes the foreground, bringing a strong Daft Punk feel along with it. The electro-swing legends are definitely back, and they’re bigger than ever!

Last August, guitarist Arnaud Vial expressed a desire to move on to 1940’s big band swing and, true to his word, they’ve traded in their gypsy violin for booming brass harmonies. The result is a sound which feels more refined and fascinatingly attention grabbing, despite sharing many genre similarities to the eponymous first album.

You can tell from the outset that this is going to be a complex experience; a kind of anachronistic journey through time and space on a penny farthing with a warp speed engine… Or something like that.

’12 juin 3049′ would sound like an American jazz standard if it wasn’t for the faint hint of a synthesised rhythm. On the other hand, ‘The dirty side of the street’ opens as if it’s a hard house track. Live instruments come in later, adding a whole other layer to what would, in itself, be a fantastic tune.

It’s what we’ve come to expect from CP, with instruments spliced up, mechanically altered and woven in and out of modern rhythms and synthesisers.

But Panic raises the bar to a whole other level. The subtle touches in tracks like ‘Rock it for me’ display a level of production skill that is undoubtedly genius. Live instrument sections are sped up, slowed down and cut up – producing a relentless attack of millisecond long studio experiments.

Perhaps the stronger vocal influence from Colotis Zoe, particularly her tenuous impersonations of an American voice, is a little hit or miss at times.

However, the big band horn sections and distorted recording techniques give the live instruments a sense of being ‘authentically dated’, if the term even applies to such an insane experiment; it’s clear by the haunting ending of ‘Sidney’ that without the electro, this swing could indeed pass for an original record cut in the American 40’s.

Caravan Palace have raised the bar for electro-swingers everywhere and this album is a serious contender as the best in its genre.

 

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