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The Juan Maclean: Less Than Human


The Juan MacLean

Album: Less Than Human
Label: Astralwerks/DFA

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Like The Chemical Brothers but more languid and distracted, The Juan Maclean makes electronic dance music that drives forward while casting furtive glances at horizons receding by the side and behind. A track like "Give Me Every Little Thing" sounds as florid and euphoric as the most loved-up rave anthem, but it's also a bit nervous and unsure, like a shut-in warming up to a disco ball on his first night out in ages.

Part of that is due to the dance-rock magic of DFA, the New York production duo who have learned how to make drum beats whisper a whole store of idle thoughts. A formative DFA act to file alongside The Rapture and LCD Soundsystem, The Juan Maclean trades in a typical mix of electro sass and foreshortened disco grooves. Upon repeat listens, however, the typical turns totemic in surprising ways. After a brief intro, Less Than Human hits full stride with "Shining Skinned Friend," an easy-flowing banger with a terrific drop beat suggestive of math-rock but unfettered by calculation. In "Tito's Way," nimble drums phase in and out of a songful glut of raw parts: disembodied disco guitar, flittering electronic blinkers, a buzzing bassline. Many of the songs have vocals (many of them streamed through a vocoder), but the hooks are hidden in the fitful rhythms and proudly homely electronics. Nothing too terribly impressive transpires before the 14-minute outro "Dance With Me," but in its deceptive simplicity, Less Than Human plays like the most focused and consistent DFA-affiliated album yet.