The Chemical Brothers - No Geography

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The electronic pioneers Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons have been making music for three decades now. Dig Your Own Hole (1997) was a landmark release for the UK outfit and a major step in the popularization of rave filling big beat. Since then, The Chemical Brothers have been exploring and tampering with their sound to varying degrees of success. Their latest, No Geography, sees Rowlands and Simons taking a back-to-basics approach. Acid-tinted squelches, disco rhythms, and colorful sampling form the backbone of The Chemical Brothers’ ninth LP.

No Geography starts out strong. “Eve of Destruction” is an exceptional opener with its rubbery bass and stabbing synths. Its repetitive, soulful samples tastefully call back to the golden era of Chicago acid house. Unlike past Chemical Brothers’ albums, they keep the guest appearances to a minimum. “Eve of Destruction” is an exception with Swedish singer AURORA’s voice being intertwined into the instrumental itself. Japanese rapper Nene is also brought on to provide a guest verse, though it is unfortunately not given enough time to leave a real impact. Her contribution neither adds nor takes a way from the track’s success.

Things seamlessly transition into the disco inspired “Bango.” With it’s jerky grooves, laser synths, and ping-ponging samples, “Bango” will certainly make many dance floors happy in the coming months. AURORA is brought back on again to provide some icy and mechanical singing. The persistent cowbell laced into the beat will please fans of DFA Record’s most seminal releases. The title track is more serene. Whistling synths acid-house basslines give it an interplanetary feel through its slow buildup.

“Got to Keep On” is a decent follow up with a synth pattern reminiscent of Giorgio Moroder’s most classic 70s hits. However, it’s after this point where No Geography starts to falter.

“Gravity Drops” sees the duo settling into some ethereal deep house. There are some intriguing sounds and moments sprinkled throughout the track, but it overall lacks direction. As an attempt to diversify the music on No Geography, “The Universe Sent Me” runs into many of the same issues. While their comfortableness with subtlety is welcome, the lack of dynamic shifts leaves the track lingering on for far too long.

“We’ve Got to Try” is the real crowd pleaser with its ominous buildup and hysteria inducing drop. “Free Yourself” creeps up instrumentally before unloading a whirlwind of synths. These tracks are fun in small doses, but rely too far on their novelty. This is opposed to the consistently textured grooves and invigorating beats of the album’s better cuts and the duo’s more classic songs. “Catch Me I’m Falling” has the potential to be n uplifting closure, but it overstays its welcome and ultimately underwhelms.

No Geography has some significantly high moments that suggest The Chemical Brothers can and should keep making music. No Geography, while satisfying, is inconsistent. While the high points showcase an artist still capable of smart, stimulating dance music, there are too many underwhelming stretches for this to be a memorable record.

Grade: B-

Matt Marciniec