Review: Simian Mobile Disco – Unpatterns
Published on June 14th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
James Ford and Jas Shaw’s third studio album as Simian Mobile Disco is refreshing in its refusal to pander to mainstream tastes, especially when it would be so easy for them to cash in on their by-now-established status. Basically, if they were trying to write a hit then they’ve made a right mess of it.
The strange textures and juxtapositions abundant on Unpatterns are more often than not rather pleasing, but this doesn’t make it any easier to identify what purpose it would be fit for. Dance floor? Too weird. Comedown/chill-out? Too jarring. Exploratory brain food? Too consistent of beat, but getting warmer.
As much as Rocksucker misses the original Simian – their 2001 debut Chemistry is What We Are is to mushrooms as Screamdelica is to ecstasy, while the following year’s We Are Your Friends somehow manages to sound fresher and more original with each passing year (Justice vs Simian lift notwithstanding) – it’s good to see Ford and Shaw using their elevated profile to continue making music for the sheer joy of it rather than trying to cultivate a nest-egg in one fell, shameful swoop.
Opener “I Waited For You” comes on vaguely clubby with its ravey synth pads and rubbery bass, before “Cerulean” creates a pleasingly ‘creeping’ vibe with chewy rhythmic clamps, whirring synth diamonds and inquisitive Aphex Twin-like plinks. (You can tell these guys have still got it from the possibly impregnable descriptions provided in that last sentence – apologies if they’re of absolutely no help whatsoever.)
“Seraphim” starts out sounding like a monged “Macarena” – zoiks! – and resolves itself with euphoric female vocal samples (“Why can’t you be where I want you to be?” – we would like to extend that question to the other former members of Simian, namely Simon Lord and Alex MacNaghten) atop a shuffly, hand-clappy, old-school beat.
After the paranoid comedown ambience of “A Species Out of Control”, “Interference” casts disorientingly woozy synth clangs over the near-ever-present steady club beat, “Put Your Hands Together” brings perhaps the album’s catchiest moment with its consummately creepy rave-up and repeated vocal refrain, while “Your Love Ain’t Far” must have something about it if Rocksucker’s weird, involuntary dancing was anything to go by.
The sleek, fizzy, shuffly, blaring psych-house of “Pareidola” makes for a suitable ending to this intriguing record, which at ones whets our thirst for the Simian of old and cements our respect for the Simian of now. One thing’s for damn sure: this comes from a different realm altogether to the new Chicane album.
Rocksucker says: Four Quails out of Five!
Unpatterns is out not on Wichita. For more information, including a list of live dates, please visit www.simianmobiledisco.co.uk