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Juan MacLean's Debut Soothes the Cyber-Psyche
"LessThan Human" more than just an excellent dance album
David Kootnikoff (kaspian)     Print Article 
Published 2005-08-11 01:42 (KST)   
"I don't like people very much. Religion, TV, poor grammar, fast food. These things really fucking bother me." -- John (aka Juan) MacLean


The Juan MacLean: "Less Than Human"
©2005 DFARecords
The perennial 21st century question: can a machine be made to feel? If the answer is yes, then the soundtrack to its cyber-psyche must resemble The Juan MacLean's debut album, "Less Than Human."

Yet another hugely anticipated release from the way cool indie-label DFA (Death From Above), "Less Than Human" doesn't disappoint. Coming in the wake of fellow label-mates The LCD Soundsystem's critically acclaimed release earlier this year, those who were expecting a similar blend of techno-funk will find plenty to rave about.

Trumpeted as the hipster's answer to bootylicious dance music, "Less Than Human" is a smooth synthesis of electronic music and disco, reminiscent of the days when New Order began channeling the electric ghosts of Kraftwerk.

Comparisons between the two main personalities, LCD's James Murphy and The Juan MacLean's John MacLean, are inevitable and there are subtle differences. Whereas Murphy revels in ironic pastiche, MacLean comes off with a little more menace. On "In the Afternoon," and the fourteen minute closer, "Dance with Me," he also indulges in the chilled ambience reminiscent of Brian Eno's mid-70's explorations, rather than the nervy, Teutonic percussion Murphy favors.

The Juan MacLean is John MacLean, former guitarist and synth player with Sub Pop band, Six Finger Satellite. He controls all the knobs on this flight, getting a little help from friends Tim Goldsworthy, James Murphy and Nancy Whang. If his previous band welded Devo's herky-jerky funk to Big Black's vicious undertow, The Juan MacLean fuses the interstellar grooves of French bands Air and Daft Punk with the aural textures of Boards of Canada and Four Tet. It's a great combination that gets the feet tapping and the spine tingles.

"Shining Skinned Friend" sets the futuristic tone early on:

You are my past
You are my future
My shining skinned friend


This droid tribute gives way to a fat, thumping bass of the album's strongest dance track, the Daft Punk-flavored, "Give Me Every Little Thing":

"Give me every little thing and don't stop"

After this frenzied break-down, the propulsion doesn't stop. "Tito's Way" takes off with a rattling cowbell and whistle, bouncing into a raucous dance track.

The album begins to soften down for "Love is in the Air," a bumper-car glide through flute warbles and spongy bass lines that recall New Order circa 1983. It provides a smooth transition to the instrumental, "My Time Is Running Out," that has MacLean incorporating watery harp arpeggios and scratchy percussion to effectively capture the tension at the heart of its title.

But just when it feels like things are getting back to the dance floor, "Crush the Liberation" pauses mid-song to open up its psychedelic heart. After this, the fourteen minute finale, "Dance with Me," drifts itself blissfully towards the exit.

Overall, "Less Than Human" is a trip for the mind as well as the booty. Ultimately, if the spirit is willing, the booty will follow, no matter how you're wired. The Juan MacLean provides the hardware: plug in and set jets to boogie.
*U.S. release date: 9 August 2005
*U.K. release date: 4 July 2005
©2005 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter David Kootnikoff

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