Goldfrapp, Faithless and The Chemical Brothers’ Further.

The latest efforts by Goldfrapp and Faithless (two artists with a unique sound and huge cult following, also favourites of mine) have fallen flat in my opinion.

Goldfrapp’s Head First appears to be entirely made up from the sappy, acoustic numbers that weren’t quite deemed good enough to make it onto Seventh Tree. I fell in love with the duo during their Black Cherry hayday in 2003, but nowadays Alison spends most of her time dolled-up like a hippy singing about ‘being happy’ and quite frankly, most of the newer tracks make them sound like an Abba-tribute band. Case in point, ‘Alive‘ (give me ‘Strict Machine‘ or even ‘Ride a White Horse’ any day over this 1980’s synth-pop rubbish).

Alison’s vocals used to be razor-sharp, the use of electric guitar laced with feminine vocals and heavy beats fairly unique at the time (particularly on Supernature) and the songs had in-your-face oomph to boot. What happened? I’m all for ‘evolving your sound’, but ignoring entirely what made you so successful? A bad move in my mind.

As for Faithless, ‘Sun To Me‘ is a killer. It’s a great track. But the rest of The Dance feels like it could be any DJ (Tiesto or David Guetta in particular) doing the mixing with Maxxi Jazz’s instantly recognisable vocals over the top.

Needless to say, the third act to make up this trio is The Chemical Brothers. All three hold a special place in heart as they inspired the realisation that I belonged in the dance tent at Glastonbury rather than with the group of parka-clad teens waiting to hear Arcade Fire. Though actually, you could argue that all three are popular enough to play the main stage at any festival, Goldfrapp headlining Lovebox 2008 was one of the best performances by a ‘dance’ act I’ve seen yet.

But with a definite disappointment and a somewhat apathetic review already on the list, I was worried about The Chemical Brothers’ new album.

I shouldn’t have been. The boys have ended up producing some of the finest material of their career and I’ve been listening to it on repeat since its release last month.

Further is in my opinion, a veritable feast of audio-visual continuity. Each of the eight tracks have been produced with a corresponding film, created by long-time visual collaborators Adam Smith and Marcus Lyall. You only have to look at the album cover to the right to see the influence of romantic melodies and psychadelic beats.

A far cry from ‘The Salmon Dance’ (released as a single in 2007 and most likely pushed by the band’s label to counter the resurgent popularity of Fat Boy Slim at the time), the eight beautiful tracks merge into each other. The result is that for the first time in a while, TCB have released something that you can listen to from start to finish and really get a sense that it’s an *album*.

In an interview with The Times, Ed Simons revealed just how enjoyable it was to work on Further; “That’s exactly it, it’s the sound of fun, of grown-ups at play.” That’s something that’s so apparent in listening, with each track setting the scene and rising to soaring crescendos that are reminiscent of 2002’s Star Guitar but are fresh enough to become near-instant classics.

Escape Velocity‘ is destined to one day become the title song on the soundtrack to the remake of Hackers, but I’ll settle for something equally tech-tastic to compliment its cutting electronic bassline. All 12 minutes are a slow introduction to the the rest of the album (following the slower ‘Snow‘), and you can almost hear the album taking off.

‘Swoon’s’ soaring euphoric vibes would work for a chill out session on a Sunday morning, or at 1am in a club while you’re surrounded by your friends (the Boys Noize summer mix is particularly good for the latter).

Though the real-life neighing on ‘Horse Power‘ freaks me out a little, ‘Dissolve‘s’ trippy undertones make it perfect for festival season.

You’ll know where to find me. I’ll be in the dance tent.

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