Albums

€13.99

Trip Hop - Released January 1, 1995 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Sélection du Mercury Prize
Tricky's debut, Maxinquaye, is an album of stunning sustained vision and imagination, a record that sounds like it has no precedent as it boldly predicts a new future. Of course, neither sentiment is true. Much of the music on Maxinquaye has its roots in the trip-hop pioneered by Massive Attack, which once featured Tricky, and after the success of this record, trip-hop became fashionable, turning into safe, comfortable music to be played at upscale dinner parties thrown by hip twenty and thirtysomethings. Both of these sentiments are true, yet Maxinquaye still manages to retain its power; years later, it can still sound haunting, disturbing, and surprising after countless spins. It's an album that exists outside of time and outside of trends, a record whose clanking rhythms, tape haze, murmured vocals, shards of noise, reversed gender roles, alt-rock asides, and soul samplings create a ghostly netherworld fused with seductive menace and paranoia. It also shimmers with mystery, coming not just from Tricky -- whose voice isn't even heard until the second song on the record -- but his vocalist, Martine, whose smoky singing lures listeners into the unrelenting darkness of the record. Once they're there, Maxinquaye offers untold treasures. There is the sheer pleasure of coasting by on the sound of the record, how it makes greater use of noise and experimental music than anything since the Bomb Squad and Public Enemy. Then, there's the tip of the hat to PE with a surreal cover of "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos," sung by Martine and never sounding like a postmodernist in-joke. Other references and samples register subconsciously -- while Isaac Hayes' "Ike's Rap II" flows through "Hell Is Around the Corner" and the Smashing Pumpkins are even referenced in the title of "Pumpkin," Shakespear's Sister and the Chantels slip by, while Michael Jackson's "Bad" thrillingly bleeds into "Expressway to Your Heart" on "Brand New You're Retro." Lyrics flow in and out of consciousness, with lingering, whispered promises suddenly undercut by veiled threats and bursts of violence. Then, there's how music that initially may seem like mood pieces slowly reveal their ingenious structure and arrangement and register as full-blown songs, or how the alternately languid and chaotic rhythms finally compliment each other, turning this into a bracing sonic adventure that gains richness and resonance with each listen. After all, there's so much going on here -- within the production, the songs, the words -- it remains fascinating even after all of its many paths have been explored (which certainly can't be said of the trip-hop that followed, including records by Tricky). And that air of mystery that can be impenetrable upon the first listen certainly is something that keeps Maxinquaye tantalizing after it's become familiar, particularly because, like all good mysteries, there's no getting to the bottom of it, no matter how hard you try. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
€8.49

Electro - Released January 1, 2013 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music - Sélection du Mercury Prize
Cunning if not particularly novel synthesists, Surrey's Guy and Howard Lawrence draw from several styles and sub-styles of dance music -- house, garage, dubstep, bass -- and add pop appeal on Settle, their first album. The Lawrences began humbly with MySpace uploads of scruffy, sampling-enhanced dubstep tracks, but they quickly accelerated to making lustrous, impeccably assembled tracks with varied vocalists. Between October 2012 and April 2013, the duo released a trio of singles that fared no worse than number 11 on the U.K. pop chart: the soaring shuffle-tech of "Latch" (with a bursting, almost overdone lead from Sam Smith), the undeniable crossover house track "White Noise" (a perfectly timed partnership with upcoming duo AlunaGeorge), and the rush-inducing so-called future garage of "You & Me" (featuring Eliza Doolittle, something of a sequel to their fine remix of Jessie Ware's "Running"). Those hits appear here. Without them, the album would still be generous. Few tracks, however, will appease those who bemoaned the duo's departure from relying on sampled and treated vocals. The sluggish "Second Chance," where a downcast Kelis line dissolves into mush, and the rattling "Grab Her!" -- its refrain pinched from Slum Village -- are no match for past sample-heavy delights like "Carnival," "Flow," or "What's in Your Head." The new vocal cuts are either near the level of the hits or are merely pleasant. Howard Lawrence's lead turn on "F for You" approaches the sweetness of Scritti Politti's Green Gartside. Teenaged Sasha Keable sounds wise beyond her years on "Voices," one of the album's deeper house tracks ("I tried to dismiss what you taught me"). London Grammar's Hannah Reid has the unenviable task of following Doolittle, Jamie Woon, and Jessie Ware but delivers one of the most heartrending leads on "Help Me Lose My Mind." Like the closing songs on the first three Basement Jaxx albums, the song initially comes across as an insignificant finale but gradually bubbles to the top as a discreet highlight. Considering all the shrewd alliances and its polished attack, Settle seems like it was designed to be 2013's acceptable dance album. That said, any purist who denies its pleasures is a crank. ~ Andy Kellman
€10.99

Electro - Released January 1, 2013 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music - Sélection du Mercury Prize
Cunning if not particularly novel synthesists, Surrey's Guy and Howard Lawrence draw from several styles and sub-styles of dance music -- house, garage, dubstep, bass -- and add pop appeal on Settle, their first album. The Lawrences began humbly with MySpace uploads of scruffy, sampling-enhanced dubstep tracks, but they quickly accelerated to making lustrous, impeccably assembled tracks with varied vocalists. Between October 2012 and April 2013, the duo released a trio of singles that fared no worse than number 11 on the U.K. pop chart: the soaring shuffle-tech of "Latch" (with a bursting, almost overdone lead from Sam Smith), the undeniable crossover house track "White Noise" (a perfectly timed partnership with upcoming duo AlunaGeorge), and the rush-inducing so-called future garage of "You & Me" (featuring Eliza Doolittle, something of a sequel to their fine remix of Jessie Ware's "Running"). Those hits appear here. Without them, the album would still be generous. Few tracks, however, will appease those who bemoaned the duo's departure from relying on sampled and treated vocals. The sluggish "Second Chance," where a downcast Kelis line dissolves into mush, and the rattling "Grab Her!" -- its refrain pinched from Slum Village -- are no match for past sample-heavy delights like "Carnival," "Flow," or "What's in Your Head." The new vocal cuts are either near the level of the hits or are merely pleasant. Howard Lawrence's lead turn on "F for You" approaches the sweetness of Scritti Politti's Green Gartside. Teenaged Sasha Keable sounds wise beyond her years on "Voices," one of the album's deeper house tracks ("I tried to dismiss what you taught me"). London Grammar's Hannah Reid has the unenviable task of following Doolittle, Jamie Woon, and Jessie Ware but delivers one of the most heartrending leads on "Help Me Lose My Mind." Like the closing songs on the first three Basement Jaxx albums, the song initially comes across as an insignificant finale but gradually bubbles to the top as a discreet highlight. Considering all the shrewd alliances and its polished attack, Settle seems like it was designed to be 2013's acceptable dance album. That said, any purist who denies its pleasures is a crank. ~ Andy Kellman
€11.99
€7.99

Electro - Released June 3, 2013 | Domino Recording Co

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Pitchfork: Best New Music - Hi-Res Audio - Sélection du Mercury Prize
Between Insides and its follow-up Immunity, Jon Hopkins worked with King Creosote on the charming Diamond Mine, which set the Scottish singer/songwriter's ruminations to backdrops that were half rustic folk and half evocative washes of sound. Immunity isn't nearly as acoustic as that collaboration was, but its gently breezy feel lingers on several of these songs: "Breathe This Air" expands from a pounding house rhythm into a roomy piano meditation that recalls Max Richter as much as Diamond Mine, while the title track -- which happens to feature King Creosote's vocals -- closes the album on a whispery note. This feeling extends to the rest of the album in less obvious ways; Immunity is often a more blended, and more expansive-sounding work than Insides, particularly on songs like the Brian Eno-esque "Abandon Window" and "Form by Firelight," which offers a playful study in contrasts in the way it bunches into glitches and then unspools a peaceful piano melody. Some of Immunity's most impressive moments expand on the blend of rhythm and atmosphere Hopkins emphasized on Insides: "Collider" uses sighing vocals courtesy of Dark Horses' Lisa Elle as punctuation for almost imperceptibly shifting beats and a heavy bassline that helps the track build into a moody, elegant whole; meanwhile, the aptly named "Sun Harmonics" turns Elle's sighs into something angelic over the course of 12 serene minutes. Despite these highlights, the album still reflects how Hopkins' polished approach is something of a blessing and a curse. Immunity shows how he's grown, in his subtle, accomplished way, as a composer and producer, yet its tracks occasionally feel like the surroundings for a focal point that never arrives. Even if it doesn't always demand listeners' attention, Immunity is never less than thoughtfully crafted. ~ Heather Phares
€20.49

Dance - Released February 22, 2013 | Asylum

Distinctions Sélection du Mercury Prize
Home is the debut album from British drum'n'bass outfit Rudimental and follows their breakthrough 2012 U.K. number one hit single Feel the Love. Delivering an album of slickly produced anthemic stadium drum'n'bass tracks, Home sees the quartet also take influence from R&B and U.K. garage. Guest vocals come from the likes of Emeli Sandé, John Newman, and Becky Hill.
€6.99

Dance - Released April 26, 2013 | Asylum

Distinctions Sélection du Mercury Prize
€10.99

Dance - Released July 2, 2012 | Wall of Sound

Distinctions Sélection du Mercury Prize
Really, the title says it all -- Decksanddrumsandrockandroll is about as close to rock & roll as big-beat techno is going to get. Taking their cue from the Chemical Brothers, the Bath-based duo Propellerheads offer a set of pummeling, ultra-loud beats that may dabble in funk, house, hip-hop, soul, and rap, but which all come out sounding as aggressive as rock. Not that there's anything wrong with that -- at its best, big beat is as invigorating as any other music -- but Propellerheads don't have the finesse, innovation, or style of the Chemical Brothers, the leading proponents of big beat. When they shake the beat up, whether on the wah-wah-drenched "Velvet Pants" or the pair of John Barry/James Bond tributes (a reworking of their cover of "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" and "History Repeating"), it sounds like a tactical move, since they know they can't spend the entire album on thundering dance cuts like "Bang On!" and "Take California." That said, Decksanddrumsandrockandroll remains a strong big beat album, even if it ultimately doesn't reveal anything new, because the duo knows how to craft a hard-hitting, infectious rhythm track. And while that doesn't make them the next Chemical Brothers, it does make them the best in this style since the Chemicals. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
€6.99

Electro - Released April 11, 2011 | Because Music Ltd.

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Sélection Les Inrocks - 4 étoiles Technikart - Sélection du Mercury Prize
€12.49

Dance - Released January 1, 2011 | Polydor Records

Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama - The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Pitchfork: Best New Music - Sélection Les Inrocks - 3 étoiles Technikart - Sélection du Mercury Prize
During 2009 and 2010, James Blake issued a clutch of abstract dubstep singles on Hemlock, Hessle Audio, and R&S. Each release increased anticipation for the producer’s next move as he continually shuffled the deck on his bristly, off-center, and generally groove-less tracks, some of which incorporated vocals -- he sampled Kelis and Aaliyah on “CMYK,” for instance -- or his own voice, heavily processed. The Klavierwerke EP, the last in the series, was the most stripped down of the bunch. The day after it was released, Blake uploaded a video for his dramatic cover version of Feist’s “Limit to Your Love,” which indicated that the focus on his voice and sparse backing would continue. Consisting of Blake's pensive vocal, a simple but affecting piano, and recurring beat weighed down by sub-bass, it’s one of the most straightforward tracks on Blake’s brief debut album. The following “Give Me My Month” deviates most from Blake’s vinyl output; it’s a wistful piano-and-voice ballad that has far more in common with Procol Harum than any given contemporary linked to Blake. The rest of the tracks are more like exercises in sound manipulation and reduction than songs. The approach is no fault, but Blake pares it down to such an extent that the material occasionally sounds not just tentative but feeble, fatigued, even, as on “I Never Learnt to Share,” where one creaky line is repeated and treated throughout, placed over swelling synthesizer frequencies and a stamping beat. “The Wilhelm Scream,” one of the album’s highlights, is far more effective, a ballad with a pulse that increases in intensity with skillfully deployed reverb and surging waves of soft noise. ~ Andy Kellman
€12.49

Dance - Released January 1, 2011 | Polydor Records

Distinctions Sélection du Mercury Prize
€9.99

Dance - Released January 1, 2008 | Polydor Records

Distinctions Sélection du Mercury Prize
€13.99

House - Released September 1, 2008 | XL

Distinctions Sélection du Mercury Prize
€13.99

Electro - Released January 29, 2007 | Polydor Records

Distinctions Sélection du Mercury Prize
Breathlessly anointed by the British press as pioneers of the "new rave" movement, Klaxons aren't quite as radical on Myths of the Near Future as they've been made out to be -- but they're not as grating as the hype around them would suggest, either. Their sound is closer to dance-punk than revamped Madchester giddiness, more like Bloc Party before they got very, very serious than the Happy Mondays or Stone Roses. "Atlantis to Interzone" is the band's most overtly dancey song. Opening with shouts of "DJ!" sirens and guitars that sound sampled, but aren't, then segueing to beats and rhythms that soar and plunge like a roller coaster, the song is the closest approximation of what a "new rave" would actually sound like. Fortunately, though, Klaxons don't limit themselves to a strict diet of shouty vocals, angular guitars, and loping basslines (though these are all present and accounted for on less interesting tracks like "Magick" and "Four Horsemen of 2012"). Myths of the Near Future's layered, deep-focus production prevents the band's sound from getting too boxed-in, elevating "Forgotten Works" and "Isle of Her" with choral vocals and a chilly atmosphere reminiscent of Gary Numan, "Ashes to Ashes" Bowie, and the colder side of Wire. Paradoxically, Klaxons' more classic leanings are what make Myths of the Near Future's best songs sound fresh. "As Above, So Below," "Gravity's Rainbow," "Golden Skans," and "It's Not Over Yet" range from brisk, witty pop to radiant ballads, but they all boast hooks and melodies that many of Klaxons' more straightforward indie contemporaries would be proud to call their own. It's a little uneven and definitely not the reinvention of music as we know it, but Myths of the Near Future is a strong enough debut to survive a level of hype that has crushed other bands, and enjoyable enough to return to when the hype dies down. ~ Heather Phares
€13.99

Electro - Released January 29, 2007 | Polydor Records

Distinctions Sélection du Mercury Prize
€13.99

Electro - Released June 25, 2001 | XL Recordings

Distinctions Sélection du Mercury Prize
Sophomore album blues from a pair of producers who just want to party all night and make a few tracks during the day? Not a chance. Two years of globetrotting as house superstars fortunately haven't dulled the keen blade of Basement Jaxx's production style. So raw you can't believe they spent over an hour per track, so perfect you're glad they stopped noodling about long before most producers would, and so poppy they should get picked up by commercial radio in America as well as the rest of the world, Rooty is the second straight triumph from a pair of producer/DJs who look set to carry the torch for dancefloor electronica in the years to come. Titled after the duo's just-recently-closed club night, this is a true party album -- shot through with no-attention-span tangents, bridges, and interrupted samples, nowhere better than on the psychedelic soul of "Broken Dreams," with its Tijuana Brass horns and Middle Eastern flute. Though it's missing the genre-spanning flair and red-line energy that made 1999's Remedy the best dance album of the '90s, Rooty comes very close, with a similar emphasis on swinging rhythms and slapping percussion. It's much funkier than Remedy, much closer to commercial pop, and much more sensuous, with several tracks of moaning, juiced-up funk from the Prince playbook. The opener, "Romeo," is groovy and luscious enough to be the next single from Destiny's Child (with a tad more vocal histrionics), and almost every track features vocalists who sound less like professional singers (or flavor-of-the-month robots) and more like they've been tapped as finalists at a posh karaoke bar. (A few of those female-sounding vocalists are actually the Jaxx themselves, altered slightly.) Add a little filtered disco ("Jus 1 Kiss"), a track of rowdy New York house (the Gary Numan-sampling "Where's Your Head At," with background shouting from Erick Morillo and Junior Sanchez), bleepy acid house ("Crazy Girl"), and some P-Funked-up house ("Breakaway") and the result is a stunning, diverse album that's not only an immediate winner but a great album down the line as well. You can take the boys out of Brixton, but you just can't take Brixton out of the boys. ~ John Bush
€18.99

Electro - Released May 23, 2000 | Hard Hands

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Sélection du Mercury Prize
€13.99

Dance - Released January 1, 1999 | Virgin Records

Distinctions Sélection du Mercury Prize
By the time of the Chemical Brothers' third album, Surrender, the big beat phenomenon they had done much to engender was more apt to be heard on a soft drink commercial than the world's hipper dancefloors. And with the growing omnipresence of big beat's simplistic party vibes threatening to cave in the entire scene, Tom and Ed came to grips with what is -- compared to their previous work -- a house record. The pounding four-on-the-floor thump of tracks like "Music:Response," "Got Glint," and the duo's take on KLF-style stadium house for the single "Hey Boy Hey Girl" signals that this is a transition record for the Chemical Brothers, one that could eventually take them back into the straight-ahead dance mainstream status enjoyed by acts from Daft Punk to Armand Van Helden. The irony here is that even considering the changes, Surrender still feels very similar to its predecessors. The focus on wave-of-sound production, buckets full of old-school vocal samples, and various sirens and beatbox effects sound like they were lifted wholesale from their breakout album, Dig Your Own Hole, or their first release, Exit Planet Dust. And while a few of the vocal tracks focus on new collaborations, they're along the same lines, making it tough to spot the differences from past albums -- the quavering British vocals of Beth Orton have given way to the quavering American vocals of Hope Sandoval, and the Charlatans' Tim Burgess is replaced by New Order's reclusive Bernard Sumner (a sure sign that the Chemicals have moved up a notch on the music-industry food chain). Also, two returning guests (Noel Gallagher and a member of Mercury Rev, here Jonathan Donahue) make very similar contributions to the record in the identical places they appeared on Dig Your Own Hole. Even besides its simpy title, the Gallagher track "Let Forever Be" is the very same electronica update of the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows" that made their 1996 collaboration single "Setting Sun" a number one hit in Britain. And the Donahue track, "Dream On," is very similar to the indie psychedelia of "The Private Psychedelic Reel" from Dig Your Own Hole. Sure, the Chemical Brothers do this type of music very well; it's just that Surrender isn't quite the change of direction they'd been aiming for -- it's simply the same great album they'd made two years earlier. ~ John Bush
€13.99

Trip Hop - Released January 1, 1998 | Circa

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Sélection du Mercury Prize
Increasingly ignored amidst the exploding trip-hop scene, Massive Attack finally returned in 1998 with Mezzanine, a record immediately announcing not only that the group was back, but that they'd recorded a set of songs just as singular and revelatory as on their debut, almost a decade back. It all begins with a stunning one-two-three-four punch: "Angel," "Risingson," "Teardrop," and "Inertia Creeps." Augmenting their samples and keyboards with a studio band, Massive Attack open with "Angel," a stark production featuring pointed beats and a distorted bassline that frames the vocal (by group regular Horace Andy) and a two-minute flame-out with raging guitars. "Risingson" is a dense, dark feature for Massive Attack themselves (on production as well as vocals), with a kitchen sink's worth of dubby effects and reverb. "Teardrop" introduces another genius collaboration -- with Elizabeth Fraser from Cocteau Twins -- from a production unit with a knack for recruiting gifted performers. The blend of earthy with ethereal shouldn't work at all, but Massive Attack pull it off in fine fashion. "Inertia Creeps" could well be the highlight, another feature for just the core threesome. With eerie atmospherics, fuzz-tone guitars, and a wealth of effects, the song could well be the best production from the best team of producers the electronic world had ever seen. Obviously, the rest of the album can't compete, but there's certainly no sign of the side-two slump heard on Protection, as both Andy and Fraser return for excellent, mid-tempo tracks ("Man Next Door" and "Black Milk," respectively). ~ John Bush
€12.49

Dance - Released January 1, 1997 | Virgin Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Sélection du Mercury Prize
€13.99

Electro - Released January 1, 1997 | Astralwerks

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Sélection du Mercury Prize
Taking the swirling eclecticism of their post-techno debut, Exit Planet Dust, to the extreme, the Chemical Brothers blow all stylistic boundaries down with their second album, Dig Your Own Hole. Bigger, bolder, and more adventurous than Exit Planet Dust, Dig Your Own Hole opens with the slamming cacophony of "Block Rockin' Beats," where hip-hop meets hardcore techno, complete with a Schoolly D sample and an elastic bass riff. Everything is going on at once in "Block Rockin' Beats," and it sets the pace for the rest of the record, where songs and styles blur into a continuous kaleidoscope of sound. It rocks hard enough for the pop audience, but it doesn't compromise either the Chemicals' sound or the adventurous, futuristic spirit of electronica -- even "Setting Sun," with its sly homages to the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows" and Noel Gallagher's twisting, catchy melody, doesn't sound like retro psychedelia; it sounds vibrant, unexpected, and utterly contemporary. There are no distinctions between different styles, and the Chemicals sound as if they're having fun, building Dig Your Own Hole from fragments of the past, distorting the rhythms and samples, and pushing it forward with an intoxicating rush of synthesizers, electronics, and layered drum machines. The Chemical Brothers might not push forward into self-consciously arty territories like some of their electronic peers, but they have more style and focus, constructing a blindingly innovative and relentlessly propulsive album that's an exhilarating listen -- one that sounds positively new but utterly inviting at the same time. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Genre

Electro in the magazine