Katy B – Honey review

An evident passion project that chuckles sultrily at the mould of a pop songstress’ third album, Honey’s variety and underground spirit gets lost in its own intentions as Katy B embraces, and is embraced by, the ideas that brought her to this point.

This review originally published in for The Edge

When Geeneus, the founder of Rinse FM, wanted to celebrate the graduation of his station from a pirate aerial protruding from his flat window to an actual Ofcom licensee around the turn of the decade, he looked to Katy B to voice a production showreel of their underground producer and MC cohort. Instead, he handled the bulk of the production and picked up a scatter of writing credits on On A Mission and Little Red, records which bore the inflexions of their rave scene amidst angsty pop.

Those successes – Little Red topped the album chart in 2014 and 7 singles have struck the UK top 20 – have attracted a higher profile of guest for Honey, a subsequently supercharged incarnation of that original concept, and it is only Geeneus who can manage to squeeze in a second production nod courtesy of a bit of outro work. Each track is marketed as Katy B x [INSERT PRODUCER] with the exception of a new, Tinie Tempah-less rendition of KDA’s bubbly chart-topper ‘Turn The Music Louder (Rumble)’ upon which Katy featured last autumn, and over 20 collaborators are credited over its 53 minute runtime, including a scatter of UK rappers, Rinse-affiliated producers, and enough genre-hopping to exhaust the hive.

Frontloading the album are its two biggest international coups, including a sultry title track from Canadian phenom Kaytranada at the outset. “Something ‘bout your vibe/I know I can trust you now,” Katy’s first syrupy drool over the former’s sultry title track, is a hopeful opening, but little else arises beyond its first 10 seconds as any charisma slowly falls away. Directly afterwards, lead single ‘Who Am I’ underwhelms the most. With Diplo’s dancehall bonanza Major Lazer – you know, the ones behind the most streamed track of all time in ‘Lean On’ with DJ Snake and MØ – and suave comeback maestro Craig David sharing the billing, expecting something even vaguely interesting is fair. Instead, with nary a sign of Jillionaire, Walshy Fire, or even Diplo’s own sense of creativity, it wobbles nervously. Its opening line, “I’ve got this pain and I don’t know what to do it,” is perhaps as much about the jingling lethargy of the instrumental as her lovestruck duet with David, who is as smooth as ever even without energy in support.

Fortunately, smaller names do pick up the mantle and the apparent ethos of the project more readily later on. Chris Lorenzo, a converted ghost-producer specialising in a bassy house sound, and a former client in Hannah Wants bear highlights with ‘I Wanna Be’ and ‘Dreamers’ respectively, which offer Katy similarly minimal platforms to have vocals in focus before kicking in at appropriate moments. Early teaser ‘Calm Down,’ co-produced by Four Tet and Floating Points, takes a moment to settle through close string parts and peculiar elastic production into a refreshing standout, and Geeneus’ own pair of acknowledgements come on tracks that are at times eye-rollingly introspective yet pleasantly reminiscent of Skrillex’s mellower output.

In its diplomatic attempts to incorporate the entire gamut of London’s dance sounds, some moments do get almost hilariously grime-laden. ‘Lose Your Head,’ produced by ‘German Whip’ crew The HeavyTrackerz and opening with their whispered tag at the start, is an swampish venture through too much sambuca and On A Mission-era references with D Double E and J Hus each using their 30 second slots to act self-parodically. Novelist’s turn on ‘Honey (Outro)’ is mercifully far more ethereal and earnest (“If I can give something back to the world/I hope that I make it proud”) and sometime Disclosure and Snakehips collaborator Sasha Keable – aside from David, the only featured singer on the record – gives Jd.reid production ‘Chase Me’ a wonderful soulful slant that complements Katy’s tender R&B approach delightfully.

Given Katy’s career trajectory thus far, the very existence of Honey is a tad bizarre. Although it was tracks with Benga and the Magnetic Man dubstep supergroup right at the apex of that particular south London movement that brought us to the party, her Ms. Dynamite-fuelled pivot into more carefree pop took the momentum into something commercially viable. Five years on at Honey’s announcement, Katy spoke of her desire to have more club-oriented tracks for her shows in such venues, and when those two worlds aren’t garishly mixed – looking at you, ‘Dark Delirium’ – this record can indeed be rather sweet. Given her talents, it’s sure to make far more sense in that context, even if only because on stage she can utilise her strengths without a bevy of eager producers hijacking their four minutes of limelight.

Super Bowl 50 half-time show review

Coldplay form an all-star cast of Bruno Mars and Beyoncé for a fitting tribute to our zeitgeist and the circus of handegg encapsulating it for the fiftieth time.

The fiftieth Super Bowl, a mildly-farcical advertising hoarding won by an ageing out-of-place Budweiser-swilling sexual harasser who happens to be one of the finest quarterbacks in the history of the National Football League, fell subject to its traditional half-time excursion into the world of popular music on Sunday night in not-San Francisco’s Levi’s Stadium. Contrary to the most earnest efforts and headline billing of British quartet Coldplay, the show – or, at least, cultural perception of it – was seized by a duelling Beyoncé and Bruno Mars before an estimated live television audience of, according to an industry insider, “one absolute fuckload.”

Chris Martin and his bandmates took to a temporary stage on the churned field much like any other stadium show they’d put on, surrounded by screaming fans and Pepsi logos atop a chromatic stage shaped like the centrepiece of the cover of recent record A Head Full of Dreams and travelling around it with an assured blend of timidness and arrogance. Martin began by repeating the opening lines of ‘Yellow’ to soundtrack the flooding of the field with peripheral extras, before launching into the more fitting tones of ‘Viva La Vida’ and ‘A Sky Full of Stars.’ Regardless of the context or inevitable financial incentive, to see people – Martin included – rhythmically bouncing to Coldplay as if they were in a Las Vegas superclub with Calvin Harris on deck feels somewhat incongruous yet, as Martin loosened up by removing his patchwork jacket and relieving his knees from their unique gravitational exertions, the frantic medley of the band’s more joyous pop material soon settled into a chromatic groove aided by the card panels distributed throughout the venue.

To hastily distract us from the flamboyance of the Mylo Xyloto era, despite the anthemic hooks displayed with butterfly-laden ‘Paradise,’ DJ and producer Mark Ronson was wheeled out as the first of the prominent special guests. Behind a set of turntables in what looked like a cumbersome cuboid of some functionality, he scratched merrily as an initially-jazzier rendition of his hit song ‘Uptown Funk’ was performed by a leather-clad Bruno Mars. Whether it was genuinely poorly lip-synced or merely another quirk of the television coverage transferred across the Atlantic may remain an eternal point of no consequence, and it was soon forgotten as soon as a percussive roar emerged near the endzone.

Really only Beyoncé inhabits the zeitgeist sufficiently to release a track out of nowhere and, without even an album (yet) to promote, announce a world tour and perform it on such a grand platform within the same weekend. ‘Formation,’ backed by a meticulous equilateral triangle of dancers, was of course performed flawlessly without any apparent need for staging, though the song itself is still yet to settle and feels, at this stage to these ears, mildly discordant and a rough extension of the hip-hop sound she has been prioritising since the birth of the Sasha Fierce persona. Regardless, it kept the energetic notion in action ahead of her strut to join the rest on centre stage.

Neither of the two main features in this spectacle are strangers to such an arena, having each anchored their own half-time extravaganzas earlier in the last five years, but the combination of three such varied musical phenomena as they began to collude for further snippets of ‘Uptown Funk’ and Coldplay records began to bewilder. A moment of tension that looked poised to erupt into a dance-off or, better still, a rap battle was extinguished by the melancholy of ‘Fix You,’ prefaced by ‘Clocks,’ as the display hit its obligatory emotional montage segment.

Recalling half-time shows of Super Bowls past, highlighting the ilk of the Springsteens and Perrys and fully-clothed Jacksons, was hardly a surprise given the commemoratory nature of this year’s Big Game™. However, doing so in such a mournful way, with Martin crooning spoilers from the choruses of Bono and Prince over that same tearjerking melody, seemed an attempt at fabricating the most tedious televisual music obituary since the remnants of One Direction performed ‘History’ on last year’s The X Factor. This one, of course, has zero chance of permanence barring some immense Will Smith-induced assassination of the league’s public and corporate perception.

Martin, Mars, and Beyoncé strolled backwards and forwards as the stage flooded for the grand finale, closer ‘Up&Up’ from A Head Full of Dreams, and a message encouraging us to “believe in love” emerged in the backdrop. Martin, flanked by more fashionable celebrities to either side, became subject of mockeries that ignored Coldplay’s vast success and painted them as the awkward kid in the corner that nobody really wanted to turn up to the party. Their segments, however, largely provided a consistency and spark to the performance that the guests and flashbacks did not entirely reinforce. Consequently come next year, memories will be thin and, by the time we reach Super Bowl 💯, it may be lucky to figure in even the most expansive holographic hallucinations. Yet, as we retreat to discard American football from our consciences until our next excuse to congregate and demolish delicious heart conditions, our memories of this interlude are sufficiently fulfilling to cherish.

Steve Jobs review

Screenwriting liberty puts the Apple talisman’s biopic firmly in the land of the Newton

To describe me as a moviegoer would be more than a tad disingenuous. Finding the time to sit down and properly immerse myself in a film, let alone take a trip to a cinema to spend my life savings on a box of popcorn that I’ll regret within minutes, is difficult.

Nevertheless, I do tend to enjoy adaptations of books that document the lives of the modern world’s more perplexing figures. Two that come to mind are The Social Network, the Oscar-winning dramatisation of the origins of Facebook that helped us to realise that Jesse Eisenberg and Michael Cera were not actually the same person, and Moneyball, the Oscar-nominated translation of advanced baseball statistics and a hairy Brad Pitt to a mainstream audience.

The common link of these movies? Acclaimed screenwriter Aaron Sorkin. His latest twirl of the pen, Steve Jobs, is about to hit UK screens, however those looking for another film of that ilk may be sorely disappointed. Directed by Danny Boyle, Steve Jobs claims to be based upon Walter Isaacson’s 2011 authorised biography of the late Apple co-founder, though is not afraid to abandon all pretence of historical accuracy bar the presentation itself.

Cinematically, Steve Jobs is perhaps the most intriguing film since Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Oscar-winner Birdman. Set almost solely on location in three auditoriums, it is fitting that the movie has a trio of theatrical acts, each taking place in the immediate lead-up to product launches (Macintosh in 1984, NeXT Computer in 1988, iMac in 1998). Of course, by Sorkin’s own admission, it’s incredibly unlikely that Jobs would have had aggressive and fast-paced conversations with the same core of acquaintances at any, let alone all, of the three events, but this narrowed focus does help to entice an audience to persist through its prolonged 122 minute runtime. Unfortunately, it is where Sorkin and co. play recklessly with the facts that you would expect a film titled Steve Jobs to present that the movie begins to unravel.

Our three segments portray individual key concepts: Jobs The Heartless Bastard, Jobs The Manipulative Genius, and Jobs The Sentimental Hollywood Movie Character (not technical terms, I assure you). Each is extrapolated over the 40 minutes immediately prior to Jobs taking the stage. The first centralises around Jobs’ relationship with Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterston) and his daughter (much to his initial chagrin) Lisa, whilst the second expands into his business endeavours and that little stumble of being fired by Apple’s board. The final part, an elongated spectacle of sentimentality, grates tremendously, culminating in Jobs chasing his finally-a-daughter onto a roof to tell her he’s going to make the iPod and solve all their problems. Or something. Interest was waning by this point.

Our Jobs is Michael Fassbender, who plays his part exceptionally. It’s quite simple to forget how little he looks like his real-life equivalent as he oscillates between nit-picking details and heartless dismissal of his own children with chilling ease, and he does settle physically into the role as time passes. Early on, despite the movie and the character doing everything possible to encourage hatred for the man, Fassbender somehow creates slivers of empathy for the audience to grasp on to. If nothing else gains recognition come award season, his performance is highly commendable.

Other performances, however, drag the movie slowly beneath the surface. Seth Rogen, portraying a bumbling caricature of Steve Wozniak, takes to serious acting like a MacBook to water. His confrontation with Jobs, which is one of oh so many, introduces the audience to the concept of Xerox PARC and Jobs’ own ‘lack’ of contributions to the actual creation of the devices.

Various characters – such as Jobs’ right-hand woman Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet), father figure and sometime Apple CEO John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), and benevolent object of berating Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg) – pop up throughout, regardless of their actual employment status at the times depicted, and take their turns to sound off at Jobs in a formulaic manner. Particularly in the final segment, all the movie is missing is a physical queue outside Jobs’ dressing room with a deli counter ticketing system.

To appreciate Steve Jobs is to appreciate Steve Jobs, not Steve Jobs. This is a decent movie loosely based on a set of real people, blatantly masquerading as a biopic for a mainstream audience that may not know better. Ignore the name, for this is not a biopic of one of the foremost figures in consumer technology. Walt Mossberg, who knew Jobs and interviewed him on numerous occasions, compared Steve Jobs to Citizen Kane, in which Orson Welles took liberties with the truth and repackaged it under a different banner to bring it to the world.

Fast-talking, confrontational, and frantic. Perhaps an accurate tricolon for the Silicon Valley of today, though not the formula for what is in essence a serious mockumentary to fulfil its lofty expectations. A fascinating work of fiction it may be, but Steve Jobs is not the Steve Jobs movie we’ve been waiting for.

★★★

Steve Jobs opens in UK cinemas tomorrow (November 13th)

This review was originally published on Digixav

Jamie xx – In Colour review

I’ve always wished for some kind of innate musical talent. Being able to pick up an instrument and make a pleasant noise or convey some form of legible tune would be marvellous. Pointless and only enhancing my laziness, but marvellous nevertheless.

Jamie Smith, better known as the production third of The xx and a producer in his own right, brought me closest to such an experience during the German exchange in year 9. Within seconds of spotting a steel drum, I was merrily reciting his recent release ‘Far Nearer’, which has maintained its spot as my song for the sun bursting through into summer ever since.

Such, well, straightforward radiance is reflected in the chromatic cover of debut long-release In Colour, though the LP is unfortunately not as prevailingly joyous as this implies.

Things begin on a dodgy step, with lead track ‘Gosh’. As with much of the album, ‘Gosh’ relies on samples of conversation and spoken interjections – in this case from an unaired radio show by DJ Ron and MC Strings – in order to convey some form of narrative. It doesn’t work.

The instrumental itself more closely reflects ‘Far Nearer’’s B-side ‘Beat For’, with its grungy percussive introduction climaxing in a piercing wail that strikes a contrast perhaps too extreme with its sugary melody. This side to Smith’s production comes as no surprise, but it feels a bit of an awkward way to commence the album.

‘Sleep Sound’, which, along with ‘Girl’, first saw release last summer, follows, and is a splendid waft that would be more suited as a closer, while the obnoxiously-named ‘Obvs’ fills the steel drum void in a more club-friendly fashion. After a minute and a half of quietly escalating harmonies, a glockenspiel comes in for a pleasant drop though, coming 15 minutes into the run-time, it proves underwhelming for those yearning a ‘harder’ tribute.

It’s as the album rushes towards its finale that Smith’s superb production actually results in enjoyable music. The aforementioned ‘Girl’ is joyously smooth and spreadable – like Nutella – whilst ‘Hold Tight’ is reminiscent of an adventurous mix of deadmau5’s 2012 track ‘Fn Pig’ in terms of its escalation and simplicity.

Though my major criticism of the album comes with the spoken vocal snippets, it is through sampling that the two strongest tracks on the album are fabricated. Both ‘Loud Places’ and ‘I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)’ rely on excerpts from old soul tracks to provide reinforcement to choruses and featured vocalists to great effect.

‘I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)’ is in much the same vein as ‘Far Nearer’, as steel drums provide a vibrant and summery aesthetic, though the structure is far more conducive to a wider audience. Featuring the vocal presence of Young Thug and Popcaan,    the track promises to serve as a timeless signifier of the sun emerging over a lovely park. Admittedly this would be a proverbial park in which nobody could quite hear clearly, as Thugga Thugga (as he refers to himself) raps largely illegible lyrics that are perhaps too explicit for these pages. I genuinely don’t know. 99% of his noises are just that, but at least the package functions pleasantly.

Then there’s ‘Loud Places’, one of three collaborations with his xx bandmates Romy Madley-Croft and Oliver Sim. This time around, it’s Romy’s duty to take the vocals, and her delivery is sublime. The song, which was recently featured in a BBC advertisement, brings a unifying singalong quality that is sure to delight summer assemblies, overlooking its melancholic lyricism.

In an effort to pay homage to the UK’s rich dance music culture, Smith tends to get bogged down in percussive breaks and spoken bridges, encouraging the listener to persist. ‘All Under One Roof Raving’, the ultimate example of this, does not feature on the album, though its yet paler imitations do.

It has been said that the next xx record will take hints from this sojourn by Jamie, and I wholeheartedly hope this to be the case. The benefit of outside influences shows. Four of the album’s finest half feature friends on vocal duties, lending the music a cohesive and genuinely enjoyable feel. That is surely the best form of flattery.

Madeon – Adventure review

Hugo Leclercq makes you wonder what went wrong in your own life. Aged just 20, the Nantais musician is releasing his first album, Adventure, on Columbia Records. That in itself isn’t particularly bewildering, though considering his burst into the spotlight almost four years ago courtesy of a remix contest triumph (Pendulum’s ‘The Island’) and his incredible ‘Pop Culture’ live mashup of 29 songs, you begin to get a better picture of his perhaps prodigal aptitude.

Since, he’s seemed to be rather silent. After the charting singles ‘Icarus’, ‘Finale’ and ‘The City’ in 2011 and 2012, ‘Technicolor’ snuck out in mid-2013 to a limited online release, before he vanished from the radio. Of course that time was being put to good use, as he picked up production credits for the likes of Muse, Lady Gaga, Two Door Cinema Club, Ellie Goulding, and Coldplay. The climax of this period comes in the form of Adventure.

As the very existence of the ‘Pop Culture’ mashup may suggest, Leclercq is not afraid of embracing the glorious nature of pop music. ‘Isometric’ is the greatest sonic hype-man effort to kick off an album since ‘Give Life Back To Music’ from Daft Punk’s latest album Random Access Memories. Swiftly following are a barrage of euphoric Radio 1-friendly singles, including the Passion Pit collaboration ‘Pay No Mind’ and soulful leader ‘You’re On’, anchored by Cambridge’s Kyan.

Adventure isn’t all enthusiastic pop-house, though. Lead single ‘Imperium’, which debuted in FIFA 15, is an assertive display of Leclercq’s abilities. With gritty percussion and raucous energy, it signals a meander through the second half of the album that doesn’t match the sugary vibrancy of the opening stanzas. That’s no bad thing, though. Whilst ‘Zephyr’ certainly takes more cues from the opening vocal tracks, ‘Nonsense’ follows the lead of ‘Imperium’ with a throbbing persistence and somewhat of a cockiness, especially in the vocal delivery from Foster The People’s title character Mark Foster.

In many ways, it’s the perfect pop song. It urges you to sing along defiantly with a slight smirk, belting out the nonsensical chorus in perfect unison. Then, as you’d expect from Foster – whose biggest hit ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ was so happy and joyous that he decided to write lyrics about a school shooting for it to restore the cultural equilibrium – it’s far darker and self aware lyrically than your normal fare. Centring upon the pain of love and written on Madeon’s birthday, it’s a rather splendid tune with a permeating aura of gloom. Such moods continue through the closing tracks ‘Innocence’ featuring Aquilo, ‘Pixel Empire’ and ‘Home’, a song which was made after Madeon locked himself in a room to get some music made and deals vocally with the torment that creatives suffer when they feel that their work is inadequate. Leclercq himself picks up vocal duties, sounding fragile and lending the track a personal touch that, as he himself put it, no other vocalist could adequately convey.

The tracks, as I’ve discussed, are perfectly splendid in isolation, though where Adventure cements its place as one of my favourite electronic albums (and, unlike that last Daft Punk record, I say this after 6 weeks of repeated listens in order to be certain in printing my hyperbole) is through its cohesiveness as, well, an album. The music videos released so far help to illustrate the tale of Asteria and Icarus (remember that dude?) in their attempt to escape a futuristic city and break into the desert, where a mysterious obelisk looms.

True, it’s mildly clichéd, but Leclercq has constructed a splendid multimedia experience. Even the minutiae of the artwork, which he designed himself, depicts the stages of the arduous journey of the pair through the singles by their place on the album. There’s even a website inspired by the Novation Launchpad (as demonstrated in ‘Pop Culture’) that lets users create their own mixes from the album’s tracks. The vision has been followed and realised. Adventure is an adventure. It’s not one that DJs are likely to leap upon – though the likes of Gramatik and Oliver have already begun reworking with terrific aplomb – but to dismiss it due to its sheer listenability would be foolish. This is the kind of album adventure the electronic scene must commend.

Skrillex & Diplo Present Jack Ü review

My first encounter with Jack Ü, the pseudo-supergroup of professional noise-merchants Sonny Moore and Wesley Pentz, better known as Skrillex and Diplo, came on a sunny Sunday afternoon in Miami last March. At the Ultra Music Festival, the commercial centrepiece of the annual Winter Music Conference that draws the great and the good and the brostep to Floridian shores, the pair took to the stage for the most anticipated set of the weekend.

Within a minute, Diplo had clambered onto the desk and was commanding his sun-soaked congregation, mostly scantily clad college students squandering their spring break by flailing limbs in a sardine-like crush, to scream and clap and all sorts of things that would make the music harder to hear. Call me old-fashioned, but I’m of the opinion that a good DJ should neither be seen nor heard. Their job is to play pre-recorded music in a fluid and appreciable fashion, but Jack Ü took their babysitting duties very seriously and audibly.

And yet, Moore and Pentz moulded their hour on the main stage into the most thoroughly entertaining show of the weekend. Rapidly devouring Skrillex’s new album, Diplo’s dancehall-inspired Major Lazer discography, the talent of their respective labels OWSLA and Mad Decent, and even Toto’s ‘Africa’, the frantic set clicked perfectly. In parts, so does their collaborative album.

Beyoncéd onto the internet as they attempted to livestream a 24 hour set, Skrillex & Diplo Present Jack Ü features 9 tracks, including collaborations with Canadians Kiesza and Justin Bieber, British duo AlunaGeorge, bejewelled rapper 2 Chainz, and more, elegantly merging the technical and production expertise that both Moore and Pentz are renowned for into a sonically impressive body of genre transcendence that’s unfortunately rather slow to start and, once actually going, quick to finish.

The album opens with ‘Don’t Do Drugs Just Take Some Jack Ü’, which is barely any more than a slowed recording of a drunken phone call between the pair. ‘Beats Knockin’ follows, driving the album down a New Orleans bounce path. Sadly, the whole package is far too reminiscent of Diplo’s ‘Express Yourself’, all the way down to the comments on how slickly the listener is rockin’. I feel for Fly Boi Keno on vocals, as he’d clearly not be there if Nicky Da B was still alive.

When we reach Kiesza-touting single ‘Take Ü There’, the album begins to come alive. Her solo material has lacked in energy, but the Jack Ü production makes up for it in Red Bull-infused insanity. Her vocals are soar intensely over the percussion, and only an off-key breakdown tarnishes the record.

This trend is continued through the other umlauted tracks, ‘To Ü’  with AlunaGeorge and, perhaps most bizarrely, ‘Where Are Ü Now’ with Justin Bieber. The former is a defiant future bass cut anchored by powerful vocals; the latter a humorously sultry emotion party with ‘the Biebz’ that serves as the most consistently musical music on the album. It taught me that even wailing synths can bring a tear to my eye, with their hollow anguish knocking upon the depths of my soul. Thanks, Bieber.

Sadly, the remainder is largely forgettable. 2 Chainz talks about spraying his loo with Febreze on ‘Febreze’, ‘Jungle Bae’ contrasts a squelching drop with W&W’s ‘Bigfoot’ synths and a Maximus Dan imposter, Moore assumes singing duties for the lethargic ‘Mind’, and the less said about ‘Holla Out’ the better.

Last year, I slated Skrillex’s album as its muddle of styles, attempting too often to stray from reliable paths, proved largely unlistenable, verging on abhorrence. Diplo’s maturity and skill, however, restrain these audible flailings and provide a far more polished product in this Jack Ü compendium. Unfortunately, the tracks worthy of a second listen away from a spacious Miami creche is far too few.

Knife Party – Abandon Ship review

Although my sarcastic and weary demeanour may tend to convey otherwise, I don’t try to intentionally dismember what I review. Perhaps I may sit down at my desk and brace myself for an onslaught of mediocrity, an instinct that usually serves well through the likes of Miley Cyrus’ magnum opus Bangerz. Knife Party trigger this radar like a machete at airport security, but each time I take a listen to their noises I find myself pleasantly surprised about how much I don’t despise them. The music is typically just as humane as the name suggests, with stabbing synths and heavy percussion, but Rob Swire and Gareth McGrillen, the Australian duo who formed from the remnants of drum and bass ensemble Pendulum, have a perplexing knack of making it sound vaguely tolerable.

After a plethora of delays, debut album Abandon Ship has finally found the light of day, but alas, it’s immediately obvious that the pair shouldn’t have tried to spread out their inspiration, if you could so generously assign it that term, to a longer body of work than a 4 track EP. Though the duo were keen to avoid having dubstep on the record, they’ve not strayed too far from their traditional ‘electro house’ stylings. Any exploration into new territories feels strained and disingenuous – almost as if their major label contract has shoehorned them into boxes more befitting of spoons and cake forks.

Emotion is not a word that appears in the vocabulary of Knife Party, as the abrasive tendencies of opening tracks Reconnect, Resistance and Boss Mode, featuring dramatic voiceovers, “Crocodile” Dundee quotes and talk of interstellar incidents respectively, display with horrific aplomb. On my first listen, I promptly gave up during Micropenis, a track with chiptune breakdowns, animal squeals and raucous alarms that effectively equates to grown men giggling over the existence of the word ‘micropenis’ – which, of course, bears no connection to the instrumental whatsoever – for upwards of five and a half minutes. Returning later, though, I was startled by the presence of disco in Superstar, but even this can’t resist mocking the duo’s fans, with the soulless robotic delivery of the line “Oh my god, what the fuck is this disco shit/What happened to the dubstep?” interrupting the moderate elegance, for lack of a better word.

One of the rare breaches into melody, pleasant noises and unironically sampled vocal snippets comes in the shape of EDM Trend Machine. Following on from the Haunted House EP’s EDM Death Machine, this bizarrely listenable pastiche of house music’s more mainstream subgenres has a vocal feature from Bryn Christopher, who everyone had completely forgotten about since his attempt at a pop career in 2009, atop a, you guessed it, blend of current electronic trends including deep house drops and a few Martin Garrix-esque synths. Single Begin Again also verges on musicality, with Swire picking up the vocal duties for the only time on the album. This definitely seems more like an unfinished Pendulum track – in fact, those who listened to 2010’s Immersion will feel almost too close to home – and the album is better for it. In the same way that a stale carrot cake is better at providing a modicum of sustenance than a brick, but a tad better nevertheless.

Where Knife Party’s adventurous tendencies and destructive energy have proved highlights of previous works, Abandon Ship’s contents fall into four specific categories: dissonant electro stab-house, rejected Pendulum tracks, painfully awful attempts at humour, and piggybacking on trends in the wider electronic music community. Perhaps if Swire and McGrillen had directed their efforts on just 4 tracks once again, rather than prolonging the struggle through 56 minutes of aural abuse, something pleasantly surprising could have arisen.

At least now I know never again to doubt my instincts.