Bicep — Bicep
While I consider myself a follower of most genres of music, I am only one man and it is inevitable that certain ones get far more of my limited time and attention than others. Dance music is one of those genres; while I am a sucker for a catchy electronica tune meant to incite clubgoers, I'm also a square and rely on recommendations rather than first-hand experience. I hate dancing almost as much as I like music, to be honest; it's not my scene whatsoever, but good tunes are good tunes! An offhand mention from a friend resulted in my becoming fixated on this self-titled album from a UK-based duo named Bicep.
Immediately, I was struck by the album's selection of sounds and samples. The drums and cymbals are very unique, sounding like an mix of sampled instruments and a drum machine. Tonally, many of the synths harken me back to Aphex Twin's I Care Because You Do era, though the execution is much different here — much more conventional. There are familiar elements to this music, though the combination of them and overall presentation makes for a wholly unique experience. Listening to Bicep, it feels very current while still cognizant of electronic music's past, most notably "Vespa," a segue track featuring a spoken-word section reminiscence of the rave scene of the late 90s and early aughts.
Aside from a handful of vocal samples scattered across the album's final 4 tracks, this album is purely instrumental. The inclusion of the sampled vocal hooks, in concert with the catchiest grooves on the record make the last third of the album the best part, though nothing sticks out as unnecessary or belaboured. "Vale" and "Aura" are absolute earworms, and are worth the price of admission alone. The album spans a wide range of sounds, while keeping everything coherent and consistent with solid production, a quality mix and great pacing. Bicep composed what sounds like an amazing hour-long DJ set that also stands up just fine outside of the dance hall.
The whole record is a groovy, catchy, well-crafted collection of modern club music. I expected very little from my first listening and was blown away by the replay value and overall quality Bicep imbued these songs with. This is more than a simple metronome for club kids, though the beats are certain infectious enough to get the job done. Bicep have a very unique sound and a demonstrated understanding of exactly how to execute it. Unlike a lot of DJ records that lose much of their intrigue when removed from the club setting — or listened to while sober — Bicep looses nothing regardless of the setting you experience it in.
I never expected to be this enthralled with a dance record that wasn't made by VNV Nation, but here we are. Bicep put together 11 absolute bangers, serving as the perfect soundtrack to just about anything you could be doing. The album actually gets progressively better with each track, and it starts out just fine; the climax of "Vale" and "Aura" make for the perfect ending to an album easily consumed in its entirety. Even if you are a rhythmically-challenged oaf such as myself, you should be able to appreciate the infectious grooves contained on this record.
Release date: September 1st, 2017
Record label: Independent
Andy Ferguson — music, production
Matt McBriar — music, production
Published: October 10th, 2017