Band of the Day

2012.03.09

Pepe Deluxe

Wildly eclectic Finnish electro-pop that mines everything from 60s psychedelia to hip hop
I'm edgy like razor, I hit you like a laser.
lyrics from Salami Fever

Pepe Deluxe is a Finnish electronic group that been making music since the mid 90s. The group, originally made up of James Spectrum (Jari Salo), DJ Slow (Vellu Maurola) and JA-Jazz (Tomi Castren) released their first full album in 1999, Super Sound. Incorporating elements of hip hop, psychedelia, rock and electronic music, Pepe Deluxe's sound is wildly eclectic and energetic. The band received wider recognition in 2001 when Levi's used their track “Before You Leave” for a worldwide advertising campaign. DJ Slow left the band before the recording of their sophomore effort Beautitude, which featured guest spots by 40 musicians. Pepe Deluxe released the album Spare Time Machine in 2007 and added mutual-instrumentalist Paul Malmström into the band a year later. Their fourth album Queen Of The Wave, which features the world's largest instrument, the Great Stalacpipe Organ and a fascination with Victorian electronics, was released in January 2012.

Like an old record bought at a flea market or thrift store because the cover is cool, or something similarly trivial catches your eye, Pepe Deluxe have a mysterious radiance to them. Who are these people? Where did they come from? When do they come from? Their music has a dusty, vintage feel to it, and seems stitched together by a nerdy music lover: pitch-shifted vocals that sound like they're from the vaults, guitar riffs and organs bursting with late 60s garage-psych energy, rubbery synth bass lines, bounding drum beats. The guys behind Pepe Deluxe didn't step out of a time warp (presumably). They're Finnish and American DJ/producers James Spectrum and Paul Malmstrom, who've been releasing music as Pepe Deluxe for over a decade. Their music is nothing if not eccentric, but they pull it off with a hook-filled flair and restless energy that's sure to sway skeptics. The band's latest effort Queen of the Wave is a collection of 12 quirky gems, often tied together by choice vocal performances. "Contain Thyself" begins with British acid folk spiked with a medieval-sounding melody before bursting with rocking drums, rich harmonies and trumpet solo. Everything comes out of left field with this band, you quickly learn to expect the unexpected. "A Night And A Day" gives hints of Spectrum's hip hop past with its almost Beastie-Boys style hip hop/rock hybrid sound, and highlights Pepe Deluxe's core skill: rhythm. With its hip hop meets drum line beat and and vehement bass, the tracks sounds like Motown on hyperdrive. While tracks like "The Storm" will slip into novelty range for some with its 1960s action movie style orchestral part which devolves into hyper active psychedelic surf rock, it's so much fun that you forgive it's oddities. "Go Supersonic" sports a quasi punk beat and one of the album's catchiest vocal performances, dropping and adding instrumentation every 20 seconds (or so it seems). It's three songs worth of ideas packed into one, but the restlessness doesn't come off as fidgety so much as a mini pop roller coaster. Pepe Deluxe are definitely different, and their ecstatic far-ranging musical vision reaches exhilarating heights on Queen of the Wave.