Simian Mobile Disco are a rare breed of artist, in that the duo began as an offshoot of a larger group whose popularity eventually surpassed the original. You’ve likely (well, hopefully) heard Justice’s funky masterpiece of a track, “We Are Your Friends,” but unless you’re the type to do a little research, you may not have realized that it’s a rework of Simian’s “Never Be Alone.”
This was the electro-pop band from which SMD arose, as Jas Shaw and James Ford’s dabbling earned them acclaim and attention from the UK’s electronic music scene. While the group have already released two studio albums and a compilation LP, Unpatterns was my introduction to Simian Mobile Disco. I’ve since gone back and listened to a bit of their catalogue, but nothing has grabbed me the same way this release has.
The first single, ”Seraphim,” is a hazy, atmospheric jam built around what sounds like an old soul sample. As this site’s founder Matt suggested, it sounds like something The xx might be getting down to as they work on their new album. While clearly a track to dance to, it forsakes the classic four-on-the-floor beat in favour of a swung rhythm, featuring TR-909’s bathed in reverb and lush synths that create a fearsome, commanding groove.
Another standout, “Interference,” is glitchy and unpredictable, bouncing between chords and sounds that are often unexpected, but always interesting. The track is also rife with the 808 and 909 drums sounds that are so common throughout the LP. “The Dream Of The Fisherman’s Wife” sounds like the offspring of a marriage between SBTRKT and James Blake, and “Your Love Ain’t Fair” shuffles along in a manner not dissimilar to much of Jamie xx’s work.
But while the album’s opener, “I Waited For You” introduces the record wonderfully with a blissful rush of synths and white noise, it’s followed by the somewhat stagnant minimalism of “Cerulean.” The closing track also suffers from the same lack of dynamism, with the track fizzling out into a mess of synthesizers (where one might have hoped for a more engaging denouement).
All of these tracks share common sounds and grooves that will immediately trigger recognition in the listener, but in most cases they don’t feel tired or predictable. In a recent interview with the Guardian, the duo emphasized their disapproval of ‘all this 135bpm stuff with a Rihanna a cappella over the top,’ citing classic techno and electronica as the inspiration for their production and arrangement. It’s fairly clear what goals the duo set out to accomplish with this album, using tested and tried methods and sounds to produce music that sounds right at home in a contemporary setting. It’s an admirable effort, a record that I would be happy to hear in almost any setting from a club to my kitchen.