Born in the Echoes

The Chemical Brothers

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Born in the Echoes Review

by David Jeffries

An album that fades in -- grinding and beeping like a space shuttle returning to Earth -- Born in the Echoes is the first LP in five years from the Chemical Brothers. It's a journey back home for the big beat or stadium dance duo, just like that spaceship intro implies, and one with all the necessary mutations. The dark, otherworldly, and prog rock sounds that kept many away from their 2010 release Further are back, although here they're framed much more attractively. Inspiration, innovation, and a well-chosen group of guest vocalists are rolled out sensibly, schooling the current EDM crowd on how to craft an album while balancing the heavy songs. With the hallucinatory, interlude-like "Taste of Honey" giving way to the Cate Le Bon feature on the Meco-meets-Nico title track, this album ebbs and flows as if the '70s Pink Floyd hadn't ignored disco. Speaking of, "Under Neon Lights" with St. Vincent as a robot siren is either Studio 54 on shrooms or The Matrix on acid. As usual, none of it is too garish even with all the loudness and chaos, and some of it is quite gothy and dark, including "EML Ritual" with Ali Love helping execute a mainstream dance tune that coolly acknowledges the passed-on genre of "witch house." The veteran duo deliver the rocker "I'll See You There" in the pop culture-aware style of the Black Keys rather than old chums like Oasis or the Verve, and if that isn't Daft Punk's recent repping of the '70s being "borrowed" throughout the album, that's certainly the spirited sway of Future Islands influencing and driving the fantastic Beck feature "Wide Open." Add an appearance from the swagger master Q-Tip and Born in the Echoes is an excellent mash of familiar and vanguard, the very same formula that lifts all the duo's best albums above expectations.

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