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The seven-year itch
on August 11, 2007
On a business trip to London in 2000, my father bought a copy of "Behind The Sun" as a souvenir for me. Having been raised to that point on an unlikely combination of family-friendly southern radio pop, German industrial, and Mike Oldfield, it took me months (literally) before I was able to appreciate Nick Bracegirdle's artistry. Eventually, though, "Behind the Sun" and "Far from the Maddening Crowds" earned permanent places in my personal list of the top-ten albums of all time -- even if I find something better eventually, these will stay on principle alone, to say nothing of their qualifications.
It's been seven years since Nick Bracegirdle put out a new album. In that time, I discovered a wide range of electronica to fill the void -- Jean-Michel Jarre, Orbital, Massive Attack, Rinocerose, TranceControl, Royksopp, Portal (local trance group from England), more Mike Oldfield -- and much of it is worthy of its own praise, but none of it was Chicane. I suppose it is for this reason that I'm dissapointed that "Somersault" is *also* not Chicane.
The album isn't *bad* -- I don't want to convey that by any means. Even at its Euro-trashiest, this album is listenable, and the second half of the album (Tracks 5-10) are better than 95% of the club tracks ever made. But after waiting for seven years to hear "Behind the Sun II" or something to that effect, the poppiness of this album leaves something to be desired. To be fair, my anticipation was based on the assumption that the never-ending stream of delays was due to Nick slaving away, Mozart-style, trying to compose an "album to end all electronica albums" -- but in reality, he was on tour almost the entire time.
Excepting tracks 4 and 10 (both of which are classic Brian Eno soundscapes that Nick does so well), the new album has continuous vocals and continuous dance beats, and my reaction to this is so: If I want to hear people talking, I can go outside, and if I want to hear dance beats, I can go to a club. The reason I love "Behind the Sun" and "Far from the Maddening Crowds" is because they are the antithesis of all that. They are sonic artistry, pure and simple.
Nick, I like your style and I don't want you to be Brian Eno, but I don't want to hear techno-pop either.
-- UPDATE 7/13/2009 --
Okay, I need to revisit this. I finally got a good pair of headphones, the kind with the silicone earplug that blocks out background noise, and the guy who sings on most of the tracks really isn't that bad. It's not the ideal kind of voice for music with lyrics, in my opinion, but I think a lot of the whiney sound actually comes from post-processing -- I think the producers muted the lower frequencies of the guy's voice so they wouldn't compete with the bass in the music.
That being said, I'm not often in the mood for electronic music with vocals, so I still look forward to Chicane's next instrumental album.