When, like Marc Cerrone, you’re the undisputed grandfather of house music, you would be forgiven for kicking back and reflecting on a long and successful career. However, the hugely influential Frenchman has other ideas, and is celebrating the release of his 36th album DNA with one of two live DJ sets at the Jazz Cafe in London.
Despite his formidable discography in dance music, this is his first instrumental album. The only spoken words appear on The Impact, a simple environmental message, underlying Cercone’s long-espoused concern about the cost of human progress. Cerrone himself refers to Resolution on the new album revisiting his most famous hit, Supernature, wondering aloud whether the reference in the melody helps listeners connect with the new track. I’ve Got a Rocket also has elements of the legendary hit.
Cerrone isn’t just referring to his own work on DNA, though. Those familiar with the work of The Radiophonic Workshop will find much to recognise in the album, with The Impact having elements of Hyperspace by Paddy Kingsland. The title track, which reminded me strongly of the theme to the BBC programme Micro Live, uses the sound of dripping water, which ought to be familiar to fans of John Baker, and Close to the Sky sounds a lot like a beefed-up version of the famous Swirley by Roger Limb, or, indeed The Earthmen by Paddy Kingsland. Even Experience is similar in nature to the classic Current Affairs by Francis Monkman, notable as the theme to the IBAs Engineering Announcements for the Radio and Television Trade, the unlisted treat for any keen viewers of the IBA test card in the 1980s.
For those whose interests lie more towards French house music, Air Dreaming seems to be very much a generous nod by Cerrone to Air, who have cited him as an influence in the past, with a pleasing thump to the rhythm track.
Although DNA is Cerrone’s first instrumental album, the themes he visits seem very familiar, but also very timely. The album as a whole feels like a trip through a dreamscape, or a space fantasy, with Let Me Feel definitely giving the feel of the start of a journey. The effect on the listener is certainly dream-like, with Resolution causing me to have my own space fantasy, with Cally and Jenna from Blakes 7 throwing shapes in some grimy space bar, with Vila watching, entranced.
DNA is a thoughtful trip through a fantastical soundscape, and if the environmental themes seem unsurprising, it’s worth considering that it’s hardly Cerrone’s fault that he was early to sound the alarm. It’s extremely gratifying to be able to listen to new work from this legend of dance music, and thrilling to know that he still gets so much from live performance. Let’s hope he continues to do so for years to come.