Time changes certain things over its course, but Identity is much more difficult to erode and some elements of it are naturally retained like DNA. In the five years since Simian Mobile Disco’s breakthrough the pair have veered across different scales of electronic dance music spectrum.
Their heady first album Attack Decay Sustain Release was a wonderful marriage of acid house and electronica. Temporary Pleasure saw them attempt to go the Chemical Brothers route with a queue of guests, but lacked the killer tunes that defined their debut. Delicacies was an about turn, dropping anthems and guests in favour of minimal techno.
For their fourth studio effort Unpatterns, James Ford and Jas Shaw offer up a more refined collection that harvests the best of their previous work. It’s a stable where electronica, deep house and techno make hay across the nine songs that run just shy of an hour. The album opens with I Waited For You’s slow cooked throbbing, reminiscent of Sleep Deprivation, soaked in layers of synth and full of epic crescendos.
Cerulean lowers the tempo with its glitchy leanings, moving to the march of a full-bodied 4×4 beat, while the album’s lead single Seraphim gushes euphoria with its summery vocals flowing between sweet bursts of synth. It’s a sign that SMD are now much more comfortable embracing what their strengths are, and when to execute them without going overboard, as was the case with Temporary Pleasure.
A Species Out of Control has the best production on the collection, its vivid bleepy-blurpy intro givingrise to a rollicking piece of acid house. Interference gravitates to no-nonsense minimal techno, bridged by an array of effects.
Detroit house takes centre stage for Put Your Hands Together. At seven minutes it’s the longest track on the album, but its repetitive vocal sample and rolling bass line do no harm in conjuring up a surefire terrace anthem. Elsewhere, wobbly and bass music ogle their way into the superbly titled Dream Of The Fisherman’s Wife. It comes off like a soundtrack to a ’90s videogame and sits apart from the rest of the album hugely.
The sound of deep house has worked its way back into dance music’s consciousness over the past year and Your Love Ain’t Fair is SMD’s stab at it. It turns out to be the best moment of the album, with a rich wave of soundscapes shining through its infectious vocals and bouncy bass line, while Pareidolia personifies the word, with its seemingly random coupling of techno and electronica closing the album on a note that is both dark and moody as it is vibrant.
Most producers would surely be happy to deliver Unpatterns as a piece of work. It’s well produced and ticks the requisite boxes for a dance album. As a collection in the SMD back catalogue, Unpatterns is certainly their best work since Attack Decay Sustain Release, but it still falls a little short of those admittedly towering heights. Perhaps they’ll get there again one day, with time. For now, Unpatterns will do nicely.