Thursday 29 May 2014

Clean Bandit - New Eyes

"So you think dance music is boring?" the vocals ask on album opener Mozart's House.  Clean Bandit are here to prove you wrong.

The album's lead single Rather Be may have gone stratospheric, but it's Mozart's House that's the blueprint for the band's sound, fusing a Mozart string quartet with garage beats and listing musical terms as proof of their classical credentials.  It shouldn't work but the Cambridge-based group have the musicality and the style to create a truly unique sound that can storm the charts.

That they've already proved with their singles.  If Rather Be is their big pop hit, then Extraordinary is its more melancholic cousin with a downbeat introduction that soon erupts into a typically euphoric beat.  Dust Clears marries sombre piano chords with a soaring violin melody, glitchy beats and a dirty bass line, whilst A&E opens with a mournful string quartet chorale that leads into a series of contemporary bleeps and bloops.  Throw some up-and-coming British vocal talent into the mix and you've got a hugely refreshing album that brilliantly fuses old and new.

Fans of the band will already be familiar with these tracks though, so what else does 'New Eyes' offer?  It's not just classical and garage music that have influenced the band, but hip-hop, electronica and reggae.  The vibrant Come Over, for instance, features British reggae artist Stylo G in its mix of infectious dancehall beats, calypso steel drums and syncopated strings, whilst Heart On Fire is pure 00s garage with its skittering rhythms and deep bass.  Album closer Outro Movement III is an abstract piece of instrumental electronica, but it's clear that this album is far more dance than classical, erring on the side of pop rather than experimental and arguably playing it safe.

The album does trail off towards the end though, in direct correlation with an increase in electronic and hip-hop influences.  The title track, with rap from Lizzo, just doesn't have the hooks of their best work and Birch is more of a slow-burning, intimate track amongst club bangers (though its cello line is beautiful).

Lyrics aren't a strong point either.  Whilst Rather Be's simple lyrics are charmingly effective, Cologne is just a typical dance track about 808 drums and "whatever happens tonight stays in the crowd" (though the thrilling production is anything but stereotypical).  The worst offender though is Telephone Banking that rhymes "check my clothes I wear chinos" with "spent all your cash on cappuccinos".

Even at its lowest moments though, 'New Eyes' remains a slickly produced and utterly unique proposition with a distinct summer vibe.  You may have already heard the best the album has to offer, but taken as a whole you've likely never heard anything like this before.  Forget Sam Smith, this is the sound of 2014.


Gizzle's Choice:
* Mozart's House
* Rather Be
* Dust Clears

Listen: 'New Eyes' is released on 2nd June.