Considering the calibre of artists involved in New Build – with Hot Chip and the now-retired LCD Soundsystem man Al Doyle playing alongside fellow Hot Chip member Felix Martin and studio engineer Tom Hopkins – it’s fair to say that there’s a great deal of expectation about their debut album. Even more so, when you consider the recent critical acclaim of The 2 Bears – another Hot Chip side project, involving Joe Goddard and London DJ Raf Rundell.
With Hot Chip’s other affiliated ventures having set the bar high, the focus has now switched firmly to New Build and their debut album, entitled Yesterday Was Lived & Lost. The trio’s early singles and collaborations with and remixes by Planningtorock – otherwise known as Janine Rostron – gave a promising indication of the band’s sound, suggesting New Build would not be making a drastic departure from Hot Chip’s atmospheric dance-floor hits. In fact, New Build’s debut is full of the sort of electro pop gems that have become Hot Chip’s speciality over the years.
After the short glossy opening of the album, suitably titled Introduction, the punchy and exuberant Medication kicks things properly off. The song is an enterprising opener, with a funky hook and tight, effervescent guitars combining to make an infectious and highly addictive pop track. The band’s first official release, Misery Loves Company, struts along with a similarly upbeat tempo, before bursting into a quirky, jaunty chorus with stop-start guitars, as Doyle sings: “I see you/ the light on your face/ the pieces falling down into/ a place where the process of thought/ dissolves into tiny pieces falling.” It’s a bold start to an album that will have you engrossed from the very first hook.
Tom Hopkins’ touch is also very evident throughout the album. Hopkins, who worked with Hot Chip on their rich, tension-ridden fourth album One Life Stand, lets the album’s eccentricities abound, while also retaining the dramatic techno grounding. Behind The Shutter, in particular, demonstrates his assured touch, with its underlying techno rhythm forming the basis for the euphoric synths. Likewise The Third One, which features a restless and undeniably catchy guitar riff that unashamedly screams disco.
Yesterday Was Lived & Lost is constructed with utmost precision throughout. Yet rather than sounding overproduced and impassive – something often the case with electro-tinged pop – New Build’s debut LP still has a lot of heart and soul under its many seductive layers. Take the stunning Finding Reasons. The five-minute plus track is by no means complex – with a consistent, sprawling synth, throbbing beats and squirming guitar forming its evocative sound – but that’s all part of the song’s appeal. Even the lyrics suggest a fragile need for simplicity (“Finding reasons for an easy life”), a feeling that seems ever more pertinent in modern society.
Overall, New Build’s debut is one of subtlety and finesse. The carefully constructed layers of measured guitars, jaunty beats and compelling synths produce an energetic sound that is often at odds with the thoughtful lyricism. Yet, more often than not, it works. There is the occasional misfire – namely, the plodding Schism Of The Mind and the slightly lacklustre Mercy – but they only fail when held up against the rest of the album’s material. The trio may have only formed New Build as an offshoot from their other, more well-known projects, but Yesterday Was Lived & Lost leaves you wanting more. Only time will tell, though, whether New Build will feed the craving.