With the new rave scene extinguished—and it was about time that people realised that American Apparel t-shirts are a rip-off of questionable quality— Simian Mobile Disco is distancing itself from the two previous LPs to jump head-first into techno and passages with minimal accents in “Delicacies”, an album that brings together some of the cuts they’ve published in recent months on their brand-new label. Like what happened not long ago with Röyksopp’s “Senior”, the two James (Ford and Shaw) are leaving the believers in pop-friendly electronic music who have been following them so far high and dry; they want to try their luck in an area where nobody has invited them into. As Ford has stated in several interviews—let’s not forget that he is still one of the most highly-esteemed producers of the moment, having given paint and bodywork sessions to bands like Artic Monkeys or Florence + The Machine—what they wanted to do on this LP is no more nor less than what they felt like doing, without needing to look at themselves in the mirror of what they had been. Another, different question is whether they really were something before, beyond the singles of “Attack Decay Sustain Release”: their starring role in this century’s electronic music has always been in doubt.
“Delicacies” starts from an attractive premise: the nine cuts in question, lasting from seven to ten minutes, receive the name of some bizarre or exotic dish that they have tried in the course of their marathon tours. Don’t ask me what a “Thousand Year Egg” is, but all I know is that it’s the same as “ Sleep Deprivation” but without an Ed Banger drum in the middle of it, adorned with a repetitive loop that leaves you hungry for more and doesn’t entirely hatch like the occasion warrants. The same thing happens with that appetiser called “Aspic” –the climax is given by some sparkling effects like a sort of cerebral ping pong– or “Casu Marzu” which despite of those digital bells only gives off the same bad vibe as the dish that inspired it, an illegal Sardinian cheese full of worms that could munch holes in anyone’s digestive system.
The problem with “Delicacies” is that the unbridled, extraordinary dancing it defends—that kind of dancing that you only undertake when you have drunk an entire bar—is only a temporary mirage. There is too much packaging and not a lot inside. You might consider “Sweetbread” an exception – the video has raised the ire of PETA sectarians, or “Ortolan”, the only song in which the sickly darkness of the album deflates, thanks to a tantra of psychedelic synthesisers that could line up with their previous works and with The Chemical Brothers’ “Exit Planet Dust”. Beyond this, Simian’s techno experiment isn’t convincing, nor will it last in our memory, so it must be interpreted as a break in their already irregular career. From here, I invite them to do the same again in the future, but without leaving out the voices. I don’t mean that they should strictly follow the pattern that they followed by whipping out their chequebook on “Temporary Pleasure” –where they got Beth Ditto, Hot Chip and Jamie Lidell, along with other big names, to take part– but since they insist on driving techno purists crazy, they could at least give the rest of us mortals who don’t have close ties to the genre reasons to defend them.
Sergio del Amo