Reviewed on this page:
World Clique - Infinity Within - Dewdrops In The Garden - Future Listening -
Deee-Lite was formed by three East Village clubgoers who slapped
together brilliant dance-pop by crosspollinating a zillion
different stylistic influences, mostly by means of samples with
judicious use of live instruments. They stack disparate elements
together almost like the Bomb Squad,
but their aim is to be pleasant, rather than disturbing. Like Blondie a decade before, their cultural
borrowings were so slick and their hooks so good that they appealed
to dance-oriented people across the spectrum - their cartoon videos
and outrageous outfits didn't hurt either. Also like Blondie, the
band ran out of steam very quickly; Lady Kier and Dmitry seem to
have returned to being scenesters, while Towa Tei has embarked on
a solo career. (DBW)
Lady Miss Kier, vocals; DJ Towa Towa (Towa Tei),
keyboards, samples; DJ Dmitry , keyboards, samples, guitar.
Ani added, 1994.
World Clique (1990)
For a self-produced debut, this is extremely confident, unleashing
the fully-developed camp-funk Deee-Lite approach upon an
unsuspecting public. The single "Groove Is In The Heart" is their
masterpiece, with an irresistable looping bass line, a pseudo-raga
hip-hop middle (guest rap by Q-Tip), the Horny Horns, Bootsy Collins making off-hand comments, and
Lady Kier's soprano hooks on top of everything. The opening "Deee-
Lite Theme" is almost as good, with no discernable song structure
and a magnificent sax line (where'd they sample that from?),
and "Who Was That?" is also a wild ride; otherwise, they mostly
settle for catchy but ordinary synth dance music ("Good Beat,"
"Power Of Love"). The lyrics are sometimes clever and studiously
trivial, all silly love songs or smiley-faced positive vibes.
Infinity Within (1992)
All of a sudden the Deee-Lite crew got political, and they hit us
with a Prince-style laundry-list of
social problems ("Fuddy Duddy Judge"), a lovely statement on the
environment ("I Had A Dream I Was Falling Through A Hole In The
Ozone Layer"), a safe sex anthem ("Rubber Lover"), and the
thankfully brief exhortation "Vote Baby Vote." Amazingly, they pull
off the transition, partly because the lyrics are cleverer than
most social protest, but mostly because their ear for hooks is as
good as ever ("Come On In The Dreams Are Fine" is postively
euphoric) and the music is denser than before, with lots of real
musicians including half of the Funk Mob.
Other guests include Arrested Development ("I.F.O") and rappers
Michael Franti and Jamal-ski. There are a number of ho-hum tunes on
the lengthy disc ("Pussycat Meow," "Electric Shock") but overall
it's their most satisfying achievement, well worth tracking down.
Dewdrops In The Garden (1994)
Apparently Towa Tei had completely lost interest in the
band; he's only credited with co-producing and co-arranging one
track, "Call Me," where he manages to make a hook with a touch-tone
phone. The rest of the album is drab and listless, without anything
catchy going on anywhere. Meanwhile, Kier's gone on a neohippy
kick, and writes a pile of light-hearted, frequently risqué
love songs that would have gone over fine if the musical backing
had been more substantial ("Stay In Bed Forget The Rest," "Bring Me
Your Love," "Say Ahhh...") New member Ani doesn't make any
contribution that I can discern, and with virtually no guests, the
sound is undifferentiated hollow synth-based dance music. Such music
has become staggeringly popular in this age of low expectations, and you
could claim they helped invent trip hop with this disc. They tack
on a lengthy, mostly-silent final track that contains a few
frustrating seconds of catchy riff which makes you wish they'd made
a full song out of it. (DBW)
Future Listening! (Towa Tei: 1995)
It turns out Towa Tei has a deep interest in Brazilian popular
music he never revealed during his Deee-Lite years. Here he wheels
out several mixes of his dub and house approach with gentle bossa
nova guitar and vocal ("Technova," "Dubnova," "Batucada") plus the
mostly acoustic "La Douce Vie" and "Obrigado" (written and
performed with Arto Lindsay).
It's fresh and remarkably compelling; he also throws in a bunch of
understated trance music ("I Want To Relax, Please!") and a tuneful
pop song ("Luv Connection") with an enjoyable soul vocal by Joi
Cardwell. The tone's far more laid-back than Deee-Lite's work, but
it's an inventive, low-key listen. There are hardly any samples,
and a whole slew of musicians including Bebel Gilberto (lead
vocals), Romero Lubambo (guitar), Yasuaki Shimizu (sax) and
Yoshihiko Mori (keyboards). (DBW)
Sampladelic Relic (1996)
A last-gasp collection of remixes and maybe some outtakes. (DBW)
Sound Museum (Towa Tei: 1998)
Towa Tei returns to straightforward synth dance, with some R&B and funk influences, but still much tamer than Deee-Lite's best work.
Occasionally he hits on a terrific hook, as on "GBI (German Bold Italic)" with tongue-in-cheek vocals from Kylie Minogue, and the
Black Bottom Horns add excitement to the opening title track. Often, though, Tei is content to let a simple synth groove run without
anything happening to grab your interest, e.g. the pretty but hollow "Tamilano," "Higher," or "Time After Time," which features
strikingly Mariah Carey-like vocals from Viv. In a change of pace, the loop behind guest rappers Biz Markie
and Mos Def is annoyingly harsh and repetitive ("BMT"). And the closing "Everything We Do Is Music" puts across his "global village"
message in a variety of languages, but without enough musical interest to justify its ten-minute running time.
There's one Brazilian-style tune that seems like a leftover from the last album: a samba cover of Hall & Oates' "Private Eyes" sung by
Bebel Gilberto that's surprisingly effective. Most tracks peformed by Tei, who produced arranged, and wrote nearly everything.
Less depth though a broader appeal than Future Listening.
I just wanna hear a good beat.