Album Review: Simian Mobile Disco – Unpatterns

By on Thursday, 14th June 2012 at 12:00 pm

Remember nu-rave? When bands like Klaxons and Hadouken! smashed a few synths into the faces of the indie crowd who lapped it up like fluorescent puppies, who dropped it again a year later. The glow sticks ran out and the ‘Make X not Y’ tees suddenly weren’t cool any more. But no sooner had the neon paint dried on the desolate ground of Reading festival that a new breed of British electro rose from the ashes, acts that had more to their sound than whoop, whirr, splat. Artists such as LCD Soundsystem, MSTRKRFT and Simian Mobile Disco.

Forming from the remains of the much-loved Manchester electro-rock outfit Simian, Simian Mobile Disco are the solely electronic offspring of founding members James Ford and Jas Shaw. With two studio albums under their belts, the digital duo have just released their third LP entitled ‘Unpatterns’ after a three year absence. But can it still hold up to their former glory?

Clocking in at just over 50 minutes for nine tracks, it’s not a record of short dancey blasts, but a selection of carefully sculpted electro hits of five minutes or more. However despite the somewhat progressive slant that SMD take toward electronic music, there’s an unshakable sense of deja vu throughout. Opener ‘I Waited For You’ takes influence from Justice with its slow building beat and distorted/echo-effect vocals that begin with such promise of a huge pay-off that never comes. The multi-layered, semi-catchy track is more of an exercise in what you can do with electronics – not necessarily what you should do.

As well as tossing in all the keys and effects to the affray, Simian Mobile Disco love a bit of the minimal with ‘Cerulean’. It’s an almost 7-minute ditty that’s packed with delightful chimes and plinks, and even nods toward 80s new wave but it never fully escalates and fizzles out quietly. Memories of the 90s dance scene come flooding back in the wholly beige ‘Interference’ that feels like it’s trying too hard to be ‘cool’ with a slightly catchy synth line that gets duller faster than a school play about the storage of grain.

The odd tracks that do include vocals simply repeat the song title ad infinitum, except not as memorable or well-orchestrated as Daft Punk‘s ‘Around the World’. Some of the song titles are also cause for curiosity, such as the failed deathcore album ‘A Species Out of Control’ or the inexplicable ‘The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife’. The correlation between fishing and electro isn’t immediately clear, other than you won’t get anywhere in either without a decent hook – which this album severely lacks.

And that’s the main problem with ‘Unpatterns’: there’s nothing to latch onto. The moments of genuine excitement are overshadowed by the repetitive, uninspired nature of the drawn out electronica that fails to start any kind of party. Despite ‘disco’ being in the name, SMD have struggled with this LP to entice any dancing, although there is the odd head-nodding beat to enjoy if you can subject yourself to it.


Simian Mobile Disco’s latest album ‘Unpatterns’ is out now on Wichita Recordings.

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