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Pepe Deluxe

Finnish group Pepe Deluxé initially found success around the turn of the 21st century as a sample-based electronic act before their sound evolved into an ambitious hybrid of vintage styles such as neo-psychedelia and Baroque pop. Early releases such as 1999's Super Sound (which included the U.K. Top 20 hit "Before You Leave") were stylish, lounge-friendly fusions of trip-hop and big beat. The band gradually shifted away from sampling, with 2007's fuzz guitar-heavy Spare Time Machine featuring the talents of dozens of musicians. Pepe Deluxé's 2012 "esoteric pop opera in three parts" Queen of the Wave made use of several obscure and bizarre instruments, and the group continued their exploration of the unusual with 2021's Phantom Cabinet, Vol. 1, self-described as "an impossible adventure." Pepe Deluxé formed in Helsinki during the mid-'90s, initially consisting of DJ Slow, James Spectrum, and JA-Jazz. Their song "Call Me Goldfinger" appeared on the 1997 compilation Return of the D.J., Vol. 2, one of the most acclaimed releases of the era's turntablism scene. Pepe Deluxé remixed songs by several Finnish dance acts, and their self-released demo EP Three Times a Player appeared in 1998, earning positive press and leading to a contract with Brighton-based Catskills Records. Their debut album, Super Sound, arrived in 1999, with Emperor Norton issuing the LP in America. The Nina Simone-sampling single "Woman in Blue" (later retitled "Before You Leave" for copyright reasons) was featured in a Levi's ad campaign in 2001, and the song reached number 20 on the U.K. singles chart. During this period, the band remixed songs by Tom Jones and the Cardigans ("Burning Down the House"), Eminem's duo Bad Meets Evil ("Nuttin' to Do"), and Jacknife Lee ("Bursting Off the Backbeat"). The band returned in 2003 with Beatitude, which featured contributions from multi-instrumentalist Paul Malmström and sported more of a rock-based sound (it was also their first release without DJ Slow as a member, although he did contribute to one track). The single "Salami Fever" received notice for its martial arts-themed music video, and the song was subsequently sampled by the Prodigy on two different tracks. Spare Time Machine, the first Pepe Deluxé album to be devoid of samples, appeared in 2007. Its sound channeled vintage garage rock and psychedelic pop rather than hip-hop and club music. In 2008, JA-Jazz left the group and Malmström became a full-time member. Pepe Deluxé spent several years putting together their ambitious fourth full-length, Queen of the Wave, which utilized obscure instruments such as Edison's Ghost Machine and the Great Stalacpipe Organ. The album received an American release on Asthmatic Kitty. The group composed the soundtrack to the game Angry Birds Go! in 2013. Pepe Deluxé wrote and recorded "The Surrealíst Woman," the theme to a graphic novel adaptation of an unrealized film script by Salvador Dalí and the Marx Brothers titled Giraffes on Horseback Salad. The song was issued as a 7" single and appeared on the graphic novel's soundtrack, both released in 2019. Pepe Deluxé's fifth album, Phantom Cabinet, Vol. 1, appeared in 2021. Continuing the band's search for lost and forgotten instruments, they employed such rarities as the Sexophone and the World's Largest Cowbell.
© Paul Simpson /TiVo


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