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More a collection of EBWs than a new studio album
on 20 May 2011
On Further, The Chemical Brothers seem to re-tread their renowned Electronic Battle Weapon series, a project that has provided the duo with a freedom to experiment and test new music when either DJing or touring. Characteristically, EBWs are long in duration, built around repetition and contain either very few or no vocals. Further is complete with this notion: throughout the rotating soundscapes of its eight tracks, Tom and Ed are more concerned with creating an atmosphere based on looped bars and repeated slogans, occasionally offset with swirling synths. In this instance, Further revisits the heady experience of 2002's Come with Us, but it's nowhere near as thrilling.
The first half of Further is cloaked in a classic Chemical Brothers sound, and its raw, emotive streaks of acid experimentalism are most evident in the 12-minute marathon "Escape Velocity". Full of building intensity and a heady swathe of sounds that increase to an enchanting but unsettling nature, it's the album's centrepiece. Either side of this, "Snow" floats and morphs around its vocal and structure like a spaceship lifting off, while "Another World" warbles and shimmers around an addictive, claustrophobic groove. The shortcomings begin to egress on "Dissolve", a track which revisits the Beatle-esque style of the duo's collaborations with Noel Gallagher on "Let Forever Be" and "Setting Sun". This time, however, we briefly hear Tom Rowlands calling for a woman named "Caroline", and the fuzzy synth-line and array of noises are mixed much less effectively than before; there's a rather unremarkable mess of noise before a nice percussive segue into "Horse Power". During the live gig setting for this album's preview, this latter track stomped away like a slice of Berlin techno, but on record it fails to deliver much of the propulsive drive and momentum that has been so effortlessly expressed by the duo before, like on "Out of Control". Elsewhere, "Swoon" - despite its infectious Orb-like hook and dreamy house-vibe - utilises drums that evoke the synth-pad style of Simian Mobile Disco, so its impact is rather underwhelming. Closing track "Wonders of the Deep" has been resting in the Chemicals' archives since 2005. Finally unearthed, it affirms itself as an uplifting finale too literally; a vocoder advises us to "Look after your brothers and sisters. They need you. They need each other", but it's all too self-consciously epic to make a lasting impression. Further is fine, but the duo's sound doesn't appear to have progressed much from the excellent We Are the Night.
LISTEN TO: Snow; Escape Velocity; Another World