We know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that Mason’s 2007 Number 1 Exceeder was a one-off, and that any resulting LP – no matter how belated – is bound to be club dance filler either side of said chart smash. The truth is a little more interesting.
Mason – Dutch DJ duo Iason Chronis and Coen Berrier – are a proposition. They binned a finished album around the time of their mainstream breakthrough because they weren’t happy with it, and They Are Among Us comes with a cast list as eclectic as you could hope for: R�is�n Murphy, Kurtis Blow, DMC, Sam Sparro, Aqualung and Sway. Prime your ears.
This is certainly an album that benefits from its extended gestation period. While Exceeder may have filled dancefloors and sold ringtones, They Are Among Us skates smoothly into the territory between R�yksopp and Les Rhythmes Digitales, resisting the urge for quick fix melodies, shortcut percussions and other assorted chart vices.
Mason instead unfurl their formula in stages: opener Runaway slowly grows into earshot like a Daft Punk interlude, its eventual thump – and traditional, Eurovision-esque violin riff – coming across with impressive drama, while You Are Not Alone and Choices (featuring Kurtis Blow) spring into awareness with moody minor chord house and Jacques Your Body-style irresistibility respectively.
While their touch of eclecticism doesn’t always hit the mark authentically – Syncrom’s synth work is straight from Europe Final Countdown – much is to be made of Mason’s versatility; Little Angel sounds not unlike Radiohead‘s dance efforts. No, seriously.
Kippschwinger, admittedly, is a little uneventful next to its trackmates – glitchy minimalism that seems to the album’s momentum despite its staccato heartbeat – and I Just Wanna Rock You sounds a little too Akon-like to fully exploit Sway’s guest vocals, but there’s an impression throughout that They Are Among Us is an album that has been planned meticulously, each thudding beat laid down with care.
Album highlight Boadicea, indeed, has already proven its worth in its own right, and is home to Roisin Murphy’s most arresting and satisfying performance for quite some time. As The World Turns, too – while perhaps guilty of hiding its soul under a bushel – eventually exhibits some impressive Air-like traits.
But the Exceeder template is never quite forgotten: DMC and Sam Sparro duel on Corrected, a shrieking, thumping salvo is perhaps the album’s most likely chart botherer. It is to Mason’s credit, though, that it the track doesn’t overshadow its siblings. Not by much, anyway.
Closing pair Little Red Petticoat and Who Killed Trance draw a line under affairs with aplomb – the former a skilful dance layering, the latter an echoing 90s house fist-pumper – and it’s pretty much a case of job done for Mason: they’ve bided their time, rode the wave of short-term success and come out the other side all the better for it. They Are Among Us may not be a genre-defining classic, but it certainly isn’t disposable either.