After an acclaimed debut with Attack Decay Sustain Release, which offered up the immediately accessible and catchy hooks of Hustler, Hotdog and It’s The Beat, Simian Mobile Disco’s follow up, Temporary Pleasures, was an album of largely hit and miss indie guest vocals. But it is a return to form of sorts for the in-demand producers, DJs and remixers returning with Delicacies, a release that places them firmly back in techno club land. With their influences including a smorgasbord of electro giants and minimalist techno pioneers such as Daft Punk, Kraftwerk and Silver Apples, it is hardly surprising that their latest offering relies heavily on stripped down beats, bleeps and drum loops.
On the back of curating a series of live parties around the UK, Delicacies is named after SMD’s gastronomic experiences whilst touring the world with their huge live shows. Each track is named after exotic delicacies discovered by the pair on their global travels. One hopes they sound better through the speaker than their food name suggests, particularly the intriguing Thousand Year Egg. The album sees them stripping back their sound to the big satisfying drums, reverberating base and bleeping noises that have served them so well on their travels.
The opening minimalist techno house bars of Aspic sound eerily similar to Temporary Pleasures’ stand out, techno influenced, Synthesise, and this theme continues throughout Delicacies, with none of the celebrity cameos of Temporary Pleasures. Nevertheless, whilst Thousand Year Egg has remnants of the excellent Sleep Deprivation lurking under the repetitive loops, disappointingly it never achieves the euphoric highs and bombastic intensity of the track that announced SMD as serious contenders to the Chemical Brothers‘ crown.
The highlight of Delicacies is Casu Marzu, which most successfully captures SMD’s gift for developing atmospheric layers through a track that fans of their live performances will celebrate. Equally, Sweetbread matures into a moody and intense track that reminds of the high impact tracks of Attack. Final track Orotlan threatens throughout to finish on a high, but again, there is a twinge of disappointment when this fails to deliver the razor sharp electro gifts that SMD brought to their earlier work. Unfortunately, these skills are replicated here in too short supply.
Delicacies lacks the pop craftsmanship and euphoric electro of Attack and the singular outstanding tracks of Temporary Pleasures, never attempting to introduce vocals to supplement their evident ability to create an intriguing techno dance track. You find yourself hoping for the tension to build towards a spine-tingling crescendo like James and Jas have shown they are more than capable of on their previous albums, but specifically in their electric live performances. This is a sound much better suited to lengthy atmospheric build ups in a warehouse rave setting, rather than never quite delivering on a short 40 minute record. Nevertheless, there is enough depth and texture, particularly on Casu Marzu and Sweetbread, of beguiling, synthy soundscapes to encourage the listener to persevere past the rather testing tedium of Nerve Salad and Skin Cracker.