After a five year wait The Juan Maclean are back again with In A Dream, their third full-length album, and with James Murphy's flagship DFA project LCD Soundsystem no longer in existence it feels like this is all the more an important release.
After the experimental high-concept introduction of debut album Less Than Human, The Future Will Come felt more down to earth, infected with smart 80s angled pop and nods to techno. Less conceptual, the seemingly proper house workout Happy House felt a little tagged onto the end, almost an afterthought (albeit a glorious one). In comparison In A Dream is a little more balanced - it is drenched in the stylings of Moroder but oscillates between conceptual pop songs and dance floor inspired moments.
In A Dream puts its best foot forward: opening track A Place Called Space, previewed before the album's release, is an eight-minute epic acid-prog track, packed with guitar riffs, pulsating rhythms and reverberating synths. It is a hell of a statement to open an album with and in contrast I've Waited For So Long, which follows, feels clinical - monochromatic synth pop - and you rather suspect that is the point.
There are ways in which In A Dream feels even more human than The Juan Maclean. On Love Stops Here, Maclean's vocals are more exposed and natural than ever, as he laments love gone wrong against a pure riff borrowed almost directly from New Order. Maclean's musical partner-in-crime Nancy Whang shines as always, tracks like Here I Am bubbling with the kind of minimal house efficiency Maclean nails time and time again whilst Whang's lyrics betray her emotions even if the vocal delivery remains as aloof as ever.
Between them The Juan Maclean have created another impeccably well produced album: it is effortlessly tastefully put together. You can't help but notice the little details because everything here, bar that opening track, is an exercise is considered minimalism. It is difficult not to long for a little bit more excess to contrast with so much cleanliness. And yet as In A Dream closes on the humanist piano riffs of The Sun Will Never Set On Our Love, echoing early track Dance With Me, it's hard not to love this album anyway... It's just as clear as ever that The Juan Maclean make better music than they do albums.