Fresh from their triumphant laser-firing headline set at Glastonbury, Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons, a.k.a. big beat pioneers The Chemical Brothers, now return with their first studio effort in five years, Born in the Echoes.
For a duo renowned for pushing the boundaries of the electronic world, it’s a little surprising to hear that the first half of their long-awaited follow-up to 2010’s Further appears so safe and overly-familiar.
The supercharged robotic electro of opener “Sometimes I Feel So Deserted” sounds like an extension of their London Olympics “Velodrome” theme; previous collaborators Q-Tip and Ali Love provide a sense of déjà vu on the motivational electro-funk of “Go” and the unsettling techno of “EML Ritual” respectively; while “I’ll See You There” possesses the same kind of “Tomorrow Never Knows”-esque psychedelia vibes as their 90s work with Noel Gallagher.
Although the latter hook-up with the former A Tribe Called Quest MC stands up to the best of The Chemical Brothers’ back catalog, Born in the Echoes is largely far more intriguing when the pair explore new sonic territories—none more so than on the blissful closer “Wide Open,” which sees Beck melancholically croon over a wave of muted house beats and burbling synths. Elsewhere, the haunting industrial electronica of the St. Vincent-fronted “Under Neon Lights” and the woozy digital ambience of “Radiate” also prove that The Chemical Brothers are far from a creative spent force.
Born in the Echoes can’t be mentioned in the same breath as Exit Planet Dust or Surrender, but released just months after fellow 90s survivors The Prodigy’s derivative comeback, it shows that the new EDM generation can certainly still learn a thing or two from the previous one.