Adrien de Maublanc and Joan Costes have a whole different way of being an electronic duo. Not content as just a DJ and production team, they spin their Masomenos project into something more like a brand (a natural move, considering their shared background in advertising and graphic design): There's the music, the record label, the cartoon animal graphics and even a boutique shop in Paris that sells everything from sweaters to candles. The working dynamic within the duo is a bit unusual too: Maublanc handles most of the production, while Costes takes care of the DJing. In other words, Masomenos are not your average electronic outfit. A shame, then, that their music can be so deeply average.
Balloons is the latest full-length from the duo, and it's not their finest work. In its best moments, it sounds like Villalobos-lite with a dash of Isolee; at its worst, it's basically just a string of minimal cliches, most of which should have died by now. Listening to the record makes you wonder, how many more producers will layer glitchy vocal fragments over thin, punchy beats? Or how about those Spanish spoken word bits that sound like they were recorded outdoors? Most of the album's best moments are built on borrowed ideas: "Coco Classico" plumps for the Amelie-style piano melody backed up by a stringed quartet (both of which sound all moldy with Ableton's warping artifacts), then there's "Lil'M," which features a bit of light scatting over a druggy microhouse beat. But probably the album's worst offense is "Chili Con Chanme / 8 Ball," which uses an instructional record about billiards as a hook ("many players do not take the break seriously enough.... the power break calls for several modifications to a normal technique..."). Minilogue did the same thing (and much better) two years ago with "Doiicie," and even then it felt a little old.
Not all of Masomenos's music is so dire—far from it, in fact. The Snaky EP and their collaborations with Lemos and Kreon all had a nice house noir feel, and the Poulet EP had a jacking tech house sound that, if not totally original, definitely worked well at parties. Some of the tracks on Balloons would probably work well in a club too—many of them are catchy, and all are easy to bob your head to. But listening to the album from front to back, it's hard not to get bogged down with all those tired ideas coming in one after the other.
This raises another odd point about Masomenos: though Balloons is their third full-length to date, they are not exactly album artists. Both of its predecessors—Third Eye and Live Mix—consist entirely of previously released tracks, and it shows: the finished product sounds more like a podcast than an album (Balloons, for instance, finishes by artlessly fading out the last track with the beat still clicking along). Overall the duo seem far more suited to the 12-inch than the album; their derivative style is no problem in a DJ set, but in order to stay interesting from beginning to end, albums require at least a bit of unique personality—something Masomenos have yet to deliver.
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Tracklist: Masomenos - Balloons 01. Sansula / El Toucan
02. El Toucan / Coco
03. Coco Classico
04. La Porte Sonne / Hahaha
05. Hahah / Moody Moon
06. Moody Moon / Sone
07. Moody Moon / Chili Con Chanme
08. Chili Con Chanme / 8 Ball
09. 8 Ball / Amor Amores
10. Lil'm feat. Ilhem
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