Field-leaders in the progressive breaks world, and sometime movie soundtrackers, Hybrid have taken their time to deliver a follow-up to 2006’s acclaimed I Choose Noise. For two years the duo of Chris Healings and Mike Truman have been working on this, their fourth studio album, and along the way brought vocalist Charlotte James aboard as an official member. The result of so many long nights, arranging the on-screen building blocks of contemporary electronic music: a collection that dares to dream beyond the restrictions of its pigeonhole, which should propel its makers into all new leagues of recognition.
A fairly innocuous opener, Empire, gives way to James’s first contributions – and it’s here that Hybrid begin their ascendency from highly respected artists at a niche level to, potentially, mainstream contenders. Of course, such is the nature of today’s top 40 that a genuine breakthrough remains unlikely, but Can You Hear Me – synths set to sumptuous, its beats insistent but never invasive, James’s vocals approaching otherworldly – would surely trigger convulsions of delight at the chart’s lower end. The title-track covers completely new ground for the group, and again would sit pretty amongst larger-selling outfits’ more introspective moments: acoustic at its outset, the song builds to a luscious piece of leftfield digi-soul. It’s the sort of song that, if penned for a Leona or Alicia when their management teams were asleep, would be a number one.
The jaw absolutely smacks the mat come Break My Soul, which marries huge, Eastern-tinged strings to James hitting her own vocal heights. As a calling card for her soar-away tones, it’s magnificent, and Truman and Healings back her up with music that manages to be both ominous and luminous at the same time. It’s a song of several sections, too, indicative of the ambition Hybrid have looked to articulate across this album – a Day-in-the-Life-style swelling of strings introduces the final run towards a stirring climax, turning the skin electric.
Though not without concessions to convention – alienation of their fanbase is not an option – Disappear Here presents enough progress to mark its makers as not only mavericks within a scene, but capable of achieving so much more. This is a record that will easily appeal to lovers of Starkey’s hook-up with Brighton vocalist Anneka and Bonobo’s collaborations with Andreya Triana; but it should also be investigated by fans of the electro-pop of Roísín Murphy, Pendulum’s crossover cacophonies, and Groove Armada’s more interesting turns. --Mike Diver
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