Born in the Echoes cover

ONE of the biggest electronic dance acts of the last 20 years, you could be forgiven for not realising that it’s been half a decade since Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons – aka The Chemical Brothers – released their last studio album.
After all, they haven’t exactly been keeping quiet in the interim – the duo have been involved in some of the biggest films of recent years, including writing songs for the Oscar-winning Black Swan and smash hit series The Hunger Games, not to mention scoring Hanna (starring our own Saoirse Ronan).
Apparently, cracking Hollywood could only keep them occupied for so long and now that they’ve finally returned from the longest release drought of their careers, can we expect them to pick up where they left off?
Born in the Echoes is, by and large, a triumphant and atmospheric return, featuring inspired guest performances leading to a much more vocally driven album than 2010’s Further.
In many ways, it feels infused with the excited, creative mind-set that was the driving force behind earlier electronic music.
In Rowland’s words: “At the moment, it feels like a lot of the groove has gone from dance music. Everything can sound pumped-up – it’s like an arms race, now.”
In a world that’s oversaturated with Dubstep, being used to advertise everything from Microsoft to Childline, it’s a relief to hear true pioneers stick to their creative guns and continue to create their own psychedelic and experimentation-fuelled epic Big Beat sound.
They show their pop sensibilities on lead single, Go, featuring second-time collaborator rapper Q-Tip, which builds tension perfectly in verses before climaxing in notes of electropop bliss.
Other notable guest appearances include Beck on the Caribou-esque Wide Open, while St Vincent lends her voice to the ominous and hypnotic Under Neon Lights.
Much of the album has the feel of a thumping cyberpunk soundtrack, lurching from song to song with only the occasional respite; necessary breathers for the listener.
Perhaps their time away working on film soundtracks has given them a flair for the dramatic.
Ultimately, Born in The Echoes shows The Chemical Brothers are still the same creative force that has been consistently blowing dance music’s collective consciousness since the early 1990s.
Varied but never disjointed, The Chemical Brothers and their collaborators come together to create an electronic album that has an oddly organic feel to it.
Simons and Rowland believe it’s from the live show-oriented mind-set they had going into the recording studio: “It goes back to the way we made records at the start, wanting unique music that brings a roomful of people alive.
“In turn, the crowd reaction really helps shape the finished record. We make music with so much technology now, but it’s about the moments where the music is just careering and you’re trying to hold on to it.”
Rest assured that after five years away from the studio, they haven’t lost their grip.