The Chemical Brothers “Further” Review
Published in Blog, Culture Bully. Tags: Album Reviews, Music.
While it continued the Chemical Brothers‘ trend of chart topping releases—2007’s We Are The Night was the duo’s fifth consecutive album to go #1 in the UK—the album awkwardly relied on a bevy of unusual collaborations (though, in reality, no more so than 2005’s Push The Button) which left it bearing little consistency. With Further they bucked the trend of reaching out for external collaboration (save for vocalist Stephanie Dosen who backs up Tom Rowlands on three of Further’s tracks) and in doing so they have created a piece of music that oozes continuity; each track morphing into one another without the slightest bit of hesitation. Further is an album that sounds more like the Chemical Brothers of old than the group that released “The Salmon Dance” as a single; which is to say that it’s supurb.
The Chemical Brothers’ press release relates Furtherto a payoff from all of the duo’s work throughout the years, “Further is the culmination of nearly two decades of psychedelic exploration, an immersive collection that finds The Chemical Brothers at their least-restrained and most-melodic best.” While keeping in mind that, yes, this statement is indeed a plug for the album, it does little to provide any unnecessary hyperbole: Further is a return to a the duo’s melodic style; each focused arrangement sketches out a different picture that relates to a period of the duo’s past.
The glitch-infused “Snow” opens Further, slowly setting the record to boil while the rest of the tracks are prepared. “Your love keeps lifting me higher” whispers Rowlands and Dosen as the song morphs into the 12-minute “Escape Velocity.” The build-up in the track’s first couple of minutes is magnificent, the momentum progressively growing before eventually culminating with one of the most propulsive beats on the entire record. The song itself builds like a tremendous wave, all the while pushing forward before inevitably fading back into itself. The tremendous storm of sound eventually collapses into an electronic tease reminiscent of “Baba O’Riley.”
After a brief introduction, “Another World” launches into a series of echoed thumps and wavy synths that hint at a growing progression similar to that of 2002’s brilliant “Star Guitar.” The lack of guest support on the record is an interesting move, considering that it’s the first time the Chemical Brothers have ever gone down such a route. While the unlikely guests who collaborated on We Are The Night left an awkward feeling at times, some of the duo’s most memorable standouts are those that have featured guest vocalists; 1995’s “Life Is Sweet” featuring Tim Burgess of the Charlatans and 2002’s “The Test” featuring Richard Ashcroft, to name just a few. In “Another World” however the minimalist vocals come off as so relentlessly smooth and alluring that it’s hard to argue with the decision to keep everything in house.
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.” Not only do the choppy breaks of “Dissolve” add further evidence of the enjoyment the duo has in creating music, but also the greater appeal of the album: Never for a moment does it relent, continually reaching towards striking an emotional chord with each new track. The song melts into the familiar electronically distorted vocals of “Horse Power”—which literally uses samples horses neighing. The throbbing beat momentarily eases up before re-establishing itself, eventually subsiding and allowing “Swoon” to take over. The track continues the record’s trend of slowly gaining speed before crashing down with a stunning break. Drums make an appearance on “K+D+B;” the introduction eventually bleeds into muted warped synths and Rowlands’ carefully paced vocals which continue throughout the track. Slowly growing, “Wonders of the Deep” concludes the album as a song that signals the high point of melodic rave, the Bros. aurally painting the picture of passionate dancers finding their high, regardless of what their drug might be (regardless of whether there are drugs in the picture at all). The track is a fitting end to the album, capping off an illuminating journey into sound.
While it’s likely that many would argue that the Chemical Brothers never really hit a low-point, Further demonstrates that We Are The Night was perhaps a simple hiccup, if only thematically, in the grand scheme of things. From the rigged glitches of the introductory track “Snow” to the progressive rave of “Wonders of the Deep,” the dynamic flow throughout the album presents itself as a return to glory for the duo. In speaking to the Guardian, Simons reflected on the duo’s career, “Longevity for its own sake is meaningless; it’s not hard to stick around.” Continuing, he revealed what might be the most important aspects of Further, “To keep making records that mean something to people is the difficult bit.” Few faces in electronic/dance/rave/house/or whatever-you’d-like-to-call-it remain relevant for long periods of time. As trends shift and new innovations are made it becomes increasingly difficult to approach the genre with a belief that time will be kind to either yourself or your music. But the Chemical Brothers’ records are something of an anomaly in this regard, from the earth-shattering Loops of Fury EP to Dig Your Own Holeto Come With Us, there is a timeless quality that gives the duo’s music a continued relevance. Longevity for the sake of longevity is, in fact, pointless. With Further, however, the Chemical Brothers have established once again that they are still creating music that is in a class all unto itself.
[This post was first published by Culture Bully.]