Album of the week (12 April): The Chemical Brothers – No Geography

The Chemical Brothers - No Geography album cover

The Brothers are back and, boy, have they worked it out. No Geography is their ninth studio album and probably the best in nearly 20 years (that it’s been two decades since Surrender was released is now worrying me quite a bit). In order to regain their mojo
Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons, a.k.a The Chemical Brothers have back to their roots, giving us some absolute classic bangers along with some soulful, funky disco numbers. Whatever direction they take us on this album – and there are a few – you can’t help but feel that they enjoyed putting it together as much as I enjoyed listening to it. In case it needs clarifying, I enjoyed it a lot.

Eve Of Destruction kicks us off, a cracking disco stomp featuring some seriously funky bass, 90s-style house synths and soulful vocals. Close your eyes (and turn up the heat somewhat) and you could be back in the Ha├žienda, yet the track manages to maintain a distinctly modern feel to it at the same time.

There’s no pause for breath as we move seamlessly into the next track, Bango, a bongo-laden effort that continues with the funky bass and house synth themes from before. This time we are treated to a strong dose of the Chems’ trademark squelches and random add-on effects. It’s a nice call-back on previous works, but on this album I’m happy that it’s more of an occasional visitor rather than an ever-present.

Yet again, there’s no break as we are introduced to title track No Geography, a more stripped back, emotive piece that samples poet Michael Brownstein to create a heartfelt work without dropping the tempo.

Finally, the opening mix ends, but there’s still little time for rest as we are treated to recent single Got To Keep On, another euphoric house/disco work of genius that has a smattering of 70s to it and a cracking vocal sample that makes the track. Very nearly my standout track.

The pace slows slightly over the next couple of tracks, with Gravity Drops taking a more languid approach and relying heavily on drawn-out synth notes and a bubbling bass track to make it’s mark. The Universe Sent Me is a (very) slow builder, using a juicy post-punk bass line and the ethereal vocals of Norweigan singer-songwriter Aurora to take you on a journey that adds layer upon layer of sound over you until you are completely immersed in a dreamy headspace.

We’ve Got To Try features some yummy deep acid notes and twisted synths alongside some funky soul, with olny the slower tempo stopping it from being a proper stomper.

But now we enter classic Chems territory. Firstly we have single Free Yourself, featuring an arpeggiating synth line, acid working away in the background and the occasional full-on sonic assault, all tied together by a simple vocal loop. Majestic.

This paves the way for MAH, a proper old-skool acid-techno banger that will have any dancefloor anywhere throwing their hands in the air in rapture. It’s proper rave material that makes me smile whenever I listen to it (and that’s been quite a lot recently).

Catch Me I’m Falling provides a low-key close to the album, a slower track featuring the dream-pop vocals of Stephanie Dosen. This isn’t an unfamiliar approach from the boys and again, provides a nod to what’s come before.

I’ll have to see how this opus plays over time, but right now it’s placed itself as a strong contender for album of the year.

Release date: 12 April 2019

Rating: 9/10

Standout track: MAH

For fans of:

  • Underworld
  • Leftfield
  • Orbital

Listen on Spotify

Album review: Modeselektor – Who Else

Modeselektor - Who Else album cover

I’ve been waiting some time now to review a decent techno record where I can fully regress to my rave days. Modeselektor happily provided the opportunity and I’m most appreciative.

Who Else isn’t quite a full out techno album, there are other elements of electronic influence in there, from house, to some crazy jungle beats, and even a bit of grime thanks to some excellent collaboration pieces.

This also falls occassionally into the ‘experimental’ side of things. Fentanyl, for instance, uses a fractured and disjointed bassline that makes it a tricky one to dance to but also difficult to digest if you’re sitting at home.

But the album does hark back to the heydays of rave. There’s some classic arpeggiator action on opener One United Power and some very familiar ‘rave’ synths kicking off on I Am Your God.

WMF Love Song is another tune that draws heavily on the echoes of hard house and is built for the dancefloor, while Wake Me Up When It’s Over has overtones of Orbital in the synths before the jungle madness begins in earnest.

It’s probably the collaborations that work best on this album. Wealth, with Flohio, injects a touch of grime into proceedings, backed by some Leftfield-style synth work. Top track is probably Who, featuring Tommy Cash, that borrows from more recent EDM but is firmly rooted through its acidy organs in early techno and dance culture.

Not my album of the week, due to a few tracks that fell short of the mark, but very close.

Release date: 22 February 2019

Rating: 7.5/10

Standout track: Who

For fans of:

  • Leftfield
  • Four Tet
  • The Field

Listen on Spotify