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Simian Mobile Disco


(Smalltown Supersound (UK); US: 30 Nov 2010; UK: 29 Nov 2010)

Admittedly, I am not exactly an expert on electronic dance music. My tastes lie more in the avant-garde, the experimental, IDM, ambient, and microsound, some favorites being Autechre, Aphex Twin, the Juan McLean, Fennesz, HEALTH’S Disco series, Max Tundra, and Venetian Snares. And I’d really appreciate it if I don’t get any critic’s critics making snarky comments about how I know nothing about music and I’m not qualified for this. PopMatters is still seeking music critics. Submit your shit if you’re so right.

Pardon me, please. I have my moments.

Delicacies sort of brought me around, as this can surely be considered house, club, or techno music. Sporting tracks all over seven minutes, strong beats, constant sound layering and sonic evolution—this is a fairly straightforward record, less immediate and inventive than their debut, Attack Decay Sustain Release, but an excellent album nonetheless, undeniably crafted to make you dance.

All of the songs are named after food. The standouts include “Hakari” (some type of fish?), which is probably the darkest track on this album, using unnerving tones and descending synth runs, breaking into a chaotic soundscape right out of the score to a sophisticated horror film, and later, unintelligible vocal manipulation, the only use of vocals on Delicacies. It’s nearly 10 minutes long, but if you take in every facet of these intriguing, frenetic, electro-canticles, they just fly by. Another 10-minute excursion, “Nerve Salad” (I have no idea), is a bit more adventurous than other tracks, with sounds bordering on industrial, accelerating oscillations—but it’s still a dance tune. “Aspic” (usually food/meat set in gelatin, my friend makes a different version, mixing lemon and orange gelatin with tomato juice and Worcestershire sauce; and I have no idea why I’m telling you this), is upbeat, fun, sometimes deafening, with energy to spare; the perfect number to get a party started. Simian Mobile Disco’s primary focus seems to be constantly building sounds and electronic components, never eschewing the beats, and always changing, evolving.

Every track on here is solid, and that’s a feat for an electronic dance duo who can lazily fall into easy repetition for people in clubs who just want a constant beat.

Ocassionally, Simian Mobile Disco will add new wave flourishes to their modern forays, sometimes bringing out their inner Gary Numan, or Human League, or even Kraftwerk. If things become somewhat derivative, it’s irrelevant, given all the other layers of electronic sounds blanketing and fleshing out each composition. “Skin Cracker” is practically traditional techno, while “Fugu” comes out as a more playful Pantha du Prince. It’s consistently compelling, basically.

This is a two-disc set, the first disc containing each of the individual nine tracks, the second disc rearranging the songs and putting them into one continuous, 51-minute mix. Take your pick and enjoy!


Stephen Rowland has been founding and contributing to numerous underground film and music publications for the last 12 years. In addition to critiquing images and sounds, he makes no money as a regional historian and preservationist, co-authoring "Postcard History Series: Alameda" and "Images of America: Alameda," available from Arcadia Publishing.

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