The Chemical Brothers – Further
Just a week ago, Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons unveiled the seventh Chemical Brothers album Further in the best way they know how: with four sold-out showcases at the Roundhouse in London. On each night, the duo appeared behind their imposing bank of machines to the discordant bleeps of Further’s opener Snow, before proceeding to play the entire album in order. As each of the eight tracks thundered out the speakers, the group’s long-time visuals collaborators Adam Smith and Marcus Lyall used the towering video screens to overwhelm the senses of all gathered.
This introduction to its latest long-player is revealing of where the Chemical Brothers stand in 2010. Firstly, their stature is such that they can command the attention of a packed venue with a set of all-new material (admittedly, the finale consisted of ‘greatest hits’). Most tellingly, though, this is exactly the environment you envisage when Further is piping into your headphones. It’s music built for the full force of a Chems live experience: immersive visuals, a writhing dancefloor and bass you feel in your gut.
Further is certainly a different beast from 2007’s We Are The Night. While that album featured appearances from then-NME-darlings like Klaxons and Lightspeed Champion, its follow-up is all about the Brothers themselves. Rowlands and Simons decided early to eschew collaborators this time round, instead focusing on psychedelics and building layers of sound. The result is a sometimes overwhelming juggernaut that will leave fans reeling. Snow sets the uneasy tone with an ethereal female vocal (‘found’ and sampled rather than commissioned by the duo) floating above a dissonant series of transmission blips. In keeping with the feel of the live show, it bleeds into the near-12-minute epic Escape Velocity; the least conventional lead single in recent memory. With several tonal shifts over its running time and an ecstatic first drop at the two-minute mark that’s vintage Chemical Brothers, this is the one you’ve waited three years for.
You may need a breather after Escape Velocity has rampaged to a close, and Another World almost provides that with its beaming opening salvo that seems to call for an accompaniment of piercing white lights. Like the rest of Further, though, it grows; tempering the billowing crescendos with a throbbing, restless bassline. Next, Dissolve’s freewheeling and loose composition feels like a band jamming (the drums are particularly ‘live’ sounding), which is perhaps one of Further’s hallmarks. The duo seems content to give songs the space they need to morph and build, lending the album its propulsive motion. There’s no holding back on Horse Power, a demented rave assault cut through with the amusingly literal combination of horses neighing and a digitised voice intoning ‘horse…power’. It’s not one to slip on a dinner party play-list.
The psychedelics are upped on the latter part of Further. The My Bloody Valentine references have been unavoidable with current single Swoon, a rapturous summer anthem that eventually unwinds into a trailing synth line that’s pure end-of-festival fodder. The entire album sees the duo revelling in synthesisers – “letting it all splurge out”, as Rowlands puts it – and Swoon is testament to that abandon. The duo brings things to a close with the triumphant fireworks of Wonders Of The Deep, which offers a parting line to take into the night: “Look after your brothers and sisters”.
Key to this LP, but not yet available with the version inthemix has reviewed, are the videos made by Smith and Lyall that accompany each of the eight tracks. This added dimension – hinted at in the vividly-coloured silhouettes peopling the Swoon video – give further credence to the Chemical Brothers’ wish for an “enveloping” album. Further is certainly that. This is dance music, but it’s often just stand-and-be-awed music too.
Further is out 11 June on Parlophone through EMI.