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 Haçienda, 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

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Album review: Ladytron – Ladytron

Ladytron - Ladytron album cover

Borrowing heavily from new wave, 80s synth and a touch of 90s rave, Ladytron return after more than seven years with an incessantly catchy collection of electro-pop tunes that have that special something about them – in most places.

The self-titled Ladytron album takes a little time to hit its stride with Until the Fire enjoyable enough but failing to develop as much as you might anticipate. Conversely single from last year The Island, featuring huge 80s-style synths, manages to build just at the right moment to avoid you losing interest in the track.

Things get significantly better after this point with Tower of Glass, a catchy head-nodder with some intricate organ work and the vocals of lead vocalist Helen Marnie standing out in particular.

The upward trend continues with Far From Home, which starts off a little Human League but that addictive synth track and pop beat end up taking you somewhere else entirely.

Highlight of the album for me was Deadzone, which employs some great vocal structures and layers of atmospherics against an uptempo beat, building to a delicious crescendo.

At 13 tracks and 53 minutes long, this album isn’t exactly of epic length, but it did feel that the last few tracks could have been trimmed and you would not have noticed the difference. Had the album stopped with the moreish You’ve Changed everybody would be left very happy. As it is Horrorscope, The Mountain and Tomorrow is Another Day have some noticeable moments but feel a little laboured.

Bar that, this is a fabulous album and well worth listening to the first 10 tracks at least.

Release date: 15 February 2019

Rating: 7.5/10

Standout track: Deadzone

For fans of:

  • Goldfrapp
  • Boy Harsher
  • Gwenno

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Album review: Finlay Shakespeare – Domestic Economy

Finlay Shakespeare - Domestic Economy album cover

Bristol resident Finlay Shakespeare has with his debut album Domestic Economy, produced a fine, meaty slab of electro-pop that draws heavily on 90’s acid house and techno influences. There are some choice cuts here, but it does feel like there is some excess fat that could be trimmed off the sides.

The album as a whole feels like a collection of dance remixes of 90’s indie tunes, and as such has its high points and fillers.

There are some fantastic pieces on here, such as the utterly yummy Dublin that leans heavily on a house beat while layering acid-like effects on top – all carried along by a delightful bass line. Opener Luleå offers us a Blue Monday-style beat and a nice squelchy bass – beefing up Finlay’s rather thin vocal style.

Similarly, Benedict Canyon is pushed relentlessly along by choppy synths, electro horns and that classic 808 drum line. Monadnock brings more of a brooding menace alongside the acid hooks.

The album is far from perfect though. At points it starts to feel a little samey and the softer, slower tracks such as Perris and Pittville rely too much on Finaly’s vocals, which is probably the weakest element on the album.

This is a promising debut for Finlay and offers much promise. Not yet the finished article but I’m looking forward to seeing where he goes from here.

Release date: 01 February 2019

Rating: 7/10

Standout track: Dublin

For fans of:

  • New Order
  • Orbital
  • Depeche Mode

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2018 Music Review – September

A couple of my old favourites made an appearance in September. Firstly rave veterans Orbital produced another solid piece after reforming for the second time. Still not close to the absolute genius that is the Brown Album, but then again what is?

The kind of loops The Field also returned for a fifth slice of perfectly pitched, slow building ambient dance tracks that lull you into a trace-like state without you even realising it.

Other notable releases include Low, with their 18th album taking them in a new direction while simultaneously turning out to be one of their best. Leeds-based Menace Beach combination of indie and 60’s beach rock also impressed.

However it was Canadian alt-rock group Dilly Dally who tickled my fancy the most in September, with a strong slab of indie-pop and grunge coupled with the gravelly vocals of Katie Monk. Very nice indeed.

Top 10 September 2018

1: Dilly Dally – Heaven

Standout track: I Feel Free

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2: Low – Double Negative

Standout track: Disarray

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3: Menace Beach – Black Rainbow Sounds

Standout track: Hypnotiser Keeps the Ball Rolling

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4: The Field – Infinite Moment

Standout track: Divide Now

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5: Gazelle Twin – Pastoral

Standout track: Better in My Day

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6: Orbital – Monsters Exist

Standout track: There Will Come a Time (feat. Prof. Brian Cox)

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7: Black Honey – Black Honey

Standout track: I Only Hurt the Ones I Love

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8: Beak> – >>>

Standout track: Allé Sauvage

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9: Chris Liebing – Burn Slow

Standout track: And All Went Dark (feat. Polly Scattergood)

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10: Bob Moses – Battle Lines

Standout track: Battle Lines

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