Review Summary: WARNING: This album causes earthquakes and may divert Earth from its orbit.
When you think about the most emblematic acts in electronic music, which artists come first to your mind? Some people would say Depeche Mode
, with their darkly seductive "fashion". Some would automatically mention Daft Punk
, picturing two cool-looking robots who make magic with sounds. Others would answer: Kraftwerk
, because they spawned popular electronic music. And so on. One of my personal choices, if I had to give an answer to that question, would be The Chemical Brothers. I like to imagine Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons as two mad and brilliant chemists who play with musical machines in their laboratory and set free monstrous things, kind of like Doctor Octopus in the Spider-Man mythology. Few open the dancefloor as masterfully as them: "Chemical Beats", "Block Rockin' Beats", "Hey Boy Hey Girl", "Star Guitar" and "Swoon" are just but a few of their numerous contributions to it.
While they have always stayed relevant to electronic music - Further
effortlessly proves that - most fans hold Dig Your Own Hole
, their second studio album, as their most astounding release. Of course, this album gave an hour of pure glory to the Big Beat genre: fat and wide breaks, boom boom BOOM basslines, funk and psychedelic explosions, larger-than-life hooks, the black and hot androgynous artwork that could make a great poster, you know the deal. But beyond that, it simply is a crowning achievement in dance music history, released alongside The Fat of the Land
in the year of 1997.
If electronic albums were to be represented by Super Smash
characters, Dig Your Own Hole
might be Bowser. I don't know of any album that sounds exactly like it. What I mean is, it does find a truly unique and awesome way to make you move
. What dancing moves do you make when you listen to this? From a dance perspective, Dig
is very peculiar because it certainly invents
some of those moves you might make. If I were to search for metaphors to describe it, they would be unlike anything I would say about other dance albums. It's like Tom and Ed are throwing rocks at your ears but in such an ingenious way that the rocks give you a feeling of sheer energy instead of... well, hurting you. The breaks sound like bulldozers and steamrollers destroying mountains just for the fun of it. A cavernous ambiance and deep, deep echoes go through all the album. Just think about the gorgeous synth hook during the second part of "Piku", while the breaks surround you in stalagmites: it's like I just found some underground wonder buried in a mountain for centuries! True to its namesake, Dig
is the sound of yourself "digging" your hole all the way into the secret places of Earth where the treasures of dragons and golems are.
Now, obviously, it already helps if your opener is one of the most insane electronic anthems ever. "Block Rockin' Beats" speaks for itself. The first twenty seconds or so introduce the listener to the album and sound cavernous, like I said. This is when you enter the catacombs in search of (loud) enigmas. The track literally never lets you go: it features an incredibly infectious voice sample, a oh-so catchy bassline, athletic breaks, heavy "drops", as well as the sound of a giant mutant mouse screaming with red eyes. The title track is the playful one, filled with watery noises, pool lifeguard whistles and a sizzling bassline.
"Elektrobank" is the messy and crazy track that turns out to be hypnotic. Brutal yet generous, it is as rebel as an erupting volcano. "Piku", softer and subtle, "digs" even further into the undergrounds and features, like I mentioned, a wonderful melody. "Setting Sun", top-of-the-mountain song, raises its fists in victory and gives The Chems another opportunity to experiment with weird, over-the-top and pleasurable sounds. Some of them are found in the last - too short - 40 seconds of the song. What are those? They are like magic spells sampled from a MMORPG. They just add to the little details that make Dig Your Own Hole
even more than a superb dance album.
"It Doesn't Matter" and "Don't Stop the Rock" are indeed the Electronic Battle Weapons of DYOH
, safe drugs made for the dancefloor. The former increases the heartbeat and sounds like Stonehenge on party. Exactly like in "Setting Sun", the last part of the track makes some place for loud sonic experimentations that leave the rest up to your imagination. "Don't Stop the Rock", very liquid ride, is as deep as "Piku". "Get Up on It Like This", cocky track, is the celebration now that you have reached the center of the Earth. "Lost in the K-Hole", with its penetrating groove, tells about the things that have not yet been discovered or yet resolved.
We are now at the end of the album. The last two tracks are the awakening of course. "Where Do I Begin" perpetuates the likes of Orbital
's "Halcyon", perfect song to conclude a memorable night. It really captures the "childhood" light of a sunrise. It soothes you with resonant breaks until its raw second half leads to the pure daylight of... "The Private Psychedelic Reel", which is perhaps one of the most underrated things made by The Chems. Just when you feel Dig Your Own Hole
is finished, Tom and Ed throw this roller coaster of a track at you, ideal for any road trip. Amazingly optimistic, it encapsulates the sunny afternoon of your dreams. It basically says: Live & Be.
The Chemical Brothers are not done. Further
has shown the world that they still have fantastic ideas for electronic music. Their live concert made into a film and an album, Don't Think
, is a major reason why they are still as much breathtaking as before. Who wouldn't
dance to a live Chems show? However, even if you are not interested in their future, you cannot explore electronic music and not give a few listens to Dig Your Own Hole
. It is their most indispensable offering.