The early years of this decade are notable for the rise of UK dance music and, in particular, UK producers. From the ubiquitous chart dominating sound of Calvin Harris via the maximalist electronic explosion of Rustie to the inventive and progressive beats of Jamie xx, UK dance music is in extremely good health. It is into this fertile landscape that the debut from Orlando Higgenbottom, aka Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, arrives. It is a debut that represents all that is exciting about contemporary UK dance music.
TEED’s reputation has been growing for a couple of years now on the back of a string of remixes and singles and a hugely impressive live show. Live they are a riotous mix of colour and vibrancy, with Higgenbottom dressed up in elaborate costumes flanked by his now trademark dancers. Debut album Trouble adds a distinct emotional edge to their flamboyant stage show and provides a striking juxtaposition between euphoric club sounds and melancholic yearns for romance and the simple pleasures of life.
TEED’s sound is a kaleidoscopic mix of electronic sounds from across the dance music spectrum. Enormous synth noises are set against relentless classic house influenced beats with flecks of garage, techno and a general post-dubstep feel of electronic exploration. Anyone with even a slightest appreciation of bass music will find much to savour. The real joy, however, of TEED’s sound is the lyrical beauty and heartfelt honesty that runs throughout the album.
Opening track Promises is a perfect example of the album’s introspective charms. There is a real vulnerability to Higgenbottom’s quavering vocal as he delivers lines like “Show a little heart if you can/Promise me you’ll try”. At their heart the songs here are simple love ditties, albeit simple love ditties set to a dazzling array of jittery beats and glitches.
TEED are not the first dance act to combine more traditional songwriting qualities with crushing dance floor dynamics; Hot Chip have made a whole career out of emotive electronic laments, but TEED do it with a charm and mellifluous grace that gives the listener a genuine intimate connection with the music.
Household Goods is the album’s high point. A lovely lyrical tale of the joys of settling down with the one you love, featuring some nice lyrical asides including the strangely lovely “I could be the dog to your bone”, it comes across like a more cerebral and sensitive Calvin Harris. The clubby fat bass sound cannot mask the inherent heartfelt emotion hidden within.
The album progresses in a rather more traditional dance floor direction which is less emotionally affecting but no less musically impressive. The six-minute long, relentlessly diverse and shape shifting Panpipes is captivating as it morhps and shifts restlessly before settling into a drawn out dreamy groove. Tracks like this show that, as a producer, TEED can keep up with the best of them.
Closer sees Higgenbottom returning to those familiar themes of wispy melancholia, with a plaintive feel to his voice as he pleads for the object of his desire to simply “Just take my hand and tell me it’s all good” It is a truly gorgeous moment among many.
The one real fault with Trouble is that it is slightly too long at 14 tracks that weigh in at almost an hour. The deep house groove of Solo and arpeggiated synths of instrumental American Dream Part 2 may work very well on a packed dance floor but as part of a studio album they fall a bit flat.
Yet these are minor quibbles; there are more than enough thrills here to satisfy. Trouble is an album of bewitching treasures, equally at home in the bedroom or in the throes of the most intense club dance floor – an extremely impressive debut that introduces TEED as one of the UK’s premier electronic artists.