Picks and Pans Review: One Step Forward

updated 05/12/2003 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/12/2003 01:00AM

Les Nubians (Om Town/Higher Octave)

Critic's Choice

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Imagine if Sade had grown up in France and had a singing sister. They might sound a lot like these Paris-based siblings, who showcase a certain je ne sais quoi on this stylish, style-hopping CD. While rooted in the American traditions of jazz, soul and hip-hop, Hélène and Célia Faussart, who are of French-Cameroonian descent, don't stop there, taking listeners on a musical journey from Europe to Africa, from Jamaica to Brazil. Although they sing mostly in French and occasionally in English, their sound is uniquely universal. On the effervescent first single, "Temperature Rising," Les Nubians effortlessly blend a sunny pop melody, sprightly hip-hop beats and their ethereal harmonies. Elsewhere the duo mixes '70s funk with Latin rhythms, lilting reggae with African vocal textures, ambient electronica with oh-so-smooth jazz. It all makes for one enticing pop potpourri.

BOTTOM LINE: Magnifique

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