Release Date: Jul 1, 2016
Record label: Phantasy Sound
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
There’s a decidedly cinematic quality to the debut release by the duo behind the oddly-named, frustratingly punctuation-less Beyond the Wizards Sleeve. The Soft Bounce begins with a gradual synth swell that crescendos into a wordless vocal that becomes swept away by an undercurrent of propulsive electronic drums and a throbbing bass. In this, “Delicious Light”, the aforementioned opening track, serves as something of a stylistic mission statement and introduction of what is to come over the ensuing 45 odd minutes.
Seven years ago, the Guardian interviewed Beyond the Wizards Sleeve. They were a curious musical pairing. Erol Alkan was best known for founding, aged 22, the hugely influential noughties indie/electro club night Trash; it had hosted early performances from LCD Soundsystem, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Bloc Party. Richard Norris’s long and fascinating career, meanwhile, had encompassed everything from working at the pioneering psychedelic reissue label Bam Caruso in the 80s, via co-authoring the first British acid house record and co-writing and producing tracks with Joe Strummer’s Mescaleros, to his time as half of techno duo the Grid, who both dallied with the top 10 and collaborated with Sun Ra.
The liner notes refer to The Soft Bounce as "a trip album in the wildest sense." With that in mind, expect this string of tunes from electronic duo Erol Alkan and Richard Norris to provide a change of scenery around every corner..
Around the turn of the new millennium, the London DJ Erol Alkan got indie kids on the dancefloor at the London club, Trash, spearheading a fertile crossover between alternative rock and hard beats. This collaboration with his remix partner Richard Norris finds him in more reflective, psychedelic mode, on an absorbing chill-out album with an eclectic cast and a varied palette. Highlights include Mystery Jets’s Blaine Harrison wigging out Sabbath-style on the crunching Iron Age; Euros Childs sounding sweetly spaced-out on the gently circling Door to Tomorrow; and the Magnetic North’s Hannah Peel cooing airily over the Stereolab/Broadcast-style, dark psych-pop of Delicious Light – but the Soft Bounce is a trip best taken as a whole.
Initially swathed in anonymity, producing obscure and wild remixes of the likes Midlake, Franz Ferdinand and Peter, Bjorn & John; Beyond The Wizards Sleeve is the side project from influential producers Erol Alkan and Richard Norris, created for the sole purpose of exploring every aspect of music that they wouldn’t normally go near. Of course, it wasn’t long before the cat got out of the bag scenes, masks being removed. The project lived on though, creating a number of ‘Re-Animations’ and remixes scattered here and there through largely underground releases.
Beyond The Wizard’s Sleeve 'The Soft Bounce' (Phantasy)Richard Norris and Erol Alkan have been remixing, re-editing and dropping tracks as BTWS for so long – over a decade, in fact – that it feels odd that this is their debut album, but they’ve clearly been perfecting their craft. All the whimsical psych pop, glam rock, Krautrock and freakbeat they’ve always dealt in is here, along with increasing hints of 80s shoegaze, 90s indie-dance and some intense ambient interludes. The whole album is perfectly paced, with hypnotic grooves and simple songwriting: density and space are constantly played off each other, helping to create something that should be taken in as a whole.
Although active for a decade, Erol Alkan and Richard Norris (Psychic TV/The Grid) have only now managed to get round to making a debut long player after ten years of stand-alone singles and a series of excellent remixes where they totally transformed tracks (check out their essential interpretations of Midlake, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds and this year’s re-rub of Interpol’s “My Desire”). Their previous long player, 2009's Re-Animations, acted as a covers album of sorts where they took tracks by the likes of Tracey Thorn, Goldfrapp and Simian Mobile Disco and hurtled them into a new psyched-up dimension. It showed off their ability to make an anything goes approach flow coherently, and Alkan’s production prowess proved to be perfectly complimented by Norris, who's also been releasing cosmic house under the guise The Time & Space Machine.