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CD Review: Belle Boussole

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Belle Boussole (2010, Wanderlust Sound)

The long, cold winter is just around the corner, and if you can’t actually escape to tropical islands or wend through the European countryside in a sports car, Belle Boussole can provide a reasonable facsimile of such a trip. The New Paltz band is a musical partnership between husband and wife Bryan and Nicole McGurn.

Modern soul music is many different things to many different people, but its lines are cleanest and purest in the acid jazz of bands like Brand New Heavies and Jamiroquai. Bryan’s introduction to the genre happened during a six-month stint in Hong Kong, which is obviously a long way for the music to travel. But as a metaphor, it works. This eponymous debut is traveling music, from up-tempo songs like “Walk with Me” and “Firefly,” which would provide the perfect soundtrack to wheels effortlessly hugging the curve, to the sultry sophisticated sway of “Chocolate Cake” and “Free Tonight.”

Because of its sleek styling, acid jazz has always had an air of the future as it appeared in the past, a place where drinks are served to smiling couples on jetliners bound for points unknown. Belle Boussole takes the conceit one step further, with synthesized strings and beats, and the gentle digital chirps and tweets one might imagine coming out of robot butlers. The transition from one song to the next is as smooth as Nicole’s voice, perfectly suited for blue-eyed soul music and thankfully without the accursed, omnipresent Auto-Tune. Bryan’s production is equally powerful, eschewing overly contemporary gimmicks for something far more classic. www.belleboussole.com.

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