Release Date: Nov 11, 2016
Record label: Delicacies
Genre(s): Electronic, House
Released on Simian Mobile Disco’s Delicacies label, which boasts work by the likes of Alex Niggeman, Roman Flugel, Bicep, and Agoria, this new album is the first piece of work released by the duo of James Ford and Jas Shaw in two years. Prior to this album was Whorl, recorded live rather impressively in California using only five pieces of kit. Where Whorl has an ambient electronic feel in the style of Boards of Canada with a dabble of Thomas Bangalter, the big-room techno sound of Welcome to Sideways exposes Simian Mobile Disco’s multi-faceted abilities.
Pulling back from the experimental approach of 2014's ambient-infused Whorl, which was recorded in front of a live audience using only two synthesizers and two sequencers, London electro-house duo Simian Mobile Disco returns to more familiar territory with Welcome to Sideways. A collection of wholly instrumental material produced in jam sessions after members James Ford and Jas Shaw returned from taking some time off to work on other projects, the album renews the pair's focus on strictly club-based music, while eschewing the emphasis on featured guests and vocal loops found on earlier efforts. Shifting away from their initial outsized beats and moving further toward minimalism as they've gone along, Ford and Shaw have filed down their music's abrasive edges to create a more downtempo album that levels out the peaks and valleys of the duo's more raucous house flourishes.
For many groups, it can be just as difficult to grow out of a specific time or place as it is to shed the preconceptions attached to one hit track. Simian Mobile Disco, the production duo of James Ford and Jas Shaw, reached crossover success in the mid-’00s, as part of a brief yet strangely prolific microgenre that has been described as everything from “new rave” to the cringeworthy moniker “bloghouse. ” Disappearing pretty much as soon as it was conceived, and despite giving birth to some fairly decent music, bloghouse, like so many frivolous electro genres before it, fell almost immediately out of favor with the tastemakers and cool kids who tend to be the arbiters of such things (consider that the Justice remix of Ford and Shaw’s previous band Simian’s most successful song somehow became the title of Zac Efron’s ridiculously uncool DJ drama We Are Your Friends).
Simian Mobile Disco have prefaced this latest LP with a claim that it’s “aimed squarely at the dancefloor”. That’s presumably supposed to signpost a move away from approach of their last record, ‘Whorl’. That album was a complex, layered affair, full of hazy analog compositions and forays into the most experimental territory of their career.
On Simian Mobile Disco's last album, 2014's Whorl, the duo set very specific restrictions on their recording process, opting for manually operated modular synthesizers to help challenge the way they approached their craft. On Welcome to Sideways, their followup, the British producers return to digital recording techniques, crafting nine tracks specifically designed to sound large, broad and dance floor-friendly. For the uninitiated, though: SDM's definition of what constitutes dance music differs from what your average DJ may cue up on the ones and twos.
Simian Mobile Disco 'Welcome To Sideways' (Delicacies)With ‘Welcome To Sideways’, Simian Mobile Disco signal a return to the more stripped-down club aesthetic (and compilation format) of 2010’s ‘Delicacies’; many of the songs here were made and swiftly released as singles in a flurry of activity in early 2016. While it may be aimed at the dancefloor, it also wears some of the fuzzy, multi-textured elements of 2014’s ‘Whorl’, a record that saw SMD limit themselves to a couple of modular synths and sequencers as their tools. There are no such constraints this time.