Downtown New York denizens Deee-Lite burst onto the club scene with, ironically, the B-side of their first single. “Groove Is in the Heart,” a deliciously frilly, funky dance song, enchanted modern-day clubbers in every major American city. Thus propelled, the colorful trio — Russian émigré Super DJ Dmitry Brill, Japanese-born Towa Tei and the striking American Lady Miss Kier Kirby (who sports the nuttiest wardrobe this side of Lost in Space’s Mrs. Robinson) — tore both dancefloors and trendinistas’ living rooms apart with World Clique. Getting assistance from rapper Q-Tip (A Tribe Called Quest) and bassist/guitarist Bootsy Collins, Deee-Lite produced a self-consciously kitschy mix of disco and soulful early techno. Though far less skilled or naturally gifted, Lady Miss Kier’s vocals recall Diana Ross’ post-Supremes range and style and disco singers like Vicki Sue Robinson. The band’s inherent superficiality came cloaked in a layer of granola world consciousness, and most of the lyrics have something to do with universality and connection.
Deee-Lite’s flakiness starts to show on Infinity Within; the band’s political correctness and the themes of universal grooviness are beginning to grate. Nothing on the second record lives up to the joyousness of the debut, but that doesn’t stop the three from taking themselves more seriously: check the humorless public-service number, “I Had a Dream I Was Falling Through a Hole in the Ozone Layer,” for corroboration. Although the record boasts as many guests as the debut, none contributes as essentially to the effort; it’s obvious that no one, and that includes the band, is having as much fun.
Towa Tei then took a sabbatical, leaving Kier and Dmitry to produce Dewdrops in the Garden, a totally flimsy record that takes disco-techno to an embarrassingly skimpy low. None of the band’s initial excitement is audible; that sound you hear is the pair clutching at the latest straw. The silver lining to this cloud is Towa Tei’s solo record. Exploring those areas overshadowed by the glitz and glitter of Deee-Lite’s other two members, Future Listening! reveals just who’s got the musical talent in the family. Displaying a plethora of influences, Future Listening! sample-checks Brazilian bossa nova (“Technova” and “Batucada,” in particular), jazz, electronic dance and all sorts of odd sounds. Although Towa Tei’s style of creation relies too heavily on repetition, he doesn’t lack for imaginative samples and ideas, and is willing to load many styles into a song. His guests include Ryuichi Sakamoto, Haruomi Hosono and Natasha Diggs.