AM & Shawn Lee album review, ‘La Musique Numerique’


Producer Shawn Lee and singer-songwriter AM went with more aggression on their second collaboration, “La Musique Numerique.” (David Burlacu)
AM & SHAWN LEE
“La Musique Numerique”

Kindred spirits: Chic, Liquid Liquid, Kraftwerk

Show: With Deleted Scenes on Tuesday at U Street Music Hall. Doors open at 7 p.m. 202-588-1880. www.ustreetmusichall.com. $20.

The second transatlantic collaboration between singer-songwriter AM and producer Shawn Lee, “La Musique Numerique,” is a musical shift from its predecessor, “Celestial Electric.” The new set is more aggressive and electronic, and less indebted to Brazil’s Tropicalia and — despite the French title — Gallic cafe music. Yet the duo’s easygoing retro temperament has barely changed.

“La Musique Numerique” is the French term for “digital music,” and the album opens with a flurry of synthesized thwacks and bleeps. But AM and Lee’s idea of dance music derives from the artier varieties of late-’70s disco, not starker recent modes. The L.A. singer-songwriter, who creates finished songs over the Londoner’s rhythm tracks, doesn’t neglect melody or cohesion. Both musicians enjoy dabbling in random styles, as they demonstrate with the raga-tinged “Automatic” and dub-rooted “Come Back to Me.” Although the two work separately, they always manage to fully blend the disparate ingredients.

The album concludes with a version of “Steppin’ Out,” Joe Jackson’s 1982 hit, that reworks the arrangement without significantly altering the effect. The pair doesn’t really need to revisit such oldies. Such smooth, exuberant originals as “All the Love” and “Iron Leaf” prove that AM and Shawn Lee can get to 1982 without hitching a ride on someone else’s tune.

— Mark Jenkins

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