By Jesse Serwer
La Roux, the British synth-pop duo, and Major Lazer, a hipster dancehall vanity project helmed by producer-DJs Diplo and Switch, don't share any obvious aesthetics. But their respective bodies of work - just one 2009 LP, each - are a jumping-off point for "Lazerproof," a mix tape as chaotic as it is cohesive. Like M.I.A.'s Diplo-helmed "Piracy Funds Terrorism, Volume 1" mix tape, it succeeds by acting more like a broad survey of emerging music trends than a compilation of remixes and mash-ups.
La Roux singer Elly Jackson's breathy pout is juxtaposed with arty commercial rap tracks from Gucci Mane ("Lemonade") and Drake ("Houstatlantavegas"); assertive sex rhymes from female MCs Amanda Blank and Candy Redd; and Rusko's wobbly dubstep. Exclusive dub-plates - versions of popular dancehall songs where artists rework portions of their lyrics into DJ shout-outs - add color to remixes of Gyptian's "Hold Yuh" and Demarco's "Fallen Soldiers."
But it's when the music is at its sparest that "Lazerproof" offers its central revelation: that Jackson's singing might be greater than the sum of La Roux's parts. An airy remix of the duo's single "Bulletproof" by Washington's DJ Nacey (also featuring local musician Matt Hemerlein) gives her angelic timbre breathing room rarely afforded by her partner Ben Langmaid's insistent new-wave production. The throwback rhythm from Ken Boothe's seminal reggae classic "Artibella" offers even starker relief, elevating one of the more subdued vocal performances on La Roux's self-titled LP into the stunning "Colourless Artibella."
La Roux performs at the 9:30 club on July 27 and Rams Head Live on July 28.
Recommended tracks: "Colourless Artibella," "Quicksand (Mad Decent 2010 Rerub)," "In 4 the Kill Pon De Skream"