After months of album teasers and a brief appearance at the Sonar Music Festival, The Chemical Brothers have resurfaced with Born in the Echoes, their eighth studio release since their formation in the early 90’s.
Echoes begins with the typical Chemical Brothers flair, slow and gritty but building. “Sometimes I Feel So Deserted,” is a grooving, pulsating big beat track featuring some dissonant lyrics and a diverse range of sounds. Keeping pace with the opening track, “Go,” continues the mood but does a better job of solidifying the direction of the album. The track is far more memorable, containing blistering lines like “Metropolis on the edge of control/They take our money, but they won’t take our soul.”
If you are anything like me, this is a song that will find its way into your library.
“Under Neon Lights” follows next, a single The Chemical Brothers released back in June. Taking on an almost sexual tone, “Under Neon Lights,” is a tune for the underground crowd, featuring layered female vocals from Annie Clark (St. Vincent) and a deep, bass-heavy synth line.
Drifting through the album, it seems The Chemical Brothers hit their stride every other song, almost as if the truly great new material is meant to be punctuated by musical interludes. Speaking of this, “EML Ritual” is a slow, rather stagnant track, but makes way for “I’ll See You There,” an ethereal, beat driven journey over the hills of Scotland and all the way to India. The Chemical Brother then bring us “Just Bang,” a minimal, Kraftwerk-inspired mindbender. To those tied to the style, this song may be a hit, but to me it feels somewhat tedious.
At nearly seven minutes, “Reflexion” is the longest song on the record, sitting closer to electro house than some of the other tracks on the album. This one is all instrumental and will be appreciated by the head-bobbers out there. In contrast, “Taste of Honey” is the shortest, and trippiest song on the record, featuring some of the best sampling I’ve heard in a while. I found myself coming back to it just for the pure awe factor.
Rounding out the last quarter of the album comes the title track with a rousing, “boom pah!…boom boom pah!,” beat pattern. Heavy on the synths, as well as the intrigue, the title track is nothing groundbreaking but adds a nice touch. “Radiate,” is the dreamiest of the tracks, slow moving at first, but builds into what is also the most sonically charged song on the album, almost alarming in its intensity at points. My favorite track of the album is the last one. “Wide Open,” is a beautiful deep house piece with swooning vocals (courtesy of Beck) and samples driven by an electrifying beat.
All and all, Born in the Echoes is a rich album, broadly coherent in voice and tone, a marker that I appreciate when it comes to records. While not always fitting into my personal tastes, the tracks on this album will be widely respected and appreciated. The record dips in and out between captivating and slightly monotonous, but a lot of this can be passed off to the big beat genre as a whole. While not the best album I’ve ever heard, nor the best from the now classic duo, Born in the Echoes is well worth the time. I recommend listening over a long, late-night car ride.
Austin Meyer Whitlock is a musician, writer and can be reached on Twitter