Husband and wife duos are not new in the music industry, appearing sporadically throughout history, especially when one member has already established themselves as an artist beforehand. However, one would do well to find a pairing of this kind that creates intrigue and variety to the extent achieved by Jean-Philip Grobler and Patti Beranek. St. Lucia is the couple’s brainchild and they maintain its impressive discography with this new release, Utopia.
The album eases itself into the audible spectrum with an atmospheric soundscape, soon overlayed with talk box passages to draw the listener into a subconscious state of concentration. The ethereality of the opening ‘song’ sets the scene for what is to come.
We’re then left wide-eyed as Separate World kicks in, the electrified percussion raising the energy levels before Grobler’s other-worldly vocals jump into the foreground with a vengeance. In between the vocal passages, nostalgia-inducing synth patterns can be heard, winding the clock back to decades ago when music technology first became prevalent in pop music.
This flicking-through of the synth module catalogue continues as the album progresses, even on the next tune, Another Lifetime, where a synth bass plays a riff in the intro. This tune is also the first chance you get to appreciate just how well Grobler and Beranek’s voices work together. They perfectly complement the dreamy, diaphanous nature of the music, occasionally hopping into falsetto to cement the character of their vocals.
The duo then bring the groove with The Golden Age, deploying foot-tappingly funky syncopation to get bodies moving and add a new dimension to the record.
Straight afterwards, however, the tune is starkly juxtaposed by Memory, a slow-burning, downcast song that dizzies the listener into a hypnotic state.
The record then returns to its original upbeat feel for the remainder, only holding back momentarily for another beautiful soundscape to wash across us.
Marking ten years since the release of St. Lucia’s first album, Utopia proves that the band have no interest in halting their supply of quality music: it becomes apparent that their musical output is ageing like fine wine and shows no signs of dwindling away. Adventurous instrumentation, cool grooves and a fantastic blend of voices. This record has it all.