Bicep
Isles


3.0
good

Review

by ChoccyPhilly USER (15 Reviews)
January 22nd, 2021 | 60 replies


Release Date: 01/22/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Its own kind of generic

It’s been nearly 4 years since ‘Glue’, and subsequently Bicep, had taken the country by storm. Featuring in every BBC drama club scene, atmospheric night drives to outdoor pubs and shopping centres, it was instantly recognisable, iconic and a modern classic. A soothing, atmospheric piece, growing in richness and was truly mesmerising, all whilst built on a couple of very simple motifs. However, with the release of follow up effort, Isles, it seems apparent the world may have to accept an unfortunate truth: Bicep may very well be generic.

Reinventing the wheel was never Bicep’s game, instead opting to do the basics and do them very well. Such is exemplified in the two standout tracks, ‘Atlas’ and ‘Apricots’: Mid-tempo breakbeat tracks with a thick bass drum starts, followed by the main synth or sample motif. This forms the foundation from where wailing background synths and lush ambiance are introduced before these become more prominent, swell with richness and texture. Soon enough, these tracks are dripping in gorgeous, expansive atmosphere, feeling almost humanly expressive in how the synths rise in tension, sharpness and depth. At their best, Bicep can create a truly luxurious and nostalgic mood, emphasised by a hypnotic beat for a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

Therefore, the regretful nature of Bicep is this same description applies equally for almost all tracks here, although with less successful results. A winning formula is often only a winning formula in very particular circumstances and no truer is it than on Isles. What made the aforementioned tracks excel make many other feel directionless, meandering in getting louder and denser but without delivering a substantial punch. ‘Fir’ and ‘Rever’ are prime examples, offering some promise but squandering its potential by attempting the same synth swells that instead rob them from developing a much greater climax. ‘Cazenove’ and ‘Hawk’ succeed better at being decent but suffer from being especially forgettable.

It should then come as no surprise that this album’s flow generally suffers as a result of dogmatically ensuring every track follow the same formula. Isles' 50 minute runtime offers little journey, equally as little thought in track transitions and a lacklustre closer. The sum of the album’s parts is entirely lost here, no matter how good most of the tracks are. This then begs to question the inclusion of ‘Lido’, a 3 minute beatless interlude which seemingly serves no purpose other than to be dull filler. Its presence does more to detract from the album and an unfortunate reminder of the overall poor flow.

In 2017, Bicep came out guns blazing with a new, fresh and modern refined sound that would come to symbolise British electronic music in the late 2010s. Nevertheless, what was once refreshing to hear now sounds alarmingly common and generic. That's not to say this doesn’t stand out among its peers. At its finest, it is still an encapsulating, wistful and tranquilising experience. However, relying solely on a simple tried formula, Isles became disjointed with too many tracks not developing beyond their initial ideas. When seemingly jocular YouTube videos titled ‘How to Make Music Like Bicep’ genuinely make tracks that could substitute some of the tracklist, something was clearly lost in the creative process. With such excitement and promise for Bicep to flex its newfound zeitgeist in British electronic music, it's a shame that Isles instead falls prey to its own success.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
ChoccyPhilly
January 22nd 2021


13317 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

First review in nearly 4 years. Felt oddly inspired today.

Listen: https://open.spotify.com/album/0EdtTRCl3J22AnWrNpH1w9

Must listens: Atlas, Apricots

Was a fun lil write up but feedback is always appreciated

Think I actually liked it more than the review I wrote but I'm a little biased as I think they're more of a live DJ group anyway.



Digging: Solbrud - Vemod

Sinternet
January 22nd 2021


24060 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

nice one mate, funnily enough I was also considering writing a rare sinternet review for this but yours does an excellent job

"Think I actually liked it more than the review I wrote but I'm a little biased as I they're more of a live DJ group anyway."

hit the nail on the head here I think, feel like a lot of this works so much for me because I know it would be great live.

agree with the angle of the review mostly that they're not particularly breaking the habit here, although I think they've definitely dipped even more into the trance-y breaks sound they were leaning towards on the debut, it would be nice to hear them reinvent themselves a little on the next one lest it become stale by then.

still every track here I think is solid, and outside of the four prerelease tracks x and fir are big tunes



Digging: Lost Girls - Menneskekollektivet

ChoccyPhilly
January 22nd 2021


13317 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah that Printworks show is legendary. No doubt a live album they put out would be an instant classic and they would turn this into such an experience.

Still liked it but I think I was hoping for so much more and that was the angle I suppose I went into this review. Really wish the singles weren't the best tracks here too as it got me too invested in the hype

anatelier
January 22nd 2021


4062 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Sundial is my fave, the non-singles aren't really up to scratch other than maybe X

Digging: Feu! Chatterton - Palais d'Argile

normaloctagon
January 22nd 2021


5177 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

i rly need to get up to date w/ these guys. their work in the early-mid 2010s still holds a very special place in my heart. looks like the brand new album is going to be my re-entry point



nice writeup and thx for the motivation

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
January 23rd 2021


24228 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I skimmed over it and it seems like a good time, will jam it this week.



Nice to see you writing, Choc, keep it up!

Digging: Spectral Wound - A Diabolic Thirst

zakalwe
January 23rd 2021


33589 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nice one choc

Pheromone
Contributing Reviewer
January 23rd 2021


13605 Comments


glue is an afters staple but bicep are monotonous more often than not : (

Digging: Julia Kwamya - Feel Good About Feeling Bad

Ryus
January 23rd 2021


23116 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

ya this is not so good

Digging: woesum - blue summer

Hyperion1001
Emeritus
January 23rd 2021


20387 Comments


tbh theres only one bicep tune i really like and its just a single

Digging: Abominable Putridity - Parasitic Metamorphosis Manifestation

parksungjoon
January 23rd 2021


29122 Comments


I

AM

SA BBA OTH

FEEL

MY

HO LY WRATH


CosmicPie
January 23rd 2021


2858 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

What does it's own kind of generic actually mean? Isn't that an oxymoron? Haha

CosmicPie
January 23rd 2021


2858 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Alright I read the review. I see what you're aiming at. But I'm obviously more impressed with this than you. I think their formula works really well pretty much every time.

Colton
January 23rd 2021


9068 Comments


i have bicep tendonitis

ChoccyPhilly
January 23rd 2021


13317 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I dunno, too many of their songs leave me blue balled.

That being said, everyone not convinced on Bicep checkout their printworks show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fY7M3pzXdUo&

They really know how to bring out their material well in a live show

Sinternet
January 23rd 2021


24060 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i really do not get why people love glue so much, nearly everything else on the debut is so much more interesting, just sounds like a rejected jamie xx track to me

Lord(e)Po)))ts
January 24th 2021


66859 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

this is one big ol snoozerino innit

Ryus
January 24th 2021


23116 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

yep

CosmicPie
January 24th 2021


2858 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"this is one big ol snoozerino innit"



Nooo

Lord(e)Po)))ts
January 24th 2021


66859 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

"yep"



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