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Chase and Status “Brand New Machine” – Album Review

Mercury Records (2013)

Unfazed by the sell-out accusations that have been thrown at them since their leap from underground drum ‘n’ bass merchants to Rihanna-producing festival headliners, Will Kennard and Saul Milton, aka London duo Chase and Status, continue to straddle genres with wild abandon on their third studio effort, Brand New Machine.

“International” blends wailing sirens, parping horns and Cutty Ranks’ ragamuffin vocals on an abrasive slice of dancehall regularly interrupted by playful bursts of Lovers Rock reggae. “Heaven Knows” channels the brooding trip-hop of the mid-90s Bristol scene before building up to a towering industrial rock finale. Elsewhere, the muffled menacing vocals and bleepy synths of opener “Gun Metal Grey” sound like a ransom call as remixed by trap music maestro Baauer.

Chase and Status’ everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach doesn’t always produce such effervescent results. “Gangsta Boogie,” surely the only West Coast hip-hop track to reference Nickelodeon orange soda-guzzlers Kenan & Kel since Coolio’s theme tune, and the bass-heavy Pusha T collaboration, “Machine Gun,” are both misguided ventures into hip-hop. “What’s Right,” a tasteful but forgettable foray into chill-out electronica featuring Nile Rodgers, proves that not everything the Chic legend has touched this year has necessarily turned to gold.

But despite its title, Brand New Machine is at its most sparkling when it jumps back in time as on “Blk & Blu,” a two-step garage throwback whose plucked pizzicato strings and soulful melodies recall Mercury Prize nominee MJ Cole, the retro Italo house of “Deeper Devotion” and the piano stabs and euphoric vocal loops of warehouse rave pastiche “Count On Me.” Meanwhile, the string-soaked lushness of lead single “Lost & Not Found” and “Like That” could give Emeli Sandé a run for her money when it comes to pastiches of Massive Attack’s “Unfinished Sympathy.”

Fans of Chase and Satus’ earlier Renegade Hardware output might not approve. But with their first ever arena tour set to get underway at the end of this month, Brand New Machine is the kind of super-sized anthemic record they need at this stage of their career.

3.5 / 5 stars     

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About the Author

on MUSIC IS MY OXYGEN WEEKLY.

Jon O'Brien's love of music began as a six-year-old after becoming bizarrely transfixed with the 80s poodle rock of Heart, Europe and Def Leppard. Switching his attention to pop icon Michael Jackson, he then became addicted to the UK Top 40, becoming a rather pointless walking Wikipedia of chart positions in the process. Driving his poor neighbors up the wall while learning to play the drums as a teen, he toyed with the idea of becoming a musician, but in studying Journalism at the University of Central Lancashire, he realized heÕd rather write about music than perform it. Since then, he's written thousands of reviews and biographies on everything from bubblegum pop to death metal, but electronica remains his main passion, with everything from Aphex Twin to Zero 7 in his spare room-consuming record collection. Jon resides in northwest England near Liverpool.

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