At a time when the dance music is teeming with booming, convoluted dubstep-bass and the dark aggression of grime crossovers, amongst all the wobbling, DVAS’ debut is like a blinding hot, white light to the eyes. So much in fact that its arrival seems almost ill-timed. Exploding in waves of cascading rainbow colours, Canadian duo Jered Stuffco and Darren Veres’ synth-drenched electro is like a Carebear Stare brightening up the dark corners of our dance floors.
Pastiche is an integral part of the DVAS agenda and they plunder unabashedly and extensively from the ’80s, disco house and the majority of Daft Punk’s back catalogue. Of course the ’80s was abounding with pop synth duos, and comparable to the likes of Pet Shop Boys, Erasure and Eurythmics, it is muscular melodies and heady, feverish hooks that reside at the shiny core of DVAS material.
Opener ‘Society’ could easily have been made by Miami Horror with it’s feel-good, breezy synths creeping, like many segments of DVAS’ songs, into very Daft Punk-esque territory half way through. ‘Ambient Room’ is pretty authentic, punching ’80s schtick but ‘Consenting Adults’ is so convincing it would sit comfortably on an early New Order release. During the twinkling intro to ‘Watching You’ though, you literally half expect it to burst into the Human League’s ‘Don’t You Want Me’ at any second. However, a rather less genius, electro-disco beat ensues, accompanied by a vocal style ripped right from Daft Punks ‘Digital Love’. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but this is just robbery. ‘Questions’ continues to pilfer in the same way, unashamedly nicking the synth riff of Calvin Harris’ ‘Flashback’.
However, in DVAS defence and to their credit one thing they have in spades is rampant accessibility. So there’s little here in the way of originality, but there’s no doubt Stuffco and Veres know a hook when they see one. They may lack the aptitude for enraptured suspense and ecstatic timing of their French peers Daft Punk, but within half a minute of each track you know exactly where the melody is going. Sure it’s the height of predictability but at the same time these tracks have a way of worming their way into your head and staying put.
More disappointing though, is the resemblance between many of the songs. This is mostly due to Stuffco’s syrupy, sweet vocals which are placed at the fore of most of the tracks. But deprived of them, it’s most likely the music would sound cheap. ‘Fantasy’ for instance does very little of consequence and without any real modicum of euphoric comeuppance is given some kind of anchor and direction by Stuffco’s smooth, overly sincere delivery.
There’s no saving other tracks though. ‘Back 2 Basix’ sounds like Luther Vandross over a crap beat while ‘Giving It All Away’ sags in banality and bad reappropriation. Luckily it’s saved by closing track ‘Passionate Persuasion’ which channels the somewhat darker synths of Visage and The Art of Noise. In fact, DVAS could have done with robbing a little more from Dubstep’s bruised influence to counteract some of the overwhelming nicety of their debut. However, what they’ve created is ultimately likeable electro-house, even if it’s something the majority of us will have heard many times before.