Chances are you’ve heard a track by C2C recently. Their track “Down the Road” is featured in a current Dr. Pepper commercial. It initially made me think it was a new Justice track. This week the French group’s debut Tetra finally gets a US release. The name is short for Coups2Cross, and is a collective of four DJs. As in masters of the turntables. Remember those?
The group’s strength is their ability to make feverishly paced cut and paste style glitchy tracks. The intro sounds like an opening score to a bizarre movie. “The Cell” starts out with some peaceful Asian meditative music and beats that build into an electro wave. Then the floodgates open and the beat hits, along with a choir cut and chopped on vinyl. The mix of the elements is quite exciting for a downbeat track. Second is the biggest worldwide track to date, “Down the Road”. The dizzying pace at which all of the samples stop and start and are scratched is mind-bending. This is is exactly what four talented DJs at once sound like. The vocal element is bluesy much like Moby’s “Honey” and scratching a harmonica solo sounds quite fresh.
“Kings Season” starts with what sounds like an effect from an 80s video game. This is the first true vocal-centered track. While Rita J and Moongai bring some nice female singing and rap verses, the track is merely decent after the big opening. “Because of You” has a beat that places it somewhere between a Gorillaz track, Lily Allen and ultimately sounds like a N.E.R.D track. Again it’s decent, but leaves you wondering what happened to the guys that made the first two tracks until the really great scratch breakdown in the bridge.
“Delta” brings us back. The track is moody even though it’s upbeat. The vocals have a chill to them, and now the focus is the entire soundscape rather than just the vocals. There’s also some vintage keyboards in this one, also being scratched. It sort of breaks a wall where you think you’re getting a live track, but then that live track is also scratched and manipulated.
“Who Are You” starts similar to AWOLNATION’s “Sail”, and then add Gwen Stefani’s “Sweet Escape” and a touch of Talking Heads space-ship keyboards. While this one is good it just literally sounds like an idea mashup more than anything. Not bad though. This is followed by “Happy”, one of the standout tracks here. This has all of the elements that make “Down The Road” excellent; a classic bluesy or this time jump blues vocal, many old style instruments being scratched as they play, but this time it has a good time gospel hour clap-along. This one is tailor-made to put a smile on your face.
“Give Up the Ghost” takes things back to a mellow chillout place. The mix of strings, breezy vocals by Jay-Jay Johansen and the strings make this a really nice one. Then we get back to the hip-hop influence on “The Beat” that focuses far more on turntable skills and golden age hip-hop samples. Nice to hear L.L. Cool J’s “It Gets No Rougher” reassembled here. “Genius” takes a left turn into rock-based electronica with vocalist Gush singing “Jesus of cool tonight breakin’ out!”. This one is pretty good, it just feels kind of like an odd duck. While there’s not really any bad tracks here, there’s a certain magic when C2C sticks to their DJ skills and they are trying less to make DJ skills fit a different genre. But kudos for trying. “Together” follows, and tries a funk vibe with hip-hop vocals by Blitz The Ambassador. It starts out merely good, but then hits a flamenco style guitar bit in the middle and becomes a duel between guitar and turntables. Nice!
“Arcades” is next, one of the already released French singles. This is a good one because it incorporates a vocal as a mood, drawing you in enough to almost be able to catch what it says but latching you with the melody, then dropping all kinds of turntable trickery in the mix. It makes me think of Skrillex and Ellie Goulding’s “Summit” but kicked up a notch. Starting out the final two tracks is one of their top shelf creations, “Le Banquet”. This is where C2C lefts loose with the turntable skills. This is what I wanted to hear all album long! The frenzied speed is quite breathtaking, then they drop in some robotic “Freak-a-Zoid” vocals, dubsteppy bass, political bits and… a sitar(!), making it my instant favorite for all of the terrain this crosses in one track. The finale is “F.U.Y.A.”, of which the abbreviation is a mystery to me still. The track combines a very filmic orchestration to a chopped and sliced and diced beat and sample smorgasbord. A nice way to finish with a bang.
Overall, Tetra shows promise. C2C has already won a few DJ championships since their formation in 1998, so their skills are not in question by me. The biggest worry these guys face is where to take this skill. When used in one way, the quick-change ADHD-on-crack bits and pieces style echoes some of the great things about late 80s hip-hop. DJs like Terminator X of Public Enemy and Jam Master Jay of Run-DMC were obviously an influence, as well as the production team, The Bomb Squad. But when they try making these skills fit a poppier vocal-based track, the thing that makes them special gets lost in the mix somewhat. Luckily there’s far more great than middle of the road to be found here. Definitely worth a listen. In fact the better moments are quite impressive.
Check out some videos from the album here…
“Down The Road”
“Le Banquet” (set to superhero clips)