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One easy yardstick for measuring a group’s success as a musical outfit is taking a look at the caliber of artists who want to collaborate with them. If Lil Wayne wants to drop a couple verses on your new hip-hop album, you’re pretty much set. Or, if you’re electronic music duo Groove Armada, Bryan freakin’ Ferry of Roxy Music might just do the trick. Of course, Groove Armada aren’t spring chickens when it comes to their presence on the music scene. For nearly a decade and a half, they have helped guide the house scene through its various permutations and have worked with artists ranging from Neneh Cherry to Nappy Roots. On March 2nd, Groove Armada will release their ninth record, Black Light, on San Francisco indie label Om Records (best known for their work with underground hip-hop act People Under the Stairs).
Given Ferry’s perpetually suave character and the sleek, retro tones Groove Armada employ on “Shameless,” it is hard to think of a more synchronized alliance. After a bit French language dialogue sample, a synthesizer chord rings out in permanent delay over a stark drum beat and simple bass figure. By the time Ferry lends his cool, accented croon, the mood has been thoroughly established, but his vocal performance helps seal the deal. The occasional guitar riff or 808 fill cuts through the mist, objects suddenly thrown into sharp relief like objects viewed with eyes adjusting to the dark. Then, before you have a chance to realize what is happening, “Shameless” has grown into something else, a song more layered and sweeping. There is a quiet sort of violence to its second half, that of the threat which need not be made manifest in order to be understood. Groove Armada have created something steeped in mood and, just as importantly, a track which withstands dozens of repeated listens.