It's been three years since the release of Simian Mobile Disco's much-derided second album, Temporary Pleasures. James Ford and Jas Shaw were upbraided for an over-reliance on star names and spreading them over an unholy mish-mash of styles. Frankly, everyone involved sounded bored and uninspired. The irony was that Ford was making a great success of producing albums for indie heroes like Arctic Monkeys. And, as former members of Simian, Ford and Shaw had been riding the crest of a wave propelled by Justice's genre-fusing remix of "We Are Your Friends"—the finest indie/dance crossover record since the heyday of Primal Scream and Happy Mondays.
The fight back began with 2010's Delicacies. A round-up of the dark, twisted techno EPs put out on SMD's Delicatessen label, it went above and beyond in addressing critics. Part two of that fight back—Unpatterns—sounds like redemption attained. There's some cannily-woven sorcery at work here. Unpatterns is very now, yet by employing key electronic music touchstones it sounds classic as well. Just take "Your Love Ain't Fair." Opening up with a cut-up, discofied vocal, SMD introduce blasts of huge, trad Chicago house synths and underpin it with a thumping bassline attack that's very Bashmore. "Put Your Hands Together" borrows from the looping, peak-time style of French house masters while "Seraphim" is four minutes of handsome techno soul with more than a hint of Photek's "Mine to Give." It features a slo-mo acid breakdown of magisterial beauty and an emotionally wrought vocal sample of Beatles muse-turned-cheesy-Brit-TV-host Cilla Black. Not only is it evidence of expert crate-digging but an ability to wring soul from the unlikeliest of sources.
It's not just laser-guided club bombs, though. Subliminally or not, "Cerulean" mimics Orbital's bleepy, robotic techno style; "The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife" is a fizzing 8-bit exercise with off-kilter rhythms leaving decaying trails of electronic debris behind it like meteor showers. In contrast, "Interference"—Unpatterns' most willfully contemporary-sounding track—is aimed directly at 2 AM Berghain crowds, fusing echo-laden, Scuba-like bass thuds with spattering Detroit techno drum patterns. Unpatterns feels like Simian Mobile Disco's watershed moment. They may have cool alt-pop friends, but they've gone with their heart by beating a path to the dance floor. This is compelling proof they've made the right choice.
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Tracklist: Simian Mobile Disco - Unpatterns 01. I Waited For You
04. A Species Out Of Control
06. Put Your Hands Together
07. The Dream Of The Fisherman's Wife
08. Your Love Ain't Fair