Arling & Cameron & Swarte – Sound Shopping

Sound Shopping was released in 2000, but Emperor Norton, which usually releases the electro-pop duo’s albums in the US, didn’t handle this one. So now Basta Records is finally releasing it, and that’s a good thing, because this album, the band’s fifth or sixth, deserves to be heard.

Arling & Cameron are known for their fun electro-pop sound, full of danceable beats, playful keyboards, and fun (if slightly cheesy) little interludes and song shifts. That’s all continued here. With the artwork by cartoonist Joost Swarte (who helps write music and thus gets a band credit) showing off the playful, light-hearted side of the band, the music falls perfectly into step. The duo provide all the music, with the vocals coming form a host of guests and occasionally the band themselves. While not necessarily heaped with substance, it’s still a fun pop album.

“Funshopping” kicks off in truly Euro-pop form, a bouncy, quiet little number with these adorable, sweet vocals and this light, playful little beat. “Bad Dream” is a little more danceable, with a 70’s style groove and more Japanese-sounding vocals, while “Cowboy Ska” is a funny and quirky cowboy-style song. Again the band goes for the loungy pop sounds on the quirky “Tsja Tsja” with its trumpet fills, while “Bimi Mix” turns into a more trip-hop, drum-n-bass track with some funky guitar. There’s some psudo-French vocals on the Japanese-pop meets 60’s pop song “Jealousie,” while the vocals on “Tokyo Taxi Robot,” a much more electronic, almost techno song, are provided by the cartoon characters “Chiko & Toko” (the duo themselves?).

Then we get three remixes. I’m not a big fan of remixes, feeling they’re better for a club than on a release when you can hear the original. As you’d imagine, remixes of “Bad Dream,” “Tsja Tsja,” and “Jealousie” are more electronic, up-tempo, beat-heavy versions of the originals. Although I have to say the sped-up version of “Tsja Tsja” is actually better than the original, and seeing as how the originals are beat-heavy electronic songs anyway, remixes don’t hurt.

I read a description of Arling & Cameron as Sesame Street goes drum-n-bass, and it’s fitting. These guys add on the funky beats, mix in the lounge-pop style, and give it a playful, lighthearted, wonderful feel. While it’s not necessarily driving around music, its playful feel and heart just give it a wonderful, light summertime sensibility. Fun stuff.