An aging piano man more renowned for throwing tantrums than throwing shapes and perhaps the most eccentric act to emerge from the thriving Australian indie-disco scene? On paper, a collaboration between Sir Elton John and Sydney duo Pnau seems as unlikely as the pop legend’s previous forays into hip-hop with Eminem and Tupac. However, Good Morning To The Night (set for a July 17 release) is far from a random hook-up.
Blown away by their 2007 self-titled third effort, Sir Elton signed Nick Littlemore and Peter Mayes to his management company, worked with the former on a track for the soundtrack to Cirque De Soleil’s Zarkana (“Whenever”) and acted as a mentor for their recent comeback album, Soft Universe.
It’s this past history which ensures that this highly imaginative reworking of material collated from the master tapes of John’s 1970-1976 output is never less than respectful. Eschewing the obvious temptation to smother his classic piano ballads with four-to-the-floor Guetta-esque beats, its rather measly eight tracks treat his lesser-known back catalogue with an affection that’s a million miles away from the lazy generic approach of most similar remix albums.
Unless you’re an Elton John aficionado, it’s unlikely you will even recognise the abundance of samples that have been interweaved through the chic Balearic production, with the likes of “Phoenix,” an elegant slice of 70s disco which mirrors Ashley Beedle’s tasteful reworking of “Are You Ready For Love,” and the ghostly yacht-rock of “Foreign Fields” each borrowing elements from up to nine different classics.
The pair’s cut-and-paste invention means Good Morning To The Night feels more like a brand new set of compositions than a hastily cobbled-together cash-in. The title track, built on a lyric from “Mona Lisas & Mad Hatters” echoes the dreamy house of Littlemore’s side-project, Empire Of The Sun, with its filtered Gallic riffs and sun-setting beats; “Sad” is a gloriously melancholic stab at cosmic nu-disco, underpinned by a wave of squelchy synths and warm Bacharach-esque brass flourishes; while “Black Icy Stare” is a delightfully languid glam-electro number which ironically, sounds like the band perhaps most heavily inspired by the album’s source material, Scissor Sisters.
The ambitious attempt to bring these 40-year-old songs into the 21st century aren’t always so convincing; in particular, “Karmatron” veers into self-indulgent prog territory with its keyboard wizardy and winding guitar solos. Additionally, some fans may feel short-changed by the brief running time of the album. But with such encouraging results, Pnau and Elton John would be foolish not to return to their experiment for a second volume.