Vikter Duplaix is the best thing to happen to the booty call since the cell phone; he’s taken the computer’s sexual potential out of the dark ages of online porn and into actual emotionally engaged, two-person high-tech l-l-lovin’. The Japanese, Scandinavian, and German nu-tech-jazz producers and deejays he works with hear Vikter Duplaix’s voice “uhm”-ing and “ahhh”-ing through plaintive caresses like “Soon” and think to themselves: “Ja, mein freund, this is vhat it soundz like vhen doves cry.”
In part, it’s because Duplaix learned his soul from the master—Philly-soul legend Kenny Gamble (of Gamble & Huff). But Duplaix already had props as a nu-soul vet himself, notching his musical bedpost with production credits for the likes of Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, and Eric Benet while working for DJ Jazzy Jeff’s A Touch of Jazz team. But it’s as the broken-beat jazz set’s solid link to its Philly-soul roots that Duplaix has truly found his calling. In collaborations, under his name and theirs, with the likes of Kyoto Jazz Massive and German scene gurus Jazzanova, Vikter Duplaix appears in more record collections than his own artist album (2003’s International Affairs) could hope to grace. The idea behind Singles is obviously to rein in all those fans who grab KJM and Jazzanova albums, but not the “Manhood” white label: 10 tracks that have blared from dance-club speakers regularly and deserve a little bit of bedroom long-playa usage.
Jazzanova’s contributions to the Duplaix canon, not surprisingly, provide Singles’ most captivating moments. In that group’s hands, Duplaix’s titular refrain on “That Night” is sampled and syncopated in what sounds like pure ‘80s Casio-key sampling, yet coupled to a rhythm that won’t hit radio airwaves for years to come. Similarly, “Soon” has enough starts and stops to make Duplaix’s eyes-and-fists-clenched vocal clichés into something more than the Gap in-store that the song could’ve easily been. Unfortunately, there are swathes of Singles that Banana Republic shirt-folders will likely be lip-syncing into their headset microphones this year. For all their valiant attempts and atmospheric groove, tracks like “Galaxy” and “City Spirits” stray too close to camp, and while redemption is just a broken beat away, what might’ve been dance floor magic or R&B verve ends up as something of a campy clichéd flatliner.
Don’t get me wrong: Jazzanova might have the best stuff on here, but Philly boys don’t need stein-lifters to teach ‘em how to woo the frauleins. Vikter gets beyond his own mmm’s, ahh’s and yelps to become greater than the sum of his vocal tics on several tracks. For instance, the remixed electro-Marvin Gaye of “Manhood”, a track that umph’s its way from fragile, so-and-slow jam through before having its jazz beat broken on the shards of Duplaix’s broken bedpost. Both versions of Duplaix’s first self-production effort “Messages” offer something for the modern club-floor Casanova—one a nu-jazz offering worthy of Duplaix’s Euro-beat production counterparts, and one an excellent if somewhat predictable deep-house mix. (And really, what part of deep house isn’t predictable? And is there something entirely wrong with that?)
Perhaps Duplaix has titled this collection Prelude to the Future as a way of purposefully clearing the air, putting this work behind him and moving on towards brighter days as R&B hit pumper or dance-jazz mad scientist. But he’s obviously called it, more simply, Singles because Vikter Duplaix is a singles-format artist—it’s his bread and butter, but it’s also his cologne and cognac. For that reason alone, Singles (Prelude to the Future) stands out as the Vikter you want, and maybe even need, for the next time you’re shacked up in your Philadelphia abode, popping open a bottle of wine and showing a new acquaintance your etchings.