Ever feel like some music makes you want to be on something? Not in the sense that in order to see how Dark Side of the Moon could be played to the “Wizard of Oz” (a Populist allegory, if you didn’t know) you need to be stoned.
“Oh my God! They sang ‘look around’ just as Dorothy turned her head!” Whoa.
No, I mean the kind of music that halfway takes you to a place where your senses are distorted; you just kind of want the drugs to get you the rest of the way there.
Not that I am an advocate of habitual recreational drug use; it’s unhealthy. Sometimes listening to trance music is unhealthy too, just think “Enya Cloud-Dub Extended Mix” by DJ Kevin Yost. When it’s good, electronica/house/trance music is very groovy indeed. The Chemical Brothers’ newest release, Come With Us, happily represents the best of the genre.
From the frantic opening beats of the title track, Come With Us starts with vigor and maintains its energy through to the last minute of the CD. The listener is treated to pulsing psychedelia, harmonizing strings, and fatty break beats. The best of the Brothers’ sound is interlaced with references to British musical history, DJ classics and futuristic experimentation. Their sixth album release is truly a magnificent effort.
While relying less on guest spots in general, certain Chemical Brothers staples are included, to welcome effect. Beth Orton, a long-time vocal collaborator, and Richard Ashcroft of The Verve both lend their talents, bringing with them a lyrical supplement to the largely “instrumental” album. Orton’s track, “The State We’re In,” placed near the middle of the album, slows the tempo and mellows the mood, bringing the charged earlier movements to a higher calm. Ashcroft closes the album with “The Test,” a frenetic, primal syzygy of cathartic afterglow that leaves you breathing heavy and eager to start the CD again.
More commercial efforts, a la their Grammy-winning single “Block Rocking Beats,” come in the forms of the club single “It Began in Afrika” and the radio-release “Star Guitar.” The first is a rhythm heavy salute to African drums, Latin funk and tribal dance styles, and is a hit already on the English club scene. “Star Guitar” is an instant classic, weaving strings and unwavering percussion with the Brothers’ typical sonic expertise.
Nostalgia and Beatles imitations come in many forms, even in the techno world. The beginning hums of ninth track “Pioneer Skies” are unmistakably “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”-esque. The African beat thing has also been done many times before. Blues-funk even comes into the mix with the horns and guitar mixing on “Denmark.” In paying tribute to this legacy of British pop and dance music, the Brothers continue a tradition that they simultaneously mutate and futurize.
Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons (The Chemical Brothers by name), have been lurking under the radar for the last few years, preparing Come With Us in a South London recording studio. This Mancunian duo manages to encapsulate the best of atmospheric electronic music in the same way that made Radiohead’s Kid A an amazing piece of work while maintaining their fresh club and dance sensibilities. They have developed along with the genre they helped to define.
Put down the needle, surrender your powder-dusted mirror, and, for God’s sake, ecstasy is SO over — get high on life with Tom and Ed and Come With Us.