Finally following up their debut Headstates, Slam sound surprisingly unchanged after five long years, welcome news for fans of their clean, classic sound and sleek production tastes. Despite spear-heading the movement into new territory for electronic dance -- specifically, tech-house and nu breaks -- with releases on their Soma label and frequent DJ dates, for Alien Radio the duo again looked back to the moody, evocative sound (and synthpads) of classic techno and acid house from the late '80s. And similar to Photek's reinvention of himself as a house producer on 2000's Solaris, it can only benefit from the recruitment of two house-influenced vocalists, Tyrone Palmer and Dot Allison. Palmer's two tracks, "LifeTimes" and "Eyes of Your Soul," are unapologetically dramatic, emotional tracks; as on Photek's material, though the spare beats and straightforward effects may sound rather dated, good producers (and good tracks) shine through no matter the means to their end. "Narco Tourists," another collaboration track (with James Lavelle's trip-hop project U.N.K.L.E., minus DJ Shadow), sounds practically untouched by the Mo' Wax headz, except for the barrage of beats, while Dot Allison's track "Visions" has the imperial, classicist grandeur of prime Orbital. One of the few direct missteps on Alien Radio comes when Meikle and McMillan attempt to right a wrong by including a new remix of their classic single "Positive Education"; the experiment renders the song up-to-date but lacking the spirit of the original. That's a good clue to the major problem of Alien Radio -- Slam again show themselves as great producers, but they've missed the original spirit of Headstates.
© John Bush /TiVo