UK house producers Doc Daneeka and Benjamin Damage produced "Creeper" around this time last year for 50 Weapons, an eight-minute vehicle for sleek, aerodynamic riffage, an exercise in the supremacy of simplicity. Label heads Modeselektor apparently liked the single so much they commissioned a whole album from the duo and flew them out to Berlin to accomplish the task. The result is They! Live, a lean, confident long-player of stylishly minimal beats rendered in attractive curves and clear, soft tones.
Coming after "Creeper," the way They! Live starts is a little bewildering: "No One" and "Battleships" are lit up by slow-burn organ and sultry vocals from Abigail Wyles, delicate tracks that build naturally with soft, jazzy kicks and gently quaking basslines. But they typify the album's dignity and elegance: in the wrong hands "No One" could easily be a sickly-sweet Burial counterfeit with its pitched-down refrain. The group's clean lines and tight songwriting tell it almost like a pop song. This continues through the whole record: no matter what style or idea is being explored by the duo, it's always executed with efficacy and a sense of cavernous space that gives each track a simultaneously enormous but graceful presence. Even a relatively sprightly song like "Ellipsis Torment" feels starved of nutrition in this vacuum, a bottomless void that gives Daneeka & Damage's house-indebted music a techno tinge.
As a result, They! Live actually slots in quite well with the narrative strand of drowsy beat music that seems to be dominating the dialogue as of late: "Charlottenburg" has all the hallmarks of a banger, glossy chords, hyperactive rimshots and a kick that skips across the surface like a rock on a lake, but it's all doled out in sluggish shades of grey, not quite hazy (the production is too impeccable for that) but sleepy-eyed all the same. That's not to say it's all half-lidded horizons and lucid dreams: an abridged "Creeper" is the album's triumphant centrepiece, and tracks like "Deaf Siren" and "Juggernaut" hint at blow-outs even if they are always carefully reined in.
That's the album's best but strangest quality: Its hybrid of house and techno is a little too out there to fit in with Chicago-friendly revivalists, and it's heavily tranquilized in comparison to many of their peers (or even to Doc Daneeka's own solo work). Taken on its own merits, though, They! Live is a lovely, highly listenable release, flowing effortlessly in a way that most house music albums can only hope for. Whether this collaboration remains a one-off or sprouts further music from the UK duo, They! Live stands as definitive proof of how mutable, accessible and still boldly experimental all this "UK bass" stuff really can be.
Buy Benjamin Damage and Doc Daneeka - They Live! at
Tracklist: Benjamin Damage and Doc Daneeka - They Live! 01. No One feat. Abigail Wyles
02. Battleships feat. Abigail Wyles
03. Deaf Siren
04. Creeper (Album Edit)
06. Halo feat. Abigail Wyles
08. Elipsis Torment
09. Bleach & Penicillin
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