Dance producers get lonely. It’s an occupational hazard, hence why they love a sensationalist and well-heeled vocal collaboration. James Ford and Jas Shaw, aka Simian Mobile Disco, have become pretty adept at this bit of business over the years. And it clearly works wonders for fame. Their last LP, Temporary Pleasure, played host to the trippy Gruff Rhys, the falsetto Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip, the dirty Beth Ditto and even a little bit of Yeasayer’s Chris Keating. Collectively, they helped wax the Simian surfboard’s wake all the way to critical acclaim.
But sometimes this approach can be tiresome, sometimes gratingly obvious, and at other junctures just car -crash bad (listen to The Pharcyde’s Fatlip guest on The Chemical Brothers' Salmon Dance for the nadir of square peg and round hole hell). It’s therefore a great relief that SMD have elected to make their third LP a heads-down, thumbs-up dance journey. Maybe the pair has realised the fast route to writing a classic is shaving off the contemporary fluff?
Or perhaps this notion is overly simplistic since Unpatterns is far from a classic. Yet it’s also far from poor, boring, static or imitative. At certain points it revels in understated excellence. Put Your Hands Together, arguably the LP’s crux, will fill floors from Berlin to Ibiza and back via Brooklyn with its filtered house ammo.
Opener I Waited for You sets the tone with slick, building bleeps before Cerulean comes tearing out of the awkward hard house blocks with its angular synths and loping, eternal beat. At points – notably Interference and A Species Out of Control – their productions recall the finest heavy grooving of Laurent Garnier: the former track rubs similar shoulders to the Frenchman’s epic club smash The Sound of the Big Babou.
Unpatterns may ultimately face the damned-if-you-do and damned if you don’t polarity when balancing a desire for fresh fans with these dissident songs. SMD lovers will have to content themselves with a deep, well-crafted dance manifesto by two talented producers who’ve had their DJ boxes circulate enough airport carousels to comfortably nail an underground and enduring statement.
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