Another release from the reliably good house and techno stable of Glasgow’s Soma label, with Envoy’s debut album revealing him as anything but a one trick pony. At a mere seventy three minutes it’s longer than it should be, but Shoulder 2 Shoulder contains plenty of good dancefloor moments, ensuring repeated listens don’t need the skip button too often.
Mostly the styles are within the boundaries of techno and house, with an uncertain start on opening track 4 Absent Friends, warm chords disrupted by on off-beat rhythm that fails to entirely convince. Red Mist is much more like it, a solid, four to the floor groove with an assured, subtly layered production and deep West Coast beat.
The sweeping chords Envoy likes to use are present in the strings of the vocal track Move On, with some classy studio touches, and decent lyrics – although “You’ve got to be strong to move on” sounds like a bog standard dance lyric, it’s sung with enough sensitivity to make it sound genuine.
Into The Arena makes an acidic wave, biting into the beats with some conviction, and the album’s title track takes a loop from the old school, adds an 80s synth sound and booming bass, and climaxes in a rocking four beat groove.
Techno works its way back in for Intervals, a well crafted track reminiscent of early Moby, all soft-focus keyboard loops and lite breakbeat sounds, making this the album’s most successful off-beat track. Then it’s back to what he does best in U Can Go and Stargazer, as the album rounds to a close with nocturnal house, occasional Balearic and West Coast flavours rising to the surface.
This is a good album for home listening, with at least six tracks that would hit the spot in a bar or club. The only criticism is the length – doubtless in an attempt to be DJ friendly, each track weighs in at five minutes plus. That and a missed potential for an extra vocal or two. Don’t let that put you off though because if previous Soma releases have rocked your boat, Shoulder 2 Shoulder will do the same.