The Chemical Brothers Born In The Echoes

[Virgin EMI; 2015]

Styles: elastic eyes, bouncing galaxies, orange wedges, button pressing
Others: “big beat”

While Further served as an immersive, cerebral palate cleanser for those worn out on weak guest spots and errant genre experiments of The Chemical Brothers in their early 2000s output, Born In The Echoes shows duo Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons essentially rehashing their trusty old formula: either craft some gorgeous beats (duh) and find a breathy, recently popular singer to ground it, or set loose the samples and hope they end up somewhere cool and not corny.

Fortunately, the bros put their bravest, weirdest foot forward on this one and pull off a well-sequenced, diverse collection of songs that emphasize their skill as pop producers as well as their rewarding impatience as composers. Not only do they have the foresight to ground their guest collabs this time in the kind of atmospheres in which their singers do best (Cate Le Bon darts around a dusty drumbeat, Beck 1000-yard stares his way into synth-pop bliss, and St. Vincent’s track pulls a very St. Vincent-esque freakout), but their instrumentals and weirder songs also maintain a wonderfully noisy, probing edge.

“Just Bang” strangely marries house piano and bargain bin “ohhh”s with woofer-wrecking bass, while “I’ll See You There” feels like their biggest risk in a while, an all-too-real take on psych-rock that sounds part “The Private Psychedelic Reel” and part earnest attempt at pulling off a Flaming Lips song. “EML Ritual” gets a little paranoid with Ali Love, closing inwards until some killer kit work saves it, and “Reflexion” feels like the most quintessential Chemical Brothers-esque song on the album: quirky, pitch-bent synths squirming around effects sweeps, undercut by a thunder sheet and a struttable 4/4. “Born In The Echoes” makes for the best guest spot on the record, a winning combination of Cate Le Bon’s chilling croon and laser sounds over an unnerving stomp-clap beat.

Born In the Echoes maintains a pop-sensitive groove for all but two of its songs: the bee-buzzing, spontaneous guitar soloing, Prefuse 73-esque voice looping “Taste Of Honey” and “Radiate,” which builds from stadium horn hype up to an effusive climax of glassy saturation amid the elephantine groans of Colin Stetson’s sax. “Go” feels like a bit too deliberate of an attempt at a single, almost too safe for the Brothers and not as catchy as “Galvanize,” though I still found myself humming it from time to time. It takes a bit of “Galaxy Bounce” and a bit of whatever Daft Punk didn’t use for Random Access Memories and blends it into a comfortable base hit. But the real winners on this record as usual are the curios. Aforementioned “Just Bang,” paranoid synth-punk-y “Under Neon Lights” and stunning Beck-featured closer “Wide Open” are oddly inspired gems. And the title track, track, track…

Links: The Chemical Brothers

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