The alien synths and velvet vocals of the hit that was “Trouble” drew the attention of the dance-floor maniacs who hadn't yet heard of the skinny nerd from Oxford with the impossible stage name and a bright future ahead of him. His lethargic pop can be a bit prissy, granted, but it's embedded in a stimulating wall of IDM, 2step, dub, console madness and danceable melodies. With that acclaimed single, and the recent “Tapes & Money”, Orlando Higginbottom paved the way for this majestic album, his masterpiece, an extremely beautiful and atmospheric exercise in combining the sorrow and melodic ingenuity of sensitive pop with contemporary electronica. The man's an exceptional talent, a fine stylist, whose profile has already landed him remix stints for big fish like Lady Gaga, Crystal Fighters, The 2 Bears, and Katy Perry. He's up and coming, this one.
His EPs on Greco-Roman show an increasing quality that should, by definition, be reflected in a body of songs like the one we have in our hands right now. On “Trouble” we find the definitive singles our man has been releasing on Joe ‘Hot Chip’ Goddard's label since 2009. The finest delicacies are compiled here: the deep house-funk with Gameboy noises of the catchy “Garden”, the epic disco-grime with a pinch of Ibiza in the ears of “Tapes & Boys”, the crushing dubstep-boogie of “American Dream Pt. II”, and the Balearic euphoria, percussive rattling and disco-house sparks of “Stronger”.
And, even though part of the record (released on Polydor) has already been released on 12”, Higginbottom took his time to put together the rest of the pieces in the puzzle. If anything, an unconditional love of detail is palpable in the Briton's present danceable stuff, carefully crafted as it is, and rich in hidden effects and tiny pinches throbbing right under his trademark affected voice. Every track is a world in itself of swollen bass lines, soft melodies and musical sparkles taken from the bright UK underground scene.
His way of singing, halfway between Luomo and Superpitcher, fits the ragingly modern sound palette perfectly: the toasted, innocent and invigorating 2step of “Promises” (how well the Oxford boy sings on that one!); the fairytale bass line nodding to nineties IDM of “Shimmer”; the French-sounding electro-house with female retro disco vocals of the incredible “Your Love”. These are great songs, precious pieces of work, coming from the mind of a lad who has the astonishing ability to put Ibizan psychedelic fearlessness and the most nebulous brands of introverted pop into one four-minute track. This is clubber romanticism, dance music for summers of love, but also for summers of heartache. In good times and bad. Four and a half billion years of sunsets, and it has to be some beardless kid from Oxford who makes a soundtrack to it all, when the world is about to end. We'd better enjoy this while we still can.