It's safe to say we've all come to terms with the fact that the '90s are once more vogue, for the first time since, well, the '90s. Dungarees and tie-dye and bolshy neons grace our streets, grungy slacker-rock again pollutes/lights up our airwaves. The coup d'etat trophy, however, goes to R&B. The genre du jour of yesteryear has been resuscitated, and with its second-wind entered a platinum era - there's scores of imitators and innovators dragging the bandwagon in opposing directions. Holed up in LA, Virginian electro twosome Outlands have been cultivating an ingenious strain of crossbred R&B, infusing trip-hop, '80s post-punk and contemporary synthpop into their uniquely dramatic output.

Since their plaudit-encrusted EP In Times Like These There Are No Boundaries, the duo have been slathering flesh and muscular emotional heft onto the skeleton they summoned with their premiere release. Melissa Smith and Mark Arciaga have described their debut LP Love Is As Cold As Death as an "homage to the '90s" and "a conscious choice to move away from a lo-fi sound" - and that they have. This isn't some barebones DIY shamblefest, it's a genie tearing out of a lamp with a crick in its neck; their music on this record is poised to do wondrous things, to take microcosms by storm and alter the parameters of the entire game.

Album opener 'Politics' stutters and jitters, the vaguely industrial rhythms clanking against midnight synths and Cocteau Twins-y vox. The chorus, as jagged as Smith's vocals are here, is insanely infectious; it's like Haim if they'd really tried to go down the R&B route we were all told was vital to their sound. Producing effervescent, affecting pop sounds is intrinsic to Outlands offerings - though they ably showcase gorgeous independent elements, its their hook panache that indicates that they've indeed moved away from the "lo-fi sound". It's high production, highly polished pop splendour, capable of besieging hearts and/or brains en masse. Take the swollen 'Devout'. Bass synths, like crystalline helium balloons slowly deflating (or, more distantly, NIN's 'Closer'), burble in the atmosphere. Smith's low-key cabaret croon in the verse provides a tasty counterpoint to the hushed gasps in the chorus - it's a sultry, torrid R&B jam, the subtler, but downright filthier, cousin to Beyoncé's debauched 'Partition'.

It's not all overt pop or snake-hipped lures though. The Anna Calvi-esque title track, complete with echoing lounge-jazz guitars and phenomenal vocal performances, drips with suave, perfume-ad elegance/surreality. It's a whispered ballad of fawning love, the sort sung in film noir flicks by a femme fatale. 'Warm Winds' is crisper than many offerings on the record, which tend to rely on scarlet smoke to fuel the sounds. 'Warm Winds', however, is all stark piano keys, xx-harmonies and funk/soul melodies (which every now and again touch upon the Bee Gees), creating a tranquillity unparalleled on Love Is As Cold As Death. When the clicking castanet-beats saunter on in, that tone is sort of lost - they clutter the cleansing nature of the otherwise beautiful cut.

Mostly, Outlands' debut record is wonderful. The pair turn their chosen genre topsy-turvy - instead of churning out more of the same, they dab their music with original nuances, giving us listeners a reason to stay and a reason to remember Outlands. Noir&B popstars are rapidly becoming a dime a dozen, but Outlands are lunging out of the flock by borrowing from genres you wouldn't necessarily link together. It's not perfect by any means, but it's good enough for now, and will no doubt ensure their longevity in the cutthroat scene.