They’re heavy and they’re our brothers. Fraternal dancefloor funk from the big beat survivors
Quality over quantity, that’s the name of the game.
The Chemical Brothers – Tom and Ed to their families and friends, but let’s call them the Chems – can hardly be accused of rush-releasing their albums. This is the duo’s first long-player in five years, an age in music and a veritable eternity in the faddish world of clubland. But the 1,825-day wait has been more than worth it, with ‘Born In The Echoes’ offering 11 new cuts that showcase their widescreen tastes and eclectic approach to sound production.
The Chems may have initially been associated with the “big beat” scene – the breakbeat/hip hop fusion that broke out in the mid-90s – but what they actually do best are just plain old beats that are bigger than most. Their records are tough and muscular, designed to be rinsed out at high volume in basement parties where you dance with abandon and don’t mind being soaked in the sweat of strangers.
‘Born In The Echoes’ will prompt a similar reaction. ‘Sometimes I Feel So Deserted’ starts with a throbbing ‘Hey Boy Hey Girl’-style hook and you think for a second that this might be Chems-by-numbers, but then they drop in hot shards of weirdness by way of an out-there vocal and phased drum loops that cut straight to the quick. Cue arenas around the world packed with mentalist throngs scrabbling around in desperation trying to find their minds. And that’s just the opener.
The instrumental ‘Reflexion’ is probably the biggest “choon” on the album, all hi-octane organ stabs, tsunami-scale bass and massive, massive kick drums. It’s also a tantric teaser of a track, constantly threatening to explode into a shower of orgiastic rave delight but pulling back from the moment of climax, keeping a tight rein on any over-the-top cheesy histrionics. That said, those aforementioned dancefloor mentalists will love it.
There are a handful of introspective diversions in the shape of the spectral ‘Taste Of Honey’, the epic washes of ‘Radiate’ and the title track itself, which is a hook-up with Welsh singer Cate Le Bon. The Chems have always been big on collaborations and this album boasts a bunch more: Q-Tip, St Vincent, Beck and Ali Love all lend their not inconsiderable vocal talents.
Q-Tip in particular has past form with the pair – collaborating on their Grammy-winning 2005 stomper ‘Galvanize’ – and on ‘Go’, the lead single here, he delivers more of his super-smooth patter as he proclaims, “Everybody goin’ out of they skins / Everybody jumpin’ out of they mind” over a joyous synth armageddon. Beck shines too with his contribution to ‘Wide Open’, a moody closer about the end of a relationship bathed in back-to-the-future grooves.
Tom and Ed have always said that their music is best experienced in a live environment, and indeed their gigs are fantastic exhibitions of noise, smoke, strobes and plain old crazy. But ‘Born In The Echoes’ works just as well on the music player of your choice and ensures their return will be greeted with rapture.