Under Review: The Chemical Brothers – Further

Electronic music has evolved incredibly quickly and dramatically over the past decade or so.  In the mid- to late 1990s, it seemed like any combination of repetitive beats, loud synthesized basslines and being from England would be a sure bet for making a killing as an electronic artist.  In the years since, though, those factors have all but fallen out of favor, with bands like LCD Soundsystem, Passion Pit and M83 exploring more specific and emotion-centric regions of the genre.  This has left those ‘90s kingpins to rethink their tactics and/or make a futile attempt to keep themselves relevant.  Norman Cook has all but abandoned his Fatboy Slim persona, The Crystal Method has tried to get a bit more experimental, and both The Prodigy and Massive Attack made some truly terrible “comeback” albums.  That leaves The Chemical Brothers, who might’ve been considered ‘Most Likely To Not Fall Apart After 1997.’  With a regular supply of quality LPs and singles since their breakthrough, Dig Your Own Hole, Ed Simons and Tom Rowlands continue their streak with Further, one of the most surprisingly enjoyable releases of the year.  I say ‘surprisingly enjoyable’ because even The Chemical Brothers have made a few missteps since their commercial peak (take, for example, their last album, the Grammy-winning We Are The Night).  Where other electronic groups (including the Brothers themselves) too often rely on guest vocalists to give an album its oomph, Further is mostly instrumental, with a few vocals provided by Rowlands and American vocalist Stephanie Dosen.

The album gets off to an unpromising start, with the, ahem, glacial “Snow” lifting the chorus from “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher.”  It’s nothing like the rest of the album and only serves to delay the really impressive material to be found later on.  The epic “Escape Velocity” is a self-contained party, with ebbs and flows and a “Baba O’Reilly”-ish sequencer that cascades through the 12 minute piece.  It’s the kind of thing that could’ve been broken up into segments, but, since it works really well as a whole, the guys simply left it that way.  The album’s second half works that way, too, only even better.  Starting with “Horse Power,” a house-inspired track that somehow transitions seamlessly into the much more reserved “Swoon,” Further’s second side finds Ed and Tom trying on a bunch of different styles with great results.  “K+D+B” evokes the more rock-wise side of modern electronica, and closer “Wonders Of The Deep” divides its time between pensive reflection and shimmering bliss.  For being a much better record than would normally be expected from a ‘90s electronic band, Further is a very reassuring listen.  Try saying that about an album called Invaders Must Die.  Trust me, it can’t be done.

Click HERE to stream Further (via NPR Music)

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~ by E. on July 6, 2010.

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