Album Review: Werkha – ‘Beacons EP’

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If you’re in the business of making eclectic, influence-crunching electronica that’s rooted in live instrumentation, being invited to tour with Bonobo is quite the seal of approval. It’s not hard to see how 22 year old Tom Leah caught the attention of his simian soundalike; there’s more than a passing resemblance in Werkha’s layered instrumentation and pattering beats, but like any decent opening act, Werkha packs more energy and dancefloor draw than the blissed out whirls of Black Sands or The Northern Borders. Elsewhere, another big name endorsement comes from Gilles Peterson, which is not overly surprising given Leah’s interests in jazz, Afrobeat and soul, amongst others.

Beacons kicks off with ‘Lapwing’, a jitter blend of jazz sax and soulful house that calls to mind the louche electro-swing of Parov Stelar’s work. If Jeeves & Wooster were on the dancefloor today, this would be entirely classy enough for their jazz-age cool.  Underpinning it all lurks a fuzzy, ambient bass, tying the track together with a delicate, crafted feel. (It also has an endearing video starring middle-aged yoga enthusiasts – bonus points).

 

‘Moving with the Nuisance’ is slightly less successful in its jazz reappropriation, as an electric guitar stirs over a dubby, distorted beat and T.E.E.D. style layers of micro percussion. The vocals are slightly too generic (“Put your hands up if you came to party”) and the jazz/house fusion a little too laboured.

The pace is soon ramped up again though, as the EP’s apex arrives with the excellent ‘Sidesteppin’’; a soulful house cut that is dominated by Bryony Jarman Pinto’s pure, unprocessed vocals. It’s a irresistibly crisp, silky track that builds into a solid groove, with a crunchy synth line and a beat that carries off the chorus’s claim – “I can feel my body rockin’ side to side!”.

From there, Beacons takes a slide down into the dark, with dubstep trumping jazz as the foremost influence on display. ‘Tempo Tempo’ brings a slinky, beat-driven open of clinking chimes and cymbals before succumbing to a dominant wonky synth pulse. Thankfully, this is on a different continent to aggressive brostep though; Leah commented recently, ““Since the bastardisation of the term dubstep, I have been keen to demonstrate that it doesn’t all have to sound like robots being sick” – mission accomplished. Smart, sexy and minimal, this is far more interesting than Skrilly and co.

One for those searching out unconventional grooves, Beacons is certainly an impressive calling card for Werkha. Skipping across genres carelessly, stitching his multiple interests, the EP heralds an undeniably original sound. There is a risk of lapsing into slightly bland, dinner party music – but if it’s good enough for Bonobo and Four Tet, that might no longer the criticism it once was. Next time around though, it would be nice to think you’d bother to interrupt someone mid-sentence to ask what was playing.

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Album Review: Tensnake – ‘Glow’

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Imagine an album that was the result of a night of passion between Random Access Memories and Settle, one whose heritage contained the 2010 hit ‘Coma Cat’ and oozed deep disco. Of course, Nile Rogers is it’s cool great-uncle, Jacques Lu Cont babysat it, and it looks up to Moderat, Lindstrom and Pharrell Williams just as much as Prince and Michael Jackson. A little spoilt, a good dancer, weighed down with high expectations after this drawn-out, hyperbolic comparison. Born the 10th March 2014 at Synthesiser General: Tensnake’s first LP, Glow.

Though it isn’t as quite as good (and certainly won’t make as much money) as Disclosure and Daft Punk’s 2013 giants, their DNA looms loud in the 80s funk guitars, UK Garage beats and the sheer dancefloor pop appeal strewn through the record. And like it’s chart-topping ancestors, Glow is infused with dance music’s past, paying homage to funk, house and disco as it ranges from pounding intensity to inane club-pop. It’s even got a meta-‘Giorgio by Moroder’ bit. Wisely, since he is neither French nor yet universally revered, Tensnake doesn’t try the philosophical robot angle, but mocks his work: the vocals insist “I’ve been listening for ten minutes already to this Tensnake shit. What the fuck are you guys talking about. I know, but whatever, I don’t need any twinkly, 80s, c’mon-lets-wear-a-tanktop-shit-fucking-rah-rah-rah-shit. I just want something hard, I just want big bass like, wah-wah-wah, like dubstep, like club step, like electro”.

Intermittently the strident 80s pop and the 2-step vibes come together in hugely fun disco flourishes, as on the pulsing ‘Good Enough To Keep’ or 2-step flavoured ‘See Right Through’, both of which sport excellent, diva-worthy deliveries from Fiora. This isn’t house for skanking or eye-rolling or gurning, but for all out, probably-will-be-embarrassed-later, committed boogieing. Other potential soundtracks for montages of silly discoing include the Michael Jackson-referencing, funk-laden ‘Selfish’ and irresistible slink ‘Love Sublime’ (feat. Nile Rogers! Of course!), which takes the minimal disco of ‘Inspector Norse’ and blends in a vocal line worthy of Kylie.

With all these references to juggle, you might be wondering whether Tensnake risks losing his own sound under those of his influences, but there are careful, contemporary clues scattered throughout and 2014 rises clearly through the callbacks and tipped hats. There’s a hint of trap in ’58 BPM’’s intro before it becomes a slow-burn 80s ballad, an EDM wobble amongst ‘No Colour’’s Discovery synths and hip-hop beat, that anchors Glow in the present. Occasionally, the cheese gets away from Niemerski, but on the whole, it’s fantastically produced, hip-friendly dance fun.

Forgive me one last link to R. A. M. and Settle…  This is yet another dance album that avoids the pitfalls of stringing together separately conceived singles. Just like the aforementioned, regardless of many collaborations and genre switches, Glow makes complete sense taken as a whole. From the stretching bass muscles and flexed synths of the uplifting warm-up ‘First Song’ through to the Hawtin-worthy repetitious build of ‘Last Song’, this is a real escalation in Tensnake’s sound. Dancing is awesome. It’s sexy, it’s fun – we can stand to do more dancing!

Leeds Festival 2013 – Hip-hop and Dance Take Over!

Vast quagmires gorging on beloved trainers, a tsunami’s worth of rain, and the immortal cries of “Alan!” and “Buttscratcher!” – 2013 saw Leeds Festival celebrate its fifteenth anniversary in style.  While many of the weekend’s scenes were familiar to anyone who’d spent an August Bank Holiday at Bramham Park, beneath the familiar layer of sludge something had changed.

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With two new stages dedicated to dance and urban music and a hip-hop superstar headlining was the heyday of NME-indie drawing to a close, just like Kerrang-rock before it? Or, less dramatically, was this just a reflection of the new alternative scene – a festival that was branching out, abandoning the old punk-versus-disco tribal traditions and embracing artists of a high quality regardless of genre, as so many fans have already done?

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Leeds’ stylistic shift was most evidenced by the Friday night Disclosure/Nine Inch Nails clash. Though many (including Reznor) had questioned the justification of Biffy Clyro leapfrogging them to headline, Nails’ industrial rock crashed out to an astonishingly small crowd. It seemed that cult status or not, most punters wanted to cram in and watch Disclosure rattle through most of Settle.  With Ed McFarlane, Aluna “-George” Francis and Sam Smith as guests, the brothers whipped the packed tent into an utter frenzy – and the success of their dynamic house was the start of a much-repeated trend. Australians Parachute Youth delivered an excellent electro-house set early on Saturday, Charli XCX brought the house down with ‘I Love It’, and Friction’s drop-heavy DnB set delighted gurning people in all kinds of silly hats.

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Come Saturday, it was the turn of the big hitters. Rather depressingly Chase and Status’ DnB-lite drew a truly colossal crowd, as did Skrillex’s spaceship show and aggressive brostep. Major Lazer pulled out all the stops (Diplo’s zorb, an audience member tied up on-stage and aggressively twerked over by scantily clad Lazer ladies) to successfully create a dancehall rave within a “rock” festival – though Jillionaire’s shout outs to all the Jamaicans, all Dominicans, then rather desperately, to all the West Indians in the house fell tellingly flat. Diplo’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ remix may have caused chaos down the front, but you had to wonder what the veterans of ’92 would have made of it all.

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Hip-Hop

Facing a crowd that each year sports exponentially more snapbacks and a mainstream comeback not seen since the early noughties boom, it’s not surprising that this year’s Reading and Leeds had the best hip-hop line up in ages. One of the biggest breakout stars of 2013, Chance the Rapper’s short set to a small but dedicated crowd was the crowning glory of Leeds’ hip-hop. Chance looked slightly taken aback by his reception, but increasingly delighted by the rapturous reception. Radiating charisma, he raced through Acid Rap hits, bringing call and response support on ‘Juice’ and building up a crowd that finished eating out of his hand. A nod to fellow Chicagoan Kanye with ‘All Falls Down’ and too quickly it was over; the crowd left in no doubt that Chance will soon be a household name.

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Angel Haze stuck to rocknroll clichés, turning up late and encouraging a closing stage invasion – but sneaking in a funky Missy Elliott cover and finishing with a thundering ‘New York’. More flamboyant visually, Azelia Banks still played it slightly safe – sticking to her singles rather than airing Broke With Expensive Taste – though ‘212’ proved an earworm, echoing around the campsites for the rest of the weekend. On the 1Xtra stage, Austrian Left Boy performed the weekend’s most complexly choreographed set, but booing of his version of ‘Call Me Maybe’ proved that a certain level of anti-mainstream sentiment lingers at Leeds.

Ferocious, shuddering sub-bass heralded the start of Earlwolf’s set, something of a homecoming after Odd Future’s manic reception in 2012. With tracks from Doris and Wolf, Earl and Tyler stayed away from the singles, leaving a persevering crowd a little disappointed, though the puerile crowd interaction was well-received. Cutting their afternoon set 45 minutes short, it seemed as a joke at the crowd’s expense –Tyler in particular playing on their discomfort,  yelling “Give it up for black people!”. Later, opening to broad-accented chants of “ayy-sap”, A$AP Rocky’s set was an altogether easier affair, propelled to instant madness by a breakneck ‘Long Live A$AP’. Given extra bulk onstage thanks to support from the A$AP crew, Rocky evidently enjoyed himself, flashing golden grills as he grinned throughout and enthusing as the crowd sparked up en masse for ‘Purple Swag’, screaming every word back to him.

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All of which left us with a 40-year-old white guy closing out the festival. Eminem last headlined in 2001, but aside from the sheer quantity of hits and variety of his back catalogue, there were no sign of fatigue; he remained as razor-sharp and energetic as he was over a decade ago. With material from his first (and best) three albums interspersed by more recent singles (‘Airplanes’, ‘Love The Way You Lie’), it was a set that constantly astonished, with a mesmerised crowd mimicking every rhyme –continually surprised as hit followed colossal hit; the man has simply too many to hold in mind. The best-selling artist of the 2000s had come out to play. Unintroduced and initially unnoticed by many, Dido’s appearance for ‘Stan’ seemed to make Eminem more comfortable than many recorded parts – but nothing could distract from the man of the hour. It came to a euphoric close – asking “Can I take you back to back to a time when I used to get fucked up?”, he brought out ‘My Name Is’, ‘The Real Slim Shady’ and ‘Without Me’ – before ending on ‘Lose Yourself’. From laugh-out-loud to tear-jerker to vitriolic aggression, via tunes and rhymes that are seared into the consciousness of a generation – for the umpteenth time, he’s back.

 

So, Leeds was certainly sold on Marshall Mathers’ hip-hop. But will the trend continue beyond 2013? Of course, Reading and Leeds have always had a strong mainstream element with a big proportion of the crowds going more to get wrecked celebrating their GCSE and A-Level results than out of any affinity to a specific scene. There’s no real evidence that this year’s swing in style and sound will have any more staying power than when everyone was into nu-rave and Klaxons headlined – but that the line-up was so dominated by two entirely non-rock genres surely says something. Biffy Clyro, System of a Down, Green Day  – the big rock bands put on great shows, to great reception.

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 In a weird crossover, almost everyone who was into the dance and hip-hop acts went to see skate punk bands – with no discernible link beyond an affinity for snapback hats? FIDLAR, Skaters and Wavves all pulled in devoted crowds with fierce circle pits demonstrating the old popularity of energetic fury hasn’t disappeared with the riots. But with dubstep, house, and hip-hop creeping up the bill, one wonders if Reading and Leeds aren’t leaning towards becoming “young” festivals, offering a range of music and an anarchic intensity, rather than the cream of the rock acts. There’s still that preference for ferocity, regardless of genre.

Album Review: Hot Natured – ‘Different Side of the Sun’

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Neo-house, nu-house, nouvelle maison – whatever you want to call it, over the last few years this ultra-glossy, easily accessible take on Chicago’s greatest export has been growing a sizeable fanbase, garnering residencies, and creeping into the mainstream awareness. With a strong late 90s influence, a pop sensibility and the spatial breadth of minimal techno all set to a shiny four-four beat, it can be hypnotic, warm and summery – and Hot Natured are among those who do it best.

The collective, comprising Brit Jamie Jones, Italian Luca C, Chicagoan Lee Foss, and vocalist Ali Love, have been reaping the benefits of several huge “crossover” singles with slots at Glastonbury, Sónar and the Brixton Academy, as well as significant radio airtime and Ibiza residencies. With their Aztec patterned shirts, tans, and of course their widespread success, Hot Natured get a lot of hate – accusations of selling out, of hastening the demise of house, of over catering to the burgeoning American appetite for dance music have all been levelled. So which way will debut LP Different Sides of the Sun got to settle the debate?

The big singles that made the Hot Natured name are all present and correct. The Italo synths and minimal groove of ‘Reverse Skydiving’, the smooth poolside house of ‘Benediction’, and best of all the fantastic throwback Detroit pound of ‘Forward Motion’ have all made it onto their first album – and with such colossal singles already recorded, perhaps it’s no surprise. But we have long left the compact disc era, and big-hitting singles no longer guarantee an album’s success.

Fortunately Jones, Foss, and Luca aren’t quite done yet. ‘Planet Us’ brings swathes of spaced out synths, bouncing bass, and Chic-influenced guitars. Laconic and horizontally chilled, it’s not so far from the spacier sections of Random Access Memories. New single ‘Isis’ brings a jittering harpsichord intro that resonates with scenes from that Skins episode when they went to Morocco and lilting guitars that scream an Ibizan influence. Though it suffers a little lyrically (“High like hieroglyphics”, “River called the Nile […] crocodile smile”), it combines a strong 90s nostalgia with Hot Natured’s trademark sultry fare. Slow but sexy ‘Detroit’ brings a lower BPM and less complex production, but expands into a deeply satisfying groove.

But it’s not all good news. Much of the album suffers, blurring together into an unmemorable body of slick but shallow house – uninspired beats and a middle of the road coast. With three guest spots, Anabel Englund’s vocals are another problem, comparing poorly with Love’s gliding soul melodies and sounding both over processed and all too bland. Different Sides of the Sun is in very real danger of playing it too safe.

Looking back to Jones’ Tracks from the Crypt or his ‘Hungry for the Power’ remix, Foss’s ‘Grinding’ or Infinity Ink’s ‘Infinity’, it’s clear that Hot Natured have far from stretched themselves. They have gone the way of many a supergroup before them; too much laurel-resting and too little innovation.

Festival Review – Sonar 2013

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Maybe it’s because most of what I already knew about Barcelona was based on a Tony Hawk’s level, but I was impressed by Sónar’s host city. Despite their crippled economy, staggeringly high unemployment, and increasingly fierce campaign for Catalonian independence (or perhaps because of it – Sónar apparently brings in around €52 million), Barcelona was evidently embracing Sónar’s 20th anniversary festivities.

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This year, Sónar by Day debuted its new location by Montjuïc magic fountains and the Palau Nacional (leaving both holidaying families and monged festival-goers confused by each other’s presence in the surrounding streets), with fewer queues and crowding than ever before.

Closing out Thursday’s music, Lindstrom and Todd Terje impressed with a live set of scorching, irresistible disco as the sun set. Of course ‘Inspector Norse’ brought the house down, but ‘Snooze 4 Love’ and ‘Lanzarote’ stood out too, and their rework of Whitney Houston’s ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ was an infectious, perfectly absurd, end to the day.

The best of Friday came from Elektro Guzzi and Diamond Version; the former creating devastating soulful techno from nothing more than the unlikely tools of a three-piece rock band, whilst the latter sent dark glitch and minimal loops throbbing through the crowd’s ears and chests.

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Chromatics, in one of the Day line-up’s most anticipated appearances, put on an absolute masterclass during their Saturday afternoon slot, with most of the crowd looking as though they’d dragged themselves to the show after mere minutes of sleep, determined to catch a band who were arguably slightly out of place amongst all the house and techno, let alone the glaring sunshine. Kill For Love songs dominated, alongside a delicious cover of ‘Running Up That Hill’. A sultry, majestic end to their European tour.

Finally, closing Sónar by Day, and following on from the Friday night’s EDM onslaught, came the gurgling trap of TNGHT. Hudson Mohawk and Lunice doled out the drops as they danced beneath a fairly conservative light show and an onslaught of bass. Earworm ‘Goooo’ was colossal, and closer ‘Higher Ground’ gave the soundsystem the most strenuous workout of the weekend.

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 Sónar By Night

Whilst Sónar’s daytime incarnation retains a classic festival vibe (sunshine, fake grass), Sónar by Night has a completely different atmosphere. More a rave than a festival, it takes place in a series of enormous aircraft hangers and the roofless, walled spaces that link them. There were massive empty spaces, which came to act as chill out zones, and, if you were feeling more recklessly fucked, there were dodgems.

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First then, the rather controversial presence of some of the U.S.’s biggest EDM acts. Though there had been some pre-emptive complaints regarding Skillex’s headlining slot, he had a decent crowd, and many people seemed to be willing to give him a chance to prove them wrong. From atop his giant spaceship, Skrilly jumped around and kissed his Barça shirt, before firing off some pretty impressive lasers and “dropping the bass”. The music didn’t stand up to the visuals. I went with an open-mind, but it was repetitive and dull, despite the aggression. Earlier, Baauer put in a fun, fast DJ set (though it was rather more commercial than Sónar aficionados would have liked), but it was Diplo’s Major Lazer who triumphed, battering down any resistance with a joyously energetic performance. With confetti canons, a Wayne Cohen hamster ball, and manically gyrating dancers on stage, most of the crowd were close to drowning in their own sweat as much of the second album and the rapturously greeted ‘Get Free’ boomed out – it was a long way from typical Sónar fare, but they pulled it off with aplomb.

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Next, the abundance of disco influences. Breakbot’s live bass and electric guitar brought slinky Saturday Night Fever struts to the dancefloor, whilst Justice’s DJ set, though somewhat predictable, packed the punch of ‘We Are Your Friends’, a raft of hits from , and even the Ronettes and Diana Ross. Of course, the disco scene was ruled by the Pet Shop Boys who dominated the mainstage with the festival’s strongest visuals (sorry, Skrillex) and their high-camp power-pop. With suitably Spanish bull dancers and an array of costume changes (including an amazing disco-ball helmet for Lowe), their newer records were followed by an encore that boasted more hits than anyone else on the bill; ‘It’s A Sin’, ‘Rent’, and ‘Always on My Mind’ have lost none of their irreverence and none of their hooks.

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Of course, opening proceedings amid widespread excitement, were Kraftwerk bringing the same show that a select few saw at the Tate Modern to a crowd of 10,000+. Everyone was childishly excited about the (much-photographed, suitably 80s) 3D glasses, but the robotic Düsseldorfers opened big with a goosebump-inducing ‘We Are The Robots’, and everyone remembered quite how phenomenal it was to be watching the genre’s godfathers, more than forty years into their career. A full length ‘Autobahn’ proved slightly inaccessible, but ‘Radioactivity’, ‘Tour de France’ and ‘Radioactivity’ were amongst other highlights, all paired with simplistic, iconic 3D images.

Despite the mutterings about EDM and the slightly poppier fare on offer, there remained a very strong “traditional Sónar” line-up of outstanding techno. Richie Hawtin’s ENTER provided hypnotic pulsing techno, with Hawtin showering the 6am crowd in black confetti and a surprise Skrillex appearance! 2ManyDJs’ mashup set, littered with huge hits from Kavinsky to MGMT, demonstrated incredible live mixing and allowed everyone to finally lose their shit to ‘Get Lucky’.

Inevitably though, the absolute best sets came from Sónar’s core sound – veteran European techno and house producers. Paul Kalkbrenner blended new tracks with classics and dropped a phenomenal set, laden with touchstone Berlin techno. As ‘Sky and Sand’ blasted out, everyone hugged anyone within reach – a perfect conclusion and amongst Sónar 2013’s best moments. Equally impressive was Laurent Garnier’s French house, which like Hawtin, enjoyed the euphoria of the closing, sunrise slot. ‘Jacques in the Box’ is always fantastic, and closing with Prodigy’s ‘Out Of Space’ was inspired. As Garnier had played the first ever Sónar, it was a neat full-circle.

Amongst the Guadí and the rollerbladers, the lost tourists and the omnipresent Catalonian flags, lurks an utterly incredible festival. Festivals are always about euphoria; but Sónar does it best.

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Album Review: Letherette – ‘Letherette’

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With chopped, falsetto vocals, filthy funk bass, and many a formaggio guitar solo lurking, it’s not hard to see that Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter have been a key inspiration to young pretenders Letherette – there’s even a photo of the Wolverhampton duo imitating their Parisian muses, DJing behind D.I.Y. masks, to be found online. So, for those of you who’ve been waiting since 2005, Andy Harber and Richard Roberts’ debut release will certainly tide you over until May.

Admittedly, the start of Letherette is dominated by just the sort of careening synth scales that so defined Discovery,with lead single ‘D&T’ a perfectly plausible Daft Punk album track, all housefunk and squealing falsetto samples. ‘Warstones’ – an instant, exuberant highlight – has been resurrected from an earlier EP and is still clearly channelling the robot-masked-ones. But, it’s so good that if you put it up online as a Random Access Memories leak, much of the internet would be lost in the ensuing exaltation. Whilst the inspiration is clear, Letherette add trickling, shimmering synths never yet heard on a DP release, as well as a pounding house beat that’s more reminiscent of His Majesty Andre than the discofunk of Bangalter and Homem-Christo, stamping their own mark on the sound.

Though the boys have evidently done their homework and made a few important discoveries regarding French electro, there’s more to them than mere copycat soundalikes. Another sky-rocketing success is the effect-laden, sub-aquatic bass of ‘The One’, which features borderline Timbaland ‘boom-click-boom’ percussion and warm, washing synths before diving into throbbing bass and driving, dubby house more akin to Justice’s ‘D.A.N.C.E.’ than anything Daft Punkian. Elsewhere opener ‘After Dawn’’s warm space synths and liquid, rumbling bass call to mind MGMT’s Oracular Spectacular.

Along with the aforementioned disco -house, prog is certainly a core influence on Letherette. The album’s very structure – slow, soaring intro, pulsing energy, ambient intermission, more disco exuberance, and a dreamy closing comedown – lends it an immersive, spacious mood. Mid-album interlude ‘Gas Stations and Restaurants’ drips echoing ambience and psychedelic vocals, building into the slow grooving ‘Cold Clam’, where a niggling loop and shimmering synths creating a more downbeat Massive Attack-styled sound – again, indicative of Letherette’s sonic breadth of vision. Final word ‘Say The Sun’ is an exercise in restrained euphoria, with calm synth loops laid over a proggy beat – an electronic equivalent of ‘Wish You Were Here’, wafting you back to reality.

Despite something of a slow start (the first few tracks are a little too “sub-par Daft Punk”, a little too derivative), Letherette builds into an expansive, absorbing album, spanning a huge variety of influences and threading them together impressively within a coherent framework. Like Messieurs Bangalter et Homem-Christo, it’s dance music that effortlessly transcends day and night, and is fluid enough to please aficionados of many genres. Though the Parisian goliaths return this summer, it seems unlikely that this Wolverhampton duo will be lost in their shadows.

Album Review: FLUME – ‘FLUME’

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Young Harley Streten, the 21 year old Sydneysider behind his nom-de-disque FLUME, is certainly not one to waste time. Having achieved virtual overnight success, as his Facebook page rocketed from obscurity to well over 115,000 likes in just over a year, the producer and DJ has also had opening slots for both the xx and Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, and secured a place on mainstream radio playlists around the world with his cracking initial release, ‘Sleepless’. Very much making hay whilst the sun shines, he’s jumped at the chance and quickly put out his debut album, FLUME. Though it’s certainly the opportune moment commercially, there is of course the attendant amount of hype – the Aussies are excited about their young protégée and the risky, pressurising title “saviour of Australian electro” has been mentioned more than once.

It’s nothing if not ambitious. Streten covers a huge range of genres, flitting from house to chillwave to funk – although admittedly, FLUME’s core is rooted in downtempo electro and instrumental hip-hop. His warm, clean production sits well with the beat-driven electro as he impressively straddles the line between mainstream/commercial sounds and the more experimental edges. Alongside the variety of genres, further variation is introduced via a host of supporting artists, with Chet Faker, Jezzabell Doran, MC T-Shirt, Moon Holiday, and George Maple all contributing guest vocals. Thanks to this vocal variety, despite FLUME’s broad range of influences, it is his beats which form the album’s consistent backbone, allowing his signature sound to speak for itself.

Singles ‘Sleepless’ and ‘Holdin’ On’ both err on the side of synth heavy hip-hop and are effortlessly infectious, doubtless playing a big part in FLUME’s meteoric rise. Sandwiched between them is ‘Left Alone’, featuring Chet Faker, and a fluid, loud-quiet beat base which builds up into sheer euphoria. Enjoyable though the singles are, they feel just that; singles, rather than part of an LP. Elsewhere, the spacey progressive house of ‘Insane’, the excellent, shimmering bass-driven ‘Warm Thoughts’, or the liquid, de-tuned dubstep of ‘Ezra’ are far more interesting and show potential for future releases.

However, with fifteen tracks, FLUME is arguably overlong and certainly suffers from its tracklisting order. With its more commercial, Hudson Mohawke-esque singles all stacked at the beginning, it leaves a slight feeling of subsiding, or at least poor pacing, as the more ambient, immersive tracks are all ranged towards the end. It’s something of an idea overload; FLUME’s decision to try his hand at everything, whilst demonstrating his evident enthusiasm and frequent successes, comes at the price of the album’s coherency. Nonetheless, there’s a lot of potential here, and with more time and less pressure, FLUME could certainly produce better.