DJ to Watch: PAX
January 16, 2020
January 16, 2020
In the age of bass drops and heavy subs, many of the electro-music pioneers from the ’90s are isolated due to today’s heavy standard of electronic music. Artists like Fatboy Slim, Kraftwerk, and The Chemical Brothers were some of the first to popularize electronic music and also bring electronic music, clubs, artists, and raves to the United States. A lot of these “big beat” artists have either stopped making music or have submitted to modern electronic styles. Fans and artists of big beat electro had given up, but not the Chemical Brothers. Earlier this month the Chemical Brother’s ninth studio album, No Geography, was released and it’s bringing back everything we loved about classic electro and adding some captivating modern twists.
The Chemical Brothers, composed of Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons, pressed a reset button on their music and thought critically about what they wanted for the future of electronic music. Their last album, Born in the Echoes, was a funky, borderline-pop mix of indie collaborations from Beck and St. Vincent and, in some critics view, lacked their unique experimental style. No Geography takes us back to the origins of electronic music with classic synths combined with a disco-inspired four-on-the-floor rhythmic pattern that sounds like something straight from the golden age of techno. “Got to Keep On” is a perfect example of this, but what makes it so good isn’t the nostalgia. The track sounds like a psychedelic, Pink Floyd-esque ballad with bells, funky plucks, and entrancing vocals. The best part of the song is the humorous buildup and drop that pokes fun of what modern electronic fans might consider to be the most important aspect of a track. Similar songs are “MAH” (a personal favorite), the title track “No Geography”, and “Free Yourself.” They all have subtle differences, but these tracks seem to be the most radio-friendly and entertaining.
While the tracks mentioned above seem to be gaining the most attention, a lot of the musical gold is found in tracks like “The Eve of Destruction” and “Gravity Drops.” These highly experimental songs are filled with the very aspects that make artists like the Chemical Brothers so talented. As the introduction to No Geography, “The Eve of Destruction” establishes some important themes that will be referred back to in later tracks. Creepy, techno vocals are sung alongside upbeat nostalgic synths adding to the avant-garde aspect of the album. With lyrics, “Human minds are simplified” and “Sacrifice is justified”, right away the album establishes a deeper meaning which is later continued in tracks like “Catch Me I’m Falling” and “We’ve Got to Try.”
No Geography isn’t what we were expecting from the Chemical Brothers, but it’s somehow exactly what we wanted. It’s interesting to hear modern music from the very artists who popularized electronic sound. In a recent interview, Ed Simmons explains his passion for electronic music, “For me, growing up, dance music was a way to socialize. It’s how I found Tom, it’s how I found a lot of friends, a sense of community. It was about creating something that brings people out, that brings people together.” No Geography is an album that has significance for anyone who listens to any kind of electronic music, it’s an album that unites the origins of electronic sound with the modern day.
Photo: Hamish Brown