French touch is all about synthesis, uniting house, disco, electro, R&B, and pop into a sound that’s eternally nostalgic and contemporary, and in some ways, Breakbot’s music is its logical end. This most stylish of musical styles had been going strong for decades when Thibaut Berland proved that he, like the style’s forefathers Daft Punk, excelled at bringing personality to its slickness. Breakbot’s debut, By Your Side, punctuated its dancefloor workouts with tracks that sounded like they could be chart hits in an alternate universe, but it feels like a dress rehearsal for Berland’s follow-up. Still Waters brings even more hooks and warmth to Breakbot’s sound — as “The Sweetest Romance”‘s chorus suggests, this is music that’s in love with music.
Berland and vocalist Irfane, now an official member of the project, wrote much of the album while touring in support of By Your Side, so it’s not surprising that Still Waters distills the most crowd-pleasing parts of their sound. This includes a focus on Irfane, who sounds especially good on “Get Lost” and “2Good4Me,” a moody standout that borrows from 21st century R&B production. Meanwhile, the female vocalist who appears on several songs is as much of a revelation as Irfane was on By Your Side, particularly on “Too Soon,” which feels like a long-lost sister to the classic “slow down” R&B and pop songs of the ’80s. Sticking with just a few vocalists setsBreakbot and Still Waters apart from the tradition of dance music producers who work with a wide cast of singers, and this streamlined approach trickles down to the rest of the album.
The handful of instrumentals have more drive and purpose than they did on By Your Side while maintaining, and even enhancing, Breakbot’s playfulness. “Wet Dream” sounds like a French touch pool party, with wittily used filters adding to its underwater appeal, while “Still Waters” itself makes the most ofBerland’s fondness for peppy keyboard lines that sound like they’re culled from the greatest ’80s TV show theme that never existed. Nevertheless, Still Waters feels more controlled than the high-flying By Your Side. Breakbot described the album as “music for a barbecue,” and there is a summery haze to these songs that makes them more suited to chilling out than working up a sweat. What Still Waterslacks in spontaneity it more than makes up for in an album that proves Berland and Irfane can take their music in a more cohesive — but equally satisfying — direction.