dOP: Greatest Hits
Circus Company

Fact number one: dOP's Greatest Hits is not a collection of chart-toppers from the Parisian trio of Clément, Dam, and JAW but instead (aside from the opening track, “Worm Hunting,” which dOP reprised from its first EP) all new work. That in itself should tell you something about the kind of irreverence the group brings to its strange brand of soulful house music. The three draw upon past experiences playing rock, jazz, hip-hop, reggae, classical, and African music in fashioning the album's rich, cosmopolitan blend of funk, jazz, and house (Greatest Hits also will be issued as three separate twelve-inch singles, accompanied by remixes from Herbert, Âme, and DJ Koze).

The trio supplements its own sonic contributions to the album—Dam on sax and keyboards, Clément handling rhythm duties and computer arrangements, and JAW providing surrealistic lyrics (e.g., “I eat your legs like scrambled eggs…” is the opening line in “Happy Meal”) and vocals—with arrangements by French composer Emmanuel d'Orlando and performed by the Macedonian Radio Symphonic Orchestra. In addition to dOP's own eclectic instrumental mix—horns, pianino, Chinese flute, harmonica, melodica, gongs, analog synthesizers, and acoustic drum kit all find their way into the album—guests like Andy Narell (steelpan drums), Raphaël Gaiotti (trumpet), and Guillaume Coutu Dumont (balafon) contribute too.

The songs prove arresting: in “No More Daddy,” JAW appears to be channeling both Prince and Cee-Lo Green in equal measure when the dOP singer's falsetto glides across a deeply funky and bumping mix of claps, acoustic piano, and vocal chants. “1 gram” pairs falsetto vocals and a rolling crunk groove with martial snares, music box melodies, and a grandiose orchestral backing and somehow makes it all work. Jaw wisely varies his vocal delivery beyond a falsetto style by adopting a lower, gravelly tone during “U R” and adding a French voiceover to “L'Hôpital, La Rue, La Prison.” The instrumental dimension of the material is ear-catching all by itself: muted trumpets and horns lend “Talk Show” a swinging acoustic jazz feel, a bassoon of all things pops up during the closing moments of “Assurance Vie,” and “L'Hôpital, La Rue, La Prison” features steel drums and African rhythm elements in addition to orchestral strings.

Greatest Hits includes a number of examples of dOP's idiosyncratic take on dance music, including the nine-minute throwdown, “Love Ride” and “New York,” where, in what might be the album's peak moment, a melodica melody floats across the track's thumping, big-city groove. Though at seventy-three minutes it's longer than it needs to be, the release is well worth one's time, at the very least for granting one the opportunity to experience the music of a group intent on rewriting the dancefloor script on its own oft-wacky terms.

November 2010