Simian Mobile Disco


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James Ford and Jas Shaw's sixth full-length album as Simian Mobile Disco was written in collaboration with Deep Throat Choir, whose presence is so center-stage that they deserve to be billed as the main performers instead of just a featuring credit. DTC have successfully taken the choir concept and made it relevant, far surpassing any novelty factor and garnering respect throughout the industry, particularly -- and peculiarly -- in dance music circles. Perhaps fittingly, then, Murmurations seems more like a much-deserved platform for the choir rather than a full-blown Simian Mobile Disco record. There's no denying that the album has been produced with finesse; it just doesn't come close to the peaks found on previous SMD albums.

There's been a solid history of vocal collaborations within their back catalog: for example, their biggest pop crossovers appeared on Temporary Pleasure, where the likes of Beth Ditto could be found chiming in over their early, more jagged sound. Here we find the techno-lite/minimal approach of phase-two SMD offset by the gliding harmonies of DTC, exemplified by lead single "Caught in a Wave," which creeps along eerily but fails to crescendo; "Cruel Intentions" this certainly isn't, and the Justice remix of "We Are Your Friends" couldn't be further from their current location. Which is fine; if anything, Ford and Shaw have transformed gracefully over the course of their career, gradually reining it in to find new solace in the underground while maintaining a festival-ready, larger-vibe persona that they can dust off and reanimate as needed.

That Murmurations finds them hovering in the background isn't necessarily bad either, but the talents of DTC and their hive-like harmonics outshine the sheen of the tracks they appear on, seen clearly on the singles "Hey Sister" and "Defender." Every track has a pleasant flow, with the production only really coming to the forefront on "A Perfect Swarm," which builds to the midway tipping point with the same degree of precision and balance that SMD have demonstrated in the past.

During "V Formation," the synthetic and harmonic elements intertwine until they are essentially one and the same; undoubtedly the overall point of this project. With that in mind, it might seem unfair to say DTC steal the show, as after all they could be framed as just another instrument, or human synthesizer as Shaw himself puts it. That doesn't change the fact that Murmurations is a standout moment for Deep Throat Choir, while in the Simian Mobile Disco canon it sits as an interesting and pleasant experience but, ultimately, a sideline in their discography.

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