Review : Elton John - Good Morning to the Night ft. Pnau
BbcWhen one of the world’s most successful solo artists decided that he wanted to team up with hip electro younglings on an album, few predicted that those lucky two would be Aussie duo Pnau. It’s a leftfield choice for a legend that could have had his pick of rent-a-Guettas, or chosen to work with Pnau frontman Nick Littlemore’s infinitely more recognisable band, Empire of the Sun.
Still, the story goes that John heard Pnau’s Ed Banger-aping electro assault, Wild Strawberries, while stuck in Sydney traffic in 2007. He thought it was the best thing he’d heard in 10 years, and swiftly signed them to his management company where stardom awaited.
Except that it didn’t. Pnau released their fourth album, Soft Universe, earlier this year to the sound of crushing indifference. But such a superfan is Elton that they’ve been given free rein to shape his expansive back catalogue between 1970 and 1976 into shiny new models.
The results are dazzling. New remixes of golden oldies rarely succeed in balancing the classic’s magic with modern context, but Pnau have produced eight surprisingly original and sublimely brilliant pop nuggets with a Balearic and cosmic disco sheen. They’ve steered away from his biggest hits and instead use up to nine Elton micro-samples in one song, blurring them almost out of recognition....full text
NmeStick around in pop long enough and your past will come back to haunt you. For ‘Good Morning To The Night’, Australian dance duo Pnau (aka Empire Of The Sun) were given access to the master tapes of what many see as Elton John’s peak creative period, 1970-76 (although this leaves out gems such as 1978’s ‘A Single Man’ and 1981’s ‘The Fox’), and encouraged to construct new compositions from them. The results range from danceable (‘Phoenix’, ‘Sad’) to unnerving (‘Telegraph To The Afterlife’, ‘Sixty’) and give off an atmosphere of ghostly melancholy that subtly subverts Elton’s reputation as a cosy British institution....full text
MusicomhThis is not the first time the musical paths of Elton John and Pnau have crossed, for the elder statesman of piano-led rock music has had the Australian duo of Nick Littlemore and Peter Mayes in his sights for some time. He signed them after listening to their self-titled debut in 2008, which he proclaimed to be the 'greatest record I've heard in 10 years', and then had considerable creative input into their follow up Soft Universe, released last year.
Here the tables are turned; the Australian duo let loose on the master tapes of early Elton John material and positively encouraged to work them in to totally new songs. They have therefore come up with blended reworkings of songs such as Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word, Curtains and Friends, taking more than one song for a track on occasion. It is to Littlemore and Mayes' immense credit that they work in the elements of their source material with enough intricacy to make the album sound like a long-lost collection of Elton originals, upgraded with more contemporary beats, in a similar way to Ashley Beedle's transformation of Are You Ready For Love?, back in 2003.
The beats themselves are ideal, set firmly on the dancefloor, with the rest of the production sending 'Reg' to the Balearics in a heat haze. The lead and title track sets the tone, reminding us at the same time of how Elton's voice used to be more direct and cutting. Pnau's woozy production, with hot weather atmospherics and straightforward four to the floor beats dominating for much of the time, works a treat. On Karmatron they let themselves go, encouraging more direct comparisons with the welcome weirdness of Littlemore's Empire Of The Sun. That also comes to the fore in Foreign Fields, which bears more than a passing resemblance to the final track of that project's debut album, Without You.
Pnau can do slow, too, and Telegraph To The Afterlife becomes the most emotive track on the album, backed with a chilled but poignant production that could make for a perfect closing number to a twilight DJ set. "Open up your heart and let your feelings flow", runs the vocal sample, taken from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album track Harmony, immediately backed up by Love Song's "Do you know what I mean, have your eyes really seen?" This seamless transition betrays the amount of work that Pnau have clearly put in to this project, and the resultant song will melt the hardest heart....full text
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