A close (and superior) musical cousin of equally popular 90's ambient dance act Enigma, Deep Forest pairs French dance producers Michel Sanchez and Eric Mouquet. While Enigma never did manage to make a consistently great album in its 90's heyday, Deep Forest managed the feat twice.
country of origin:
Ambient dance, ethno ambient, ethno techno
90's - 10's
- Deep Forest (1992, Sony)
- Boheme (1995, Sony)
- Evo Devo (2016, deep-forest.fr)
Reviewed by Mike G
A close (and superior) musical cousin of equally popular 90's ambient dance act Enigma, Deep Forest pairs French dance producers Michel Sanchez and Eric Mouquet. While Enigma never did manage to make a consistently great album in its 90's heyday, Deep Forest managed this feat twice during that period. Commercial radio was all over the first album and this overexposure killed any credibility in the eyes of many dance music fans. But, as with Delerium's two classic excursions in slick beats and global exotica, the pop-friendly melodies and exotic ambience are built on rock-solid musical foundations and both albums have aged quite gracefully.
The duo's debut album Deep Forest (1992) was a massive hit, emerging during the first wave of chillout dance music in the early 90's and the mainstream's first, brief flirtation with it. Sanchez had travelled the world collecting ethnic records and came up with the simple but effective idea of sampling some tribal singing and blending it with electronic beats. The hit single “Sweet Lullaby” is masterful, with its shy pygmy vocals carried on a slow, hypnotic drum loop and a gorgeous progression of floating synth chords. It's genuinely touching and quite unforgettable. Elsewhere, tracks like “Deep Forest” and “Hunting” up the tempo with funkier, faster beats and some of the processed vocal samples take on an almost comic quality.
Boheme (1995) is largely forgotten now. Yet it's an equally accomplished follow-up where they move beyond the forests of Africa to the world of East European folk music. Again it’s an engaging mix of old and new, traditional songs and vocal samples fused with electronic beats and rich ambient textures. No doubt in response to the accusations of ethnic plagiarism that dogged them over their first album, the duo this time scrupulously document their sampled sources.
After Boheme the group virtually disappeared from view. Subsequent albums into the new century such as Music Detected (2002) are flat-out cheesy at times and fail to match the inspired fusion of the early work.
Evo Devo (2016), however, is a real surprise. Perhaps having to fight for it's creation and release without any label support helped deliver the best Deep Forest album in 20 years; Evo Devo is crowd-funded and self-released. The now-solo Mouquet stays true to the band’s rich world beat heritage while jettisoning much of the cliche that took over after the mid 90's. He twists and adapts a plethora of current dance sounds to his own ends, recognisably Deep Forest but somehow fresh. “Talk To The Birds” shows what a brilliant arranger and programmer he is, seemingly mashing up different time signatures while managing vocal and synth harmonies of shivering beauty. An album of wide-ranging textures, energy and tempos, Evo Devo is a joyous thing. Commercial, yes, but inspired too. My only caveat is “Happy Tribe”, an absurdly cheesy nod to EDM bombast that was surely - hopefully - done with tongue firmly in cheek.