Review : Simian Mobile Disco - Delicacies
PitchforkThere's changes of artistic direction, and then there's Simian Mobile Disco. Go back to last year's bloated, all-star sophomore slump Temporary Pleasure, and you're confronted by a production team that sounded like they were squandering their indie-dance crossover cred, scraping together a pop-skewing record that tried to please everybody and disappointed half of them. So what do they do for a follow-up? An album of tech-house instrumentals based around slow builds, minimal melodies, and wide-open, between-beat negative spaces that sounds almost completely alienating outside a dancefloor context-- as well as a second disc of the tracks mixed together. And every song is named after an exotic gastronomical oddity, at least one of which has made Gordon Ramsay throw up. So much for compromise.
That titular premise of Delicacies is by design: The intent was to produce songs that, like the bizarre foodstuffs they were named after, appeal only to a select few with adventurous palates. The main idea at play here seems to be the way they approach the buildup, the moment in dance music that crests to something approaching euphoria-- only in this case, they replace that high with something more evocative of anxiety and dread. The longest track is a near 10-minute controlled spasm of palpitating kicks, itchy snares, rusty bass, and hissing swells; not for nothing is it titled "Nerve Salad". Most of the album follows that uneasy path, playing up the sparseness and austerity of the drum sounds and the low end so that any appearance by a non-percussive element feels a bit like uncomfortable jolts. Not that there are a lot of non-percussive elements to start-- melodic hooks, or what pass for them, splinter off into deliberate rhythmic counterpoints or beat-accenting stings more than they actually provide an easy riff to cling to.
And even if some of Delicacies starts to sound a bit samey to ears more attuned to the less minimalistic strains of house, the distinct moments have character to spare. "Hákarl", named after the fermented shark dish that defeated Ramsay's gag reflex, sweats out an acid-inflected strain of suspenseful, quick-stepping techno that evokes a sort of nauseous tension, especially during the jaw-clenching drone that seizes the track up at the midway point. Leadoff track "Aspic" is maybe the most immediately danceable, shuddering through a deliriously twitchy future funk reminiscent of Juan Atkins' classic Model 500 track "Off to Battle". And "Ortolan", named after a bird prepared, served, and eaten bones-and-all, stirs up a dueling pair of basslines and lets a synthesized chime tone sink deep into them, congealing into a halfway-Krautrock groove that provides one of the album's few moments of lightness....full text
MusicomhUK-based electronic duo Simian Mobile Disco has been spending a lot of time in the studio recently. Just over a year after their second studio release, Temporary Pleasure, we are given their third studio album, and what a "treat" it is. Delicacies is Simian Mobile Disco's foray towards a more techno-based sound that is more unique than anything they've ever done before, taking elements that have worked for them in the past and adding an awesome layer of quirkiness and oddity. The concept for the album is that each of the nine songs takes the name of an exotic, bizarre delicacy that they've eaten while touring abroad. That concept is simply awesome and gives off the bizarre mood that you'll find while listening to this album, which is quite possibly the most unique electronic album you will listen to this year.
If you've ever listened to Simian Mobile Disco before there is one thing that comes to mind, and that is pounding, heavy-hitting bass. Don't worry, there is plenty of bass to be found here, but added on top is the unique style that the duo has slowly established over the last couple of years. You'll find plenty of odd sounds and quirky synth loops, but somehow it completely works. The album is meant to accompany the duo's new nightclub project 'Delicatessen,' which makes the new techno-based direction of their sound a lot more clear.
Every single song on this album makes you wonder one simple thing: what the hell does this delicacy look and taste like? The album's main singles "Aspic" and "Nerve Salad," released in April, sound absolutely ridiculous based on their titles, but when you actually listen to them they are clubby, synth-heavy gems that are the perfect test for the rest of the album. The second set of singles "Casu Marzu" and "Thousand Year Egg," released in September, also sound absurd (what is a "Thousand Year Egg"?!), but beneath the weird song titles are carefully crafted tracks that are extremely catchy....full text
ThevineOn last year’s Temporary Pleasures, Simian Mobile Disco leaned hard on vocal spots from Beth Ditto, Jamie Lidell, and members of Hot Chip, Yeasayer, and Super Furry Animals, among others. The results were at times cool, at times cliché, and thoroughly cartoonish. Following up that uneven record, the London duo of James Ford and Jas Shaw have turned in a stark third album that’s deeply informed by minimal techno.
Released via SMD’s new Delicatessen imprint, Delicacies is in many ways the opposite of the giddy, rubbery Temporary Pleasures: restrained and unyielding, it’s an hour-plus where not a single human voice is heard. There are only slight nods to pop and disco, and often little variation between tactics: the beats are thin and pulse-like, the melodies are mostly clean and tight, and vast amounts of hard, blank space abound. All the songs sit between seven and 10 minutes, during which Ford and Show reliably get a very simple germ of an idea and proceed to distort, stretch, disfigure, or otherwise make it weird, most notably in the midsection.
Sounds easy, right? Yet it’s quite compelling, peppered with evaporating tones and sudden reprisals as the duo presents a thoughtful stretch of music that doesn’t ignore the dancefloor. In a year that has produced house-influenced greatness from Four Tet (review) and Caribou (review), here is another smart, slick meeting of brain and booty. And the sounds are all too fresh, from the crowded bubbling of ‘Aspics’ to the near-industrial bits of ‘Casu Marzu’ to the cool layering in ‘Skin Cracker’. The dark ‘Sweetbread’ is oddly among the most danceable tracks, while ‘Nerve Salad’ teases with uncomfortable textures before growing downright discordant. The album’s spooky modulations come to a head in ‘Hákarl’, seized by a droning whorl that’s totally immersive....full text
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