A looming gloom hovers over many a sophomore album. All that pressure to live up to the hype and circumstance of that first breakout effort, all the judgement, the sting of comparison to what was (and probably can't) be replicated for round number two is just lingering there, not budging to dissipate. For Quadron the obstacle of the sophomore set was there, as well as another crag to climb. Earlier this year it was announced that the Danish duo (comprised of vocalist Coco O. and producer/instrumentalist, Robin Hannibal) had decided to sign to a major label (Sylvia Rhone's Vested In Culture imprint, a subset of Epic Records) with image sprucing in tow. For indie music lovers, a change like this is a like a wrench thrown under an artist's footing, crippling their ability to control their own creativity and persona --- the two essential pieces of framework of what the indie movement fights major music labels for. Yet, the cry for foul was premature as Avalanche doesn't exactly slump or deviate from the duo's penchant for merging Soul and Jazz into an eclectic and subtle electronic mix, a mix that was fully realized and lauded on their 2009 self-titled debut. Quadron climb that crag and stake their position, as Avalanche is a gallant foot forward that refines and expands on the intricate sounds and technical touches that made the duo such a coveted rare jewel from first glimmer.
It's important to note the four year gap between Quadron and Avalanche as it plays a role in the evolution of the group and its sound. Between Coco and Hannibal, the two have worked on and guest spotted on numerous separate projects and collaborations during that down-time. These separate ventures allowed the two to grow within their talents and what comes of that merges into the ripened product of what Avalanche is.
Refined strides are noted right when opener "LFT" (acronym for "Looking For Trouble") tumbles in on soft 80's inspired funk and Coco's flirty declaration of female independence. It's the perfect lead off that prepares for the percolating bass groove of "Favorite Star", where the duo plows into the most up-tempo moment of their careers. Also with pep in its step is single, "Hey Love" which clatters in with persistent percussion and hums, poising the group to make a crisp entry into accessible soul-piano pop.
Even though the gloss of accessibility shines on "Hey Love" and "Favorite Star", for the rest of the album the gloss is thin, as the Jazz and warm vintage Soul qualities that drew listeners to their debut aren't wholly cast aside. Tracks like the bluesy tones of "Crush" and melancholic "Befriend" are close kin to Quadron's most abstract, such as "Simili Life" and "Tone".
Mid-way into Avalanche a love letter is penned for Michael Jackson, whom Coco herself has cited as one of her biggest music inspirations. Picking up where their excellent "Baby Be Mine" tribute left off, "Neverland" directly addresses the King of Pop's influence on her and others, but also points out among a bed of gorgeous horns that his constant impersonators need to search for their own style in the process of being awed by Jackson's achievements. Quadron take the latter message to heart as Hannibal doesn't bite off but re-imagines a Jackson-Stevie Wonder backdrop for him and Coco on the shimmering "It's Gonna Get You" and the anti-love song, "Better Off", the latter updating "I Can't Help It" for the Millennial crowd. Even though the intrusion of rapper of the hour, Kendrick Lamar, on the track does slightly mar the lush and breathy mood, things still sound classically divine, making it a sound single choice.
For the two final closing tracks, Quadron continue to maintain rapt attention as they lull in with the tropical flair of "Sea Salt" that contrasts nicely with the sublime string orchestral title-track, where Coco wraps her voice around the group's finest and most vulnerable introspection yet. All of it ending Avalanche on a swelling and haunting, yet refined note.
Clocking in at ten songs, Avalanche may seem too short to embody the duo's sprawling sound, but its conciseness lends to its genius as it leaves little room for filler to be present, and happy to say, there isn't any to be found on the album. Every lyric sung, instrument played, and rhythm expunged isn't wasted, nothing overstays its welcome, nothing tries to be something that it isn't, Avalanche plays like the class act it is. As an honest record filled with a wealth of depth, style and soul that encompasses the strengths of Quadron and the realization that together Coco O. and Robin Hannibal are a contending force, deserving of whatever accolades that should come their way.
Avalanche is out and available now.