Album review: St Germain, St Germain

***

Incredibly, it’s 15 years since St Germain’s Tourist — the three- million selling phenomenon that told us house music and dinner-time jazz could get on famously.

Now elusive French producer Ludovic Navarre has at last broken his silence, with a record that suggests an understated reiteration of the musical principles he first gave voice to in 2000.

Coming off like a more thoughtful revisiting of the themes and tropes celebrated on Tourist, St Germain unspools at its own leisurely and measured pace. Sharp swerves and eye-opening moments are at a minimum, the ambiance throughout warm and familiar.

Opener ‘Real Blues’ features percussion so laid-back and woozy it feels practically hypnotic; ‘How Dare You’ is almost bloody-minded in its meandering, as though daring the listener to fall nod off as it slouches towards nagging groove.

So it goes for the rest of the LP as Navarre’s understated production style conjures a deliciously relaxed sensibility.

Of course, in rehashing much of the ambiance of its predecessor, St Germain arguably suffers from the same flaws, in that it functions best as background music — ‘muzak’ is how a cynic might term it — and perhaps does not stand up to detailed scrutiny.

Big pop pay-offs are conspicuously lacking — even when Navarre deploys the vocals of late bluesman Lightnin’ Hopkins (single ‘Real Blues’) and of African traditional singers (‘Voila’). The best and worst that can be said for the project is that it is the perfect accompaniment for an upmarket dinner party.

This is aural wallpaper that understands exactly what it is and does not pretend to nurse wider ambitions. By its own narrow standards St Germain is unquestionably a triumph. Anyone expecting to hear Navarre reinventing the wheel, however, is likely to be underwhelmed.


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