In 1996, Philippe Zdar didn’t know what to do. Motorbass, his ascendant project with his friend and roommate Étienne de Crécy, had dissolved after Crécy packed his things and moved out of their apartment in the Montmartre district of Paris. That same year, they’d released their sole album, Pansoul, regarded today as one of the defining moments of the French house revolution. His downtime didn’t last long. Within months, Zdar linked back up with his old La Funk Mob partner Boom Bass, aka Hubert Blanc-Francard. Having bonded earlier in the decade through their shared love of hip-hop, Zdar and Boom Bass rebranded as Cassius and released their first album, 1999.
Motorbass paved the way, but ultimately it was Cassius who went the distance, bringing “French touch” to the masses alongside peers like Daft Punk. Twenty years (and one decade-long hiatus) after their debut, a new Cassius record has arrived with a heartbreaking asterisk: It will also be the duo’s final album of Zdar’s lifetime. Two days before it was to be released, the news broke that he had accidentally fallen through a window in Paris and died. He was 52 years old.
Thus Dreems is a bittersweet homecoming. With their sights locked back onto the dancefloor, Cassius sound reinvigorated. Arranging the record like a cinematic DJ mix, Zdar and Blanc-Francard pare back the kitchen-sink maximalism of their Balearic-tinged concept album Ibifornia. Instead, they adopt a more back-to-basics approach: kick, snare, hat, and bassline take priority.