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40 winks - Sound Puzzle
As Merck's close draws ever close (we're sure this is the longest swansong in recording history) they appear to have managed to rope in some fresh blood to bolster their already bursting catalogue. 40 Winks are a Belgian lounge-hop duo and 'Sound Puzzle' is their entrée into all things Merck, yet no sooner than the first crisp, crackling beat has freed itself from the compact disc, it's pretty obvious that they're going to fit right in. Merck always had a soft spot for hip-hop, and 'Sound Puzzle' sees the label go all out in both design and sound. In fact I think this is the most obviously hip-hop album the label has put out, and certainly doesn't have the idm leaning of Machine Drum or his many copyists. Instead we have a record which reads like a narrative, with full tracks interspersed with the classic hip-hop interlude, and while it might at times sound dangerously close to a Ninja Tune also-ran circa 1998, it keeps the attention throughout. The duo's lounge leanings are evident from the off, but instead of going all-out coffeetable, there's a subtle leaning towards the credible end of lounge music - smoky European bars, crackling home movies and girls with knitted scarves... you know what I'm talking about! If you want something to accompany a good cigar and a learn French cassette, I think you've found your soundtrack... smooth, baby.