Egyptian Hip Hop seemingly did a disappearing act after releasing their critically-acclaimed Some Reptiles Grew Wings EP back in 2010. While it feels like the Manchester four-piece have been around for ages, it has taken two years for the school friends to follow up their first EP – which was produced by recent Kanye West collaborator Hudson Mohawke – with their debut album. It’s certainly a risky move to lay low for so long, especially when they’d created such a buzz with their early material.
But while it has taken a couple of years to release Good Don’t Sleep, it is clear from very early on that they haven’t exactly been sat around twiddling their thumbs. Egyptian Hip Hop have evolved their sound a great deal, but despite the changes, the elements that made them such an enticing prospect first time round are retained; their retro ’80s-induced synth pop is still a strong presence.
Nothing better exemplifies the balance of new and old on Egyptian Hip Hop’s return than the album’s lead single, the seductive SYH. It may have arrived somewhat under the radar, but it had everything you could want from a comeback single. The combination of devilish basslines, Alex Hewett’s breathy vocals and throbbing synths quickly reacquaints those who had forgotten it with the quartet’s hazy psychedelic sound, while also possessing a darker tone to anything the band have produced before.
Album opener Tobago kicks things off with an addictive, chugging beat, before a wandering guitar riff saunters in on the expansive chorus. It’s followed by the equally sparse The White Falls, a song that shows how the four-piece have mellowed since the release of their infectious first single, Wild Human Child. One of six songs that stretch over the five-minute barrier, The White Falls sees Egyptian Hip Hop build very slowly on a bed of glorious synths, with twinkling guitars and airy vocals completing the atmospheric number.
The quartet – who were only 17 when they first broke onto the the scene – have undoubtedly matured as musicians during their time away and it tells throughout their debut album. The final two songs demonstrate the band’s more measured approach to their psychedelic pop, with both One Eyed King and closer Iltoise avoiding any sort of chorus. Instead, both songs are drawn out, slow-burners that never move out of first gear. Elsewhere, Strange Vale makes use of swelling synths and a plodding bassline, while Snake Lane West is a strange – and frankly irritating – song that begins with Hewett’s vocal skewed into an annoying whiny sound.
While it is not as catchy or instant as the band’s earlier material, Good Don’t Sleep is a bold and slightly odd return that underscores the quartet’s intricate layers. While there is a tendency throughout for songs to overstay their welcome and meander towards the end, and there are few truly memorable moments, suggesting Egyptian Hip Hop might have sold themselves short, overall, Good Don’t Sleep is a solid debut effort. The potential is certainly there. Egyptian Hip Hop just need to harness it.