Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Beginning 2008 Properly: Hot Chip's Made in the Dark

London's electro band Hot Chip has been one of the year's first buzz bands with their third album, Made in the Dark, due to release on February 4 in the UK (EMI) and February 5 (DFA) in the US. I know because I've been specifically tracking blogs about Made in the Dark for my masters thesis (it's a case study at the moment) and there have been loads of blogs about this album reaching as far back as early December. So, really this review is considered to be way too late in the timeline of the blogosphere. Yes, it's still being written before the album is even officially released, but that's just not fast enough anymore. However, I thought I'd weigh in on the Hot Chip hype because I've liked the band for a couple of years now.

In my opinion, Made in the Dark is a nice compromise between their first albums Coming on Strong and The Warning - the former was generally more laidback than the latter - but it also reaches out in other new directions. Hot Chip has always had a quirky groove to their brand of electropop and never quite fit with the New Rave (whatever that really means) label they were given after The Warning. They definitely don't fit neatly into a Klaxons-like box. Their music seems to defy genre in that it plays with all sorts of rhythms and styles, including funk, soul, European electro, and electro punk. Vocals are always airy, even when the music beneath them is frenetic.

On Made in the Dark, the title track stands out as an unexpected piano-based ballad, but it works - its heartbroken delivery gives the likes of Badly Drawn Boy a run for their money. One of my favourite tracks is One Pure Thought with its great, memorable riff and a quasi-tropical beat behind it - it has been stuck in my brain for the last few days. Out at the Pictures begins with a low hum and a dragging beat, but one minute into it, and it becomes a syncopated jackhammer of a rhythm. Another minute in and the rhythm shifts gear again with what sounds like a sleazy horn backup - Mark Ronson would be proud. Shake a Fist, which has been around since last year, especially in remixed form, is another crazy collection of twists and turns that shifts from a flamenco beat into a laser war. Ready for the Floor, the first official single, is a breezy dance track with some bouncy flourishes that remind me of Of Montreal's latest album. A few of the tracks also feature spoken word snippets, adding further to the pastiche feel of the album.

Overall, Made in the Dark diverges and converges, proving that electronic music can still be surprising and intensely creative. And it will probably be on the list of best albums of 2008. With the speed of the bloggers, it likely already is.

Made in the Dark - Hot Chip

One Pure Thought - Hot Chip

Out at the Pictures - Hot Chip

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