The making of Whorl was such a break from Simian Mobile Disco's previous methods that James Ford and Jas Shaw considered releasing the album under a different name. It's not a truly live set but "amalgamations of live recordings," as they word it. During April 2014, they recorded material at Space Cave Studio in London (over the course of a few days), then performed improvised one-offs a week later in a desert north of California's Yucca Valley and at Pappy & Harriet's, a venue in the same state's Pioneertown. Ford and Shaw severely restricted their amount of gear, let it fly, and shaped the results into their first set of new material since 2012's Unpatterns. Whorl is a rather lolling, completely instrumental, 65-minute set with occasional bursts of activity. More than ever, their ambient-leaning output is evidently inspired by early experimental electronic music, from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop to Cluster and Tangerine Dream. A bass drum isn't heard until well after two minutes into the third track, and even the most energetic likes of "Dervish," "Calyx," and "Tangents" have as much effect on the mind as on the feet. Given the atmospheric and diaphanous makeup of most of the tracks, along with titles such as "Casiopeia" and "Redshift," Whorl is more likely to enhance stargazing than to provoke movement. It's a stimulating change of pace from a continually evolving duo who could easily play it safe.
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AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman