Mint Royale - Pop Is...
Bill Cummings 29/03/2007
Whether you're aware of it or not you have heard the music of duo Mint Royale: they provide a subconscious soundtrack to much of our lives: appearing on Hollywood blockbusters (Vanilla Sky, Get Carter), as the sting music from television ads (VW, Nokia, Toyota, Hugo Boss) or in the guise of their reinterpretations of well known artists (Lauren Lavern, The Stone Roses, Gene Kelly ect). The duo of Claxton and Baker (aka Mint Royale) have been producing fresh, funky dance music of a good standard since their debut album in 2002. Pop is… is a new compilation collecting together 15 of those choice singles, sprinkled with the remixes for which they made their name.
Lauren Lavern's first post-Kenickie appearance on “Don't Falter” provided Mint Royale with a hit on its release: a breezy, bright skipping, pop single, garnished deliciously by Lavern's breathy vocals: the whole thing is like the first hit of the sun in your face, or the feeling you get when you find that summer love. However Mint Royale's remixes of known tracks produce somewhat mixed results: the big beat segue in the middle of their “Singing in the Rain” mix, sticks out like an unwanted sore thumb, whilst I was never a massive fan of their hyperactive south American rhythms of the dance remix of Terrorvision's “Tequila” when it was released: as it lapses into the category of one off novelty. Elsewhere though they show their skill for arrangement: the pared down, sedate version of The Stone Roses' “Elephant Stone” is brilliant, draping Ian Brown's dreamy vocal in a delicious heartbreaking strings, and the cameo of Pos From De La Soul on “Show Me” just adds to the heady mix of the danceable beats and African chanting.
The skill of reusing samples is in the ability to create something truly unique from vocal tracks that have long since been consigned to the past: and their use of samples is perhaps only paralleled in recent times by the Chemical brothers and Moby. Take for example the wonderful comedown anthem “Dancehall Places” which is a highlight, along with the delightful appearance of reggae vocalist Prince Buster on the funktastic “The Sexiest Man in Jamaica.” Special mention must go to recent single “Blue song” with its the wonderful bluesy vocal track, spun into life by undulating beats, waves of synth patterns and a euphoric dance sound that builds and builds, whilst the heart shatteringly gospel tinged “The Effect On Me” is sublime.
Mint Royale clearly have the ability to define their own sound, fresh beats are melded with samples, vocal tracks and often-joyous instrumentation to create a widescreen bricolage: this album's cover art is perhaps symbolic of their sun dappled musical outlook, this is music that suits trips abroad: sound tracking both those long hot summers clubbing, and the inevitable sore headed come down. But at times that formula can become a little repetitive: sometimes your simply waiting for the trademark beats to kick in thus the ability to surprise is sometimes lost. Despite these niggles, taken in the whole “Pop Is” is a compilation with much about it to merit it to you the listener.