Review of In A Dream Album by The Juan Maclean

No matter how good LCD Soundsystem were - and they were good, weren't they? - there was still always a hipster whiff around James Murphy and his various projects, leaving you with the sensation that some of the time that the joke was on you.

The Juan Maclean In A Dream Album

Some of this has inevitably rubbed off down the years on the acts that roster the DFA label which he co-founded - not that he's ever seemed particularly bothered by most people's conceptions - but for The Juan Maclean it's less of a distraction. The tag is the nom-de-plume of long term Murphy associate John MacLean, for whom he was a sound engineer in the latter's noise outfit Six Finger  Satellite. When they folded, MacLean quit music, got educated and then returned with his Latin-sounding moniker in 2005, edging back into it via his début album 'Less Than Human'.

If that, in places, was a record in thrall to Kraftwerk, underground house and bonkers old school plinky-plonk outfit Drexciya, 'In A Dream' draws heavily instead on 90s dance rock, smart post modern disco and first wave British synth-pop. Phew. At the forefront for most of the time is collaborator Nancy Whang, who lends a vaguely androgynous set of vocals over the almost dream wave of 'Here I Am' and the entertainingly louche soul of 'Running Back To You'.

As a band based around a man, The Juan Maclean you would expect would gravitate to a single vision, but Maclean himself has remixed everyone from Stevie Nicks to The All American Rejects, so eclectic comes as standard. On 'I've Waited For So Long', this manifests itself in the pummelling, Moroder-esque beats employed to create a sensation of travelling, whilst the gargantuan 10 minutes plus of closer 'The Sun Will Never Set On Our Love' is full of vintage pops and claps, along with Whang's pristine high end vocals and a rolling, finger picked synth line from the pre-laptop school of production.

Comparing this to 'Less Than Human' reveals an artist now very much trying to let us in, allowing us to peek over his shoulder into his crate-digging and multi-instrumented palette. His best moment here is on 'Love Stops Here', an ecstatic amalgam of Play-era Moby and vintage New Order, complete with rumbling Peter Hook bass notes and way back in the mix words. Delivered with aplomb, it's the sort of understated retro-chic that gets people of a certain outlook hot under the collar, but for the rest of us Ordinary Joes it's just great tunes. Making records that sound good, feel great and aren't smothered by a false sense of self awareness is a talent that leads to good times. In this, John MacLean is yet another example of the same stuff happening to same guy twice.


Andy Peterson

Official Site -