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.