What’s Your Pleasure (Universal)
Bombe Alaska. Wasabi ice cream. Making love in the snow. Jessie Ware’s What’s Your Pleasure.
This is the most chilled heat-producing dance music you’ll hear this year. Or the hottest return on a set of songs delivered with a separation that sometime is almost – almost, but not quite – so coolly distant you might have to knock off the frost before going home.
Another way of looking at this really satisfying new album from Jessie Ware is just imagine sounds from the ultimate nightclub for adults on the move, maybe on the make, but in control. No gauche passes made, no unsightly sweat, but an irresistible lure to the floor, and the sense that you would just close your eyes and let it all happen inside your head, gut and feet rather than depend on someone else.
Gliding between mid-pulse ‘90s nightclubs, late ‘70s discos and the soundtrack of the kind of parties you only ever see in movies about Parisian models or New York art dealers, songs like Mirage (Don’t Stop) and Soul Control throw big shapes that pull you towards them, but then keep their hands up to say, that’s enough, admire from there.
Step Into My Life says “time to step into my life” and the horns and strings light a path, but with its precise backing vocals and Linn drums it watches you approach rather than comes to you. It’s attractive, but on its own terms – which is attractive in its own way of course.
Then Ooh La La takes Chic to Tom Tom Club, its bassline a perfect amalgam of Bernard Edwards and Tina Weymouth, with the synths flaring and guitar sparing, rising and falling levels of odd sounds and light percussion, and the melody playful but Ware’s voice pitched higher and just impersonal enough to hold you in rather than close. The situation, as usual, is just ambiguous enough.
Along those lines the title track brings deadpan synths and voice to a rigid rhythm that might well break into either Dead Or Alive, or just drop you into a Madonna semi-porn filmclip, and The Kill observes and judges you, so that even when Ware sings “I’ve been waiting my whole life for someone who makes me feel like you do” it’s not entirely clear if that is a good thing or not.
You may not be smiling but you’re actually having fun.
The songs nonetheless can’t help locating a pop sense amid the tooled beats. Save A Kiss, for example, floats up with the melody – and the classic disco strings – to place an emotional layer over (but importantly not, embedded within) the mechanics; the rather splendid Spotlight peels back the hard throb of the bassline with its interweaving voices and soft need to create some genuine warmth; and Adore You caresses your cheek, the repetition becoming less automatic and more sensual as the song goes, even as the arrangement nonetheless holds back anything overt.
They’re further examples of those heat v cool situations in which What’s Your Pleasure specialises, the sort of thing that leaves the final track, Remember Where You Are, happily floating between lush soul and post-TLC wariness, between wanting, and wanting to be convinced.
It’s the perfect way to end an album that lets you know you can dance anytime, that you can play with others if you want to, but you don’t need anyone else to make it work. Is that cold? I don’t think so: that heat rising isn’t accidental.
SPOTIFY: Listen to Jessie Ware – What’s Your Pleasure