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Album Review: The Chemical Brothers – Further

B

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Repetitive noises usually make me want to kill, kill, kill. Thus, it’s a measure of The Chemical Brothers’ musical skill that the first album I heard by them, 2005’s Push the Button, actually grabbed my attention. Here are repetitive noises with charm and at times an almost spiritual quality, skillfully executed beats built into giant scaffolds of musical construction. Here, in other words, are noises worth repeating. Thus my expectations for new release Further were comparably high, and the Brothers certainly did not disappoint.

Further begins with an elaborate intro track titled “Snow”. At 5:09, “Snow” clocks in as the shortest piece on an album full of lengthy songs. It starts with a loop of feedback-like beats, soon overlaid with airy female vocals. “Your love keeps lifting me/ lifting me higher/ lifting me higher”, intones the vocalist again and again, as the backing tracks lift higher as well.

The vocals reach a high point and then grow slower and quieter, as a sibilant pattern works in and gradually covers them. This bursts into a pinnacle of light and sound titled “Escape Velocity”, which at a healthy 11:59 is easily the longest but also the most entertaining track on the album. Right around the 2-minute mark, the song drops from the pinwheeling layers of sound into the Chemical Brothers’ trademark hard-dance beat, and you know you’re in for a good time. “Escape Velocity” is so engrossing that it’s easy to mistake it for more than one song; it’s harder to believe that any one musical idea could sustain itself for so long, but there you are. Gradually, the music builds back up to a high point similar to the beginning, before fading out over space-ship sound effects.

The middle of the album, while quite good, doesn’t always match the giddy heights of its beginning. “Another World” is a nice place to rest the ears after the intensity of the first two tracks, and “Dissolve”, someone reminiscent of “Marvo Ging”, has its own charms. “Horse Power” and “Swoon” are both interesting ideas that don’t contain the complexity that they might (although the former does contain some amusingly literal samples of, well, horses).

“K+D+B” gets things moving nicely again, with an ethereal quality that sounds at times like a dance-hall Sigur Ros. Closer “Wonders of the Deep” continues on seamlessly, merging the airy, spiritual currents with vocoder dialogue, pop-influenced vocals, and traditional synth patterns to create a final burst of light. This blending of styles at the end of the album suggests that Chemical Tom and Chemical Ed are reaching for something higher than a single musical genre here. This is an electronic album that will also appeal to fans of ambient music, original pop music, and frankly, just about anyone else with eardrums. The twinkly, bright ending leaves both the album and the listener on a pleasant, peaceful note. In short, it reminds me why I started listening to electronic music in the first place.

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