Simian Mobile Disco isn’t your mama’s disco.
Hers was steamy and soulful, damp with perspiration and dinged by imperfection. Conversely, the U.K. electronic act is cold, calculating and at times seemingly void of humanity.
But one disco isn’t better than the other. In fact, they could be sister clubs on the same street because they’re both slaves to the rhythm.
The London-based duo of James Ford and James Anthony Shaw are better known for their work with vocal-based acts — Florence + The Machine, Muse, Peaches — yet Simian Mobile Disco’s “Unpatterns” uses vocals sparingly, and then typically chopped up and looped.
A couple of tracks sound like something machines might make for themselves after human extinction: “A Species Out of Control,” for example, evokes a group of household appliances working together like a post-apocalyptic band, grinding along in a mechanized groove. And “The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife” sounds like a combination of striking matches (or hissing, dud fireworks), the mating call of a swamp critter and a resonating beat ... until it all morphs together into something reminiscent of the old electronic memory game, Simon.
“Unpatterns” is also both precise and distorted, as on the track “Interference,” which ambles through offbeat riffs that congregate into a wobble that eventually launches into a driving jaunt of thick static.
Although “Unpatterns” can tumble into tedium (the sluggish “Seraphim” certainly doesn’t get the job done), Simian Mobile Disco has a knack for escalating tracks (“I Waited for You,” “Cerulean”) into an all-encompassing rhythmic vibration of sweeping chugs and emotive vocal snippets. Meanwhile, closer “Pareidolia” is an invigorating study in compressed contrasts, juxtaposing hot electric fire in the foreground with a chilly, distant dripping sound.
Mama would be proud.
Rating: 3.5 stars (out of five)
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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