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Time to Chill

French electro-chic conquers the United States

But MSI is not only moving into the familiar circles of glamour. The distributor also is targeting a consumer who might never think of wandering into a record store, much less a dance club.

"Now we have DJs spinning in Saks Fifth Avenue," says Leyva. MSI approached the department store about playing chill as background music and keeping the discs in stock. The strategy has been repeated successfully in New York with plans to expand to seven other cities including Las Vegas, Houston, and Cleveland. The promotion worked so well that MSI hired local DJ David Cordoves to spin on Saturday and Sunday afternoons at Saks Bal Harbour. The DJ keeps a playlist, printed up like tiny menus, next to the CDs.

"People are not just buying one CD," says Colonomos. "They're buying eight or twelve at the same time. These are women who are not part of the world dance community. The music is very soft and very sweet. It's not aggressive and it's not overbearing. It conjures an atmosphere."

Hotel Costes is not just for dance fans
Hotel Costes is not just for dance fans

Details

From 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays Admission is free. Call 305-865-1100.
Saks Fifth Avenue in the Bal Harbour Shops, 9700 Collins Ave, Bal Harbour.

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Saks is not the only store buying into chill as what a press release for the Elite Modeling party hailed as "this year's sonic accessory." The French discs are now on the stereo and on sale at DKNY and Urban Outfitters. A number of South Florida shoe stores and hair salons also carry the records. The very chill Lincoln Road-style mecca Base has found that clients so identify with the sound that the store now has the entire MSI chill catalogue on display at the front of the store -- hitting customers before they even see the shoes or layered sheaths. The music, Colonomos says, gives shoppers "a parallel experience that goes beyond the record store."

But isn't there a danger in getting too tangled up with the fickle dictates of fashion? Colonomos hints at the perils when he searches the past for an analogy. "In the same way that easy jazz appealed to a lot of different people, this music has an appeal beyond the dance community." He regrets the comparison almost as quickly as he makes it. "I'm not saying the music is like easy jazz. I'm just saying it also has a broad appeal."

But it's too late. The comparison suggests a frightening possibility. Could chill someday, all too soon, lose its cool and precisely because of its broad appeal sound as toothless and inane as easy-listening jazz?

Colonomos doesn't think so. "Part of the appeal is the glamour. That scene [at the Hotel Costes] is absolutely phenomenal. I think Stephane's achievement is being able to communicate the glamour of the Hotel Costes."

Pompougnac, who has a penchant for more straightforward house music when given the opportunity, does not plan to keep the Costes series forever. "Maybe one or two more," he conjectures, before he calls it quits.

Whenever that day comes, we'll always have Paris.

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