Review Summary: Simian Mobile Disco meet Anthony Bourdain, create beautiful music together.
The term delicacies originally derived from the Latin adjective delicates
, meaning “giving pleasure, delightful [or] pleasing” (thanks Wikipedia!). When I think delicacies personally, I think fine dark chocolates, a well-aged cut of prime rib from the neighborhood deli, maybe the occasional dalliance with caviar if the checkbook is open and I’m trying to get laid. It’s an odd choice, then, for Simian Mobile Disco’s third proper LP to be entitled Delicacies
, with the concept of each track being named after a particular delicacy from the group’s travels. Delicacies, mind you, that one would be hard pressed to be called “delightful,” unless you’re interested in ammonia-scented fermented shark (“Hakarl”) or a Sardinian favorite, sheep milk cheese filled with live insect larvae (“Casu Marzu”). When you consider that Delicacies
is actually a sharp left turn into minimalist tech-house form after last year’s guest-spot ridden pop misstep Temporary Pleasures
, it makes a bit more sense. This isn’t the Simian Mobile Disco of electro fame, the one that became ubiquitous with that damn Justice remix blaring out of every blog reader’s stereo circa 2006. It’s an album mired in its own dark, sometimes off-putting production juices, relishing in the slight tweaks and glacial buildups one may only appreciate on the dance floor.
Lead-off track “Aspic” is catchy, what with its trademark Simian emphasis on bass and the very clearly defined (particularly in regards to what follows) rhythm, but it’s not something the average raver would find promotes casual fist-pumping. “Nerve Salad” is even more of a challenge, built as it is almost entirely around a skittering insect beat, ghostly synths and an odd array of kitchen-sink sounds that hiss and squeal around the relentless thud of the bass. This is an acquired taste, much like the dishes these tracks are named after. But the joy is in that acquisition, that delving into layers and layers of excruciating detail and painstaking production that Simian Mobile Disco craft into full tracks. Whether it is through the midnight tint of synths and spartan handclaps that dominate “Sweetbread” or the Kraftwerkian bleeps and bloops of closer “Ortolan,” each track here brings something new to the trained ear. Considering most tracks here resist falling into a rut, avoiding the bleeding effect and same-y sounds of many minimalist records, is an admirable accomplishment in its own right.
This isn’t easy listening or music to soundtrack your next party too, unless you’re ingesting a considerable amount of psychedelics. It also isn’t one that immediately satisfies; too often Simian Mobile Disco build up to a great climax and then deflate it without a hint of excitement in the execution, taking it apart as slowly as they constructed it. There’s always that sense that if Simian Mobile Disco had just upped the ante a bit more, given into their electro past and dropped an epic beat, that we might be looking at Delicacies
as the new Daft Punk if Daft Punk hadn’t gone all Inception
on us. It’s occasionally frustrating, and to be fair contributes to most of the tracks’ unnecessary running time. But Delicacies
doesn’t want to be accessible, and it certainly doesn’t want to be easy. It takes it’s time and goes where it wants to go, and in doing so leads Simian Mobile Disco to some seriously dark and uncharted waters. The fact that they made it out on the other side not looking like poseurs but with a formidable new aspect to their sound instead is something any dance fan should be excited for.