Photographer: Dete Blackshire.
Woolfy vs. Projections' first album, The Astral Projections of Starlight, was a really odd combination of relaxed, slow-motion neo-disco, bubbling electronic, and the kind of new agey electro-funk jams that would sound perfect on the Weather Channel (or anyplace inoffensive background music was needed). There weren't many bands aiming for that particular market and Woolfy vs. Projections cornered it, even if the record was somewhat of a disappointment, especially for anyone who was a fan of Woolfy's superior work. When the duo of Simon James (Woolfy) and Dan Hastie (Projections) released their second album, The Return of Love, they added two important elements to the project. This time, there are vocals and more focus on actual songwriting, which results in the album being made up of the kind of warmly smooth ballads Air regularly crank out with ease ("Cellophane," "Electric Storms"), tracks that sound like modern updates of slinky mid-'70s Doobie Brothers or Steely Dan songs ("Nina," which actually cribs the vocal melody from "Rikki Don't Lose That Number"), and gently percolating disco that sounds like a very sleepy LCD Soundsystem ("In Your Own Worlds," "Running Around Your Love"). They also do some nice things with bleepy synth funk ("Me and You") and end the album on a very pretty acoustic guitar-based ballad, "Cherry Blossoms." These tracks show a sure hand with melody and a nice balance between cold synths and warm guitars and bass, and have a relaxed feel that is very easy to sink into and enjoy. The only problem with The Return of Love is the return of the new age meets smooth jazz meets hold music instrumentals that send the listener to a dark and sleepy place between the more involving tracks. It sounds like maybe they were aiming for some sort of pastoral, Ultramarine-influenced sound but the two tracks in question, "March of the Wizards" and "Chameleons Tale," just end up sounding boring and out of place. (The other purely instrumental interlude, "The Passage," fares slightly better but still is nowhere as good as the vocal tracks.) Subtract these songs and The Return of Love is an impressive album that does almost exactly what it sets out to do, and sounds very pleasant while doing it. ~ Tim Sendra