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coverpic flag England - Full Moon 233 - 08/29/15

The Chemical Brothers
Born In The Echoes
Virgin EMI

The Ol' 'Dust Brothers' - Chemical Ed & Chemical Tom - the kings of big beat are back with their first album since 2010's Further. Born In The Echoes is their eighth album since they broke big time (both success-wise as well as gaining critical acclaim and credibility) with their smashing debut, Exit Planet Dust (1995) and its strong follow-up, Dig Your Own Hole (1997) [we're not counting their soundtrack to the action thriller Hanna (2011), directed by Joe Wright - known for the films Pride & Prejudice and Atonement]. How is the chemical balance? Do they have the right equations?

Their label is overly happy: 'The wait is over at last! The Chemical Brothers are back with their new synthetic type of alpha beta psychedelic funkin' album!' The Chem.Bros. have always known how to funk up a party with handfuls of block rockin' beats. Like always they have a line of guests and collaborators (singers, musicians): Annie 'St. Vincent' Clark ("Under Neon Lights"), Q-Tip a.k.a. Kamaal Fareed ("Go"), returning collaborator Ali Love ("EML Ritual"), Welsh singer-songwriter Cate Le Bon ("Born In The Echoes") and Beck ("Wide Open"). From their very first album, the bros. included musical guests. Tim Burgess (of The Charlatans) and Beth Orton appeared as guest vocalists on their debut. Orton appeared on their second and third platter (and fourth, as well), as did Oasis' Noel Gallagher (2nd and 3rd). Since then the guest list has grown long: Bernard Sumner (Bew Order), Hope Sandoval (Mazzy Star), Jonathan Donahue (Mercury Rev/The Flaming Lips), Richard Ashcroft (The Verve), The Magic Numbers, Klaxons and Lightspeed Champion, Tim Smith (Midlake), Fatlip and several others.

On Born In The Echoes they've also worked with Canadian poet Bill Bissett (76), known as the 'Godfather of Canadian Poetry', and US saxophone player/multireedist (saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet, French horn, flute, cornet, etc.) Colin Stetson, who's a touring member of Arcade Fire, Bell Orchestre and Bon Iver (and has performed with numerous bands/artists: Tom Waits, Laurie Anderson, David Byrne, Sinéad O'Connor, The National, Angélique Kidjo, Feist, My Brightest Diamond, LCD Soundsystem, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and more). So, how is the new album, then? It kicks off with "Sometimes I Feel So Deserted" (co-written with Kenneth Bobien and Moise Laporte, a.k.a. Big Moses / Tenacious), which was the first single from the album. This is a classic, slam dancing dancefloor filler, with a groovy, catchy beat. It shows the Chemical Bros back with a vengeance, doing things the 'punchy electronica' style they know how to. The frantic "Go" (feat. Q-tip) upholds the bunch-beat. When Annie Clarke steps in on "Under Neon Lights", they take off in a more arty/artsy direction (just imagine St. Vincent's usual new wave-whimsy indie pop-rock), but the beat, the drive and the rhythm is intact. "I'll See You There" shows the brothers dive into a psychedelic beat. This is a cool track. As is the swirling, slightly dizzying "Reflexion". At times, the Chemical Brothers grow too big with their sounds and rhythms. Then is good to 'land' sometimes, as with the quiet "Taste of Honey", except that its mid-section 'a fly inside your head' effect is quite creepy. The monotony and the 'tongue in cheek' style of the title track, feat. Cate Le Bon who adds something extra to the vocals with her special (voice) attitude.

"Radiate" is another cool and calm track, with Stetson showing his multi-instrumental skills making the song glow. Maybe making this one of the best tracks of the album. "Wide Open" (feat. Beck, with a certain, discreet Beck signature) closes Born In The Echoes with a pleasant, rapidly swaying dance-beat, and the Chemical Brothers are ready for rocking festivals and stadiums, I guess. Thumbs up, even if I won't be there. Born In The Echoes is a strong return. Close your eyes and you can imagine the strobe lights flashing, with Tom and Ed veiled in light and smoke. O Brothers, Where Art Thou? Dance, ahoy!

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