London duo Alpines (Catherine Pockson - vocals, Bob Matthews - production) remain best known for their collaboration with Sub Focus, Tidal Wave, which featured on his 2013 album 'Torus'. Yet they have a wealth of previous material since forming in 2010, some of which is included on their debut album 'Oasis' (though their single Cocoon is criminally absent).
Over this time, though, another artist released her debut: Jessie Ware. Both artists fuse jazz-soul and electronics, with Alpines leaning more heavily in the dance/electronica direction. 'Oasis' features polished, sumptuous production that's incredibly stylish and a stunning vocal from Pockson, but the sheen of originality has been somewhat tainted over the time it's taken for this debut to be released.
Opening title track Oasis is an exquisite introduction to the duo's sound. Pockson's vocals float lazily over an erotically shuffling beat and sensual electronic production speckled with jazz harmonies. Its warm, sun-dappled textures reflect how cool and sexy Alpines' music can be.
Normally an oasis comes in the middle of the desert, but here it's at the start. From this track onwards, the album is an indistinct blur, the beats and synths blending like a shimmering mirage. Perhaps this is its point: lounge music to drift away to in sun-kissed bliss. Though the later tracks take on greater house influences (No Other Lover especially), the tracks are all around the three minute mark and generally lack pop immediacy.
It's the lyrics that mostly disappoint though, resting on overly simple. On Blind Pockson whines "I've been so blind"; on Stronger she yearns "I gotta be stronger, a little bit longer"; club track Zero sees her cooing "without you I've got zero"; and on Saviour she longingly intones "you could be my saviour...I need you right now". Her vocals may have a soulful tone, but the lyrics lack the depth of emotion to back that up.
Still, it's Pockson's vocal and the production that will keep you coming back for more, on that title track especially. 'Oasis' might not stack up to the duo's main contemporary rival, Jessie Ware, but it remains a seductive, radiant album.
Listen: 'Oasis' is available now.