sat 20/07/2019

CD: Simian Mobile Disco - Whorl | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Simian Mobile Disco - Whorl

CD: Simian Mobile Disco - Whorl

Electronic duo take us on a spaced out - but dynamic - analogue adventure

Simian Mobile Disco, glowing from the empyrean dark

For their fourth album Simian Mobile Disco - AKA London producers James Ford and Jas Shaw – have taken electronica to the Joshua Tree. The area in the South Californian desert where Keith Richards, Anita Pallenberg and Gram Parsons bathed their minds in LSD inspiration in 1969 (and where the latter died of a heroin overdose four years later) has long been a place of pilgrimage for musicians looking to widen their perceptions, from U2 to the Arctic Monkeys. Simian Mobile Disco actually went to nearby Pioneertown rather than Joshua Tree itself but the premise remains the same, allowing wide-open spaces and psychedelic geographical weirdness to filter into the music.

On top of this the duo dumped their usual computer-based shenanigans in favour of old school kit - two sequencers, two modular synths and a mixer - which, in electronic music terms, is stripping back to a basics. The album comprises a fusing of three sessions they jammed live – London rehearsals alongside sequences recorded in the studio and in concert in Pioneertown. Happily, the results revel in the back story of their making.

The first two noodling, soundscape-ish tracks do not bode well. I feared a journey into chill-out indulgence but I needn't have worried. Whorl may not have the drive, 4/4 thrust or pop touches of SMD’s earlier works, but it is a warm, pulsing, likeable thing, tinted with luscious spaced out production. “Hypnick Jerk” has a melancholic, early Vangelis groove, “Calyx” comes on like Lindstrom & Prins Thomas’s cosmic disco, “Nazad” skitters spine-tinglingly on floating star-sparks of melody, “Jam Side Up” is squidgy techno with an earthy, organic feel, and, apart from the opening, the whole thing retains the attention throughout. The experimental conceits behind Whorl have resulted in a piece that’s richly enjoyable, zoned out into the cosmos yet listener-friendly.

Overleaf: Watch the video for "Tangents"

Whorl may not have the drive, 4/4 thrust or pop touches of SMD’s earlier works, but it is a warm, pulsing, likeable thing

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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