The Chemical Brothers


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Further is the first Chemical Brothers album without a guest vocalist since their debut. Consequently, with no worries about crafting tracks around a Q-Tip or Richard Ashcroft, the duo has full freedom to focus on enveloping listeners in the sound world usually just experienced at its shows -- although, naturally, without the lights and atmosphere to accompany the music. After a beatless first track titled "Snow," the 12-minute single "Escape Velocity" approximates a rocket launch, the impressive effects continually rising over the first few minutes until the beat kicks in with full force. Still, as a single or an album track, "Escape Velocity" isn't a total success. The effects and distortion would certainly do Kevin Shields or Sonic Boom proud, but the lockstep beats, when they do come in, are practically an anticlimax. From there, Ed and Tom go in differing directions, with typically varied results; they seem to have learned lessons from the past, varying their tracks slightly. "Another World" is a perfect example, appropriately otherworldly and shimmering, an '80s throwback capable of provoking jealousy in chillwave maestros like Neon Indian and Washed Out. But the Chemical format of old is still rampant and still rather stultifying; the psychedelic distortion on "Swoon" sounds self-sampled (or swiped from Orbital's "Lush 3-1"), while "Horse Power" has very little to recommend it except a distorted vocal repeating the title and, wait for it, horse whinnies. The Chemical Brothers have remained in the stadium house category for a decade-plus due to their immersive music and vivid light shows, but from the stale beats and lack of new ideas on display here, they'd do better going beatless or hiring a drummer.

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