Posted on July 18th, 2015 (2:00 pm) by Heather Starks

These days, most bands struggle to stay together long enough to see anything past their first record release. The same cannot be said of the Chemical Brothers, whose twenty plus year career has been the stuff dreams (and legends) are made of. Along with acts like Daft Punk, Fatboy Slim, and Moby, they pioneered an explosion of dance music in the '90s that paved the way for any and all EDM you hear today. However, the two are not one in the same according to Tom Rowlands: "That kind of world, even though it’s dance music, seems so far removed from our world of dance music." Rowlands and partner Ed Simons have never been concerned with what's in or trending, choosing to remain slightly left of center when it comes to making their music. Instead of riding the wave of big drops and hyper spastic rhythms, they deliver an album like 2010's Further, an understated and melodic collection of songs and videos that border on art installation think piece.

While there's no denying that there has been plenty of bombastic bass lines in their past, they also take inspiration from rock, jazz, techno, funk and just about anything else they can get their hands on. Born In the Echoes keeps that tradition alive by combining unexpected guest artists with a veritable smorgasbord of musical styles and refusing to play the nostalgia card. Like Rowlands said, "Continually harking back to some golden age is daft. It’s like people in the 80s wanting to make records that sound like Tommy Steele. It’s a long time ago now, isn’t it?"

Despite not releasing an album in the past five years, Rowlands and Simons have remained independently busy. Simons returned to what he refers to as unspecified academic pursuits while Rowlands has been playing producer for other artists as well as writing a song with Lorde for the third Hunger Games soundtrack. Despite all of this, they found time to come together and make what may be the last Chemical Brothers album we hear for some time. Due to his endless quest for knowledge, Simons won't even be touring with Rowlands in support of this album, replaced instead by their visual collaborator, Adam Smith. The thought that this could possibly be their send off puts undue pressure on an album that probably won't be accepted by hardcore Chemical Brothers fans, due to its willingness to include more radio friendly fare. Then again, those fans haven't been happy with anything that came after Exit Planet Dust so take that news as you will.

If indeed Born in the Echoes turns out to be their last foray as The Chemical Brothers, they are definitely going out with a bang. It may not be their best album to date but between songs like the acid washed "EML Ritual" and the artsy "Under Neon Lights" (featuring St. Vincent), there is enough of the new and old Chemical brothers to keep most fans busy dancing well into the night. Things get off to a rip roaring start with "Sometimes I Feel So Deserted" and "Go," the latter of which features a guest spot by Q-Tip, rapping in syncopated harmony over the driving bass line. This the second such collaboration between the two vastly different artists and they work together far better than one might anticipate. The unexpected seems to be the running theme of this album, as the next song teams them up with the weird and wonderful St. Vincent for "Under Neon Lights." Apply her uniquely haunting voice over a slowly simmering pot of madness, throw in a catchy as hell flute like synth melody, and you’ve got something strange and brilliant all at once.

The first half of the album comes at you hard and fast, alternating between hip house, acid house, and techno to create an energetic opening act. The second half is where the psychedelic side of the Chemical Brothers rears its loopy head, specifically on "Taste of Honey." A distant sounding voice warns, "If you don't have no money/you won't get no honey," followed by the sound of a bee buzzing around which, full disclosure here, if first listened to in a pair of headphones may cause you to swing wildly at non existent bees. Cate Le Bon makes a cameo on the title track "Born In the Echoes" and with its winding bass line and simplistic drum beat it's more Velvet Underground than noisy club banger. Bringing their career full circle, "Wide Open" boasts an appearance by fellow '90s staple Beck, on what is probably the most disappointing cut of the entire album. Beck's voice sounds tired and unenthused and the song itself does nothing to convince you otherwise.

Keeping anything, especially a band together for over twenty years is a monumental accomplishment. Without the innumerable contributions made to electronic music by the Chemical Brothers, it's highly unlikely it would be enjoying the resurgence it has been these past few years. Born in the Echoes wasn't made to prove anything because no further evidence is required to cement their legacy. If anything, it's a reminder to the new generation of EDM that what they are doing is just a small branch on a much larger tree and that the old guard still knows how to do it better.

Track List:

  1. Sometimes I Feel So Deserted
  2. Go
  3. Under Neon Lights
  4. EML Ritual
  5. I'll See You There
  6. Just Bang
  7. Reflexion
  8. Taste of Honey
  9. Born in the Echoes
  10. Radiate
  11. Wide Open
The Chemical Brothers Born in the Echoes Album Art
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

76 / 100
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