Being a Chemical Brothers fan since their Dig Your Own Hole days, I had high expectations for the new album, and a gut feeling that it would be a bit of a return to their roots. It also seems there were some familiar guests involved in this album if you pay attention to the title of “K+D+B,” initials hinting at legendary bedroom rockers Kruder and Dorfmeister and perhaps the lovely Beth Orton once again.
Every five years or so, there seems to be a point where a few lucky artists rise to the top to tempt an otherwise indifferent mainstream, and I always think, “Maybe this will be the year that electronic music will finally break. Maybe people will finally stop dismissing us as knob-tweakers and start listening.” Well, maybe when they hear this one, that day will come. Further is so far, it’s full circle.
For those of you who got into the Chemical Brothers in their “Setting Sun” days, this album will feel like home; it is equal parts tribal and feverish as it is mellow and minimal. The opening track, “Snow,” starts with a burst of feedback and dissonance with a faint four-on-the-floor beat in the background, as if we’re listening to the DJ’s headphones through the cue channel. And then we hear the vocals, (Beth Orton, of course) a sampled loop, but somehow it feels more personal than that, similar to her previous collaboration “Alive.” It serves as a relatively tranquil introduction to the next track, “Escape Velocity,” whereupon we are plunged into a psychedelic experience with every rise and fall of LFO. Finally, the beat drops in after two minutes and leaves us hanging, waiting for more. Given that the track is twelve minutes long, it’s just the beginning. Like I said, listen on headphones.
The album rumbles through subsonic jungle that is guaranteed to make your neighbor pound on the ceiling with a broom, then bursts forth into “Another World,” a track which touches on an almost European house music sensibility, something which would be soothing if it weren’t for the four-on-the-floor kick behind it keeping our pulses up. “Dissolve” dissolves us back into analog heaven, a quavering, trembling lead amongst synth strings. This is where I have to hand it to the Brothers for marching relentlessly on even after the 90’s rave scene died out. I only hope they continue to go further.