“We would be poorer without this duo of musicians in our lives.” It’s just one of the many great quotes that several reviews by the international media left us after the long-awaited release of No Geography. This is The Chemical Brothers‘ 9th album. And it is also, for the vast majority of experts who already listened to it, the best studio work in their almost 30 years of career.
Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons wanted to be The Dust Brothers, but an American band with the same name forced them to look for an alternative. The Manchester duo chose to introduce themselves to the world as The Chemical Brothers, although they wanted to leave a small souvenir on their first LP; they called it Exit Planet Dust. It was 1995. 24 years and 8 releases later, No Geography arrives, an artwork that the music industry has been waiting for months. It seems to have been worth waiting for so long. Absolutely.
Over the years, we’ve seen The Chemical Brothers doing everything with music. Their relative proximity to the big-room electro-house, popularly known as EDM, has eclipsed their true relationship to the dance sound of the turn of the century. In the last decade, we’ve seen them consolidate as big-beat kings, recover trance sounds and even have some of the best indie voices. Bearing in mind that those from Manchester had already perfected their processes, both when they wanted to approach the psychedelia of retro-rave, and also when they opted to embrace pop-rock and even hip-hop, the British magazine Pitchfork asks: “So where do you go when you finally prove that you’ve mastered both of your established creative approaches?”
Rowlands and Simons did not hesitate: they jumped into the battlefield. They got off the stage to join the dancefloor. No Geography doesn’t lose in sophistication (quite the opposite), but it does bring the end result closer to the main audiences and provokes an unpredicted jumping move from wherever you are listening to the album.
“Eve Of Destruction” gives the start to a story that immediately reminds us of those visual dancers of 20 years ago, so common in the concerts of the Chem Bros. It’s a 47 minutes album, but just after the first minute, a drop already warns us that we are going to face a very energic path. The stylistic amplitude of the work welcomes fresh bases and pop intonations that make “Bango” enter the scene without any warning. A couple of blinks and, with insulting ease, the British have done it again. It is impossible not to visualize a dancefloor full of people jumping, screaming, sweating with them. Fortunately, “No Geography” (the track with the same name as the album) lowers the beats with bucolic melodies, pre-recorded voices and emotionally charged synthesizers. It could be a perfect closing track for any love story and, not in vain, it’s the track that closes this first cycle of this tale.
The pop personality of “Go To Keep On” and its chime encourage one last rampage before “Gravity Drops” gives us a breath in the form of idle accompanied by distortion and harmonic horizontality. It is not, of course, an interruption. Based on synth-pop, “The Universe Sent Me” and “We’ve Got To Try” recover the most electro sound of the Chem Bros, always with that conductive thread in the form of energy transmitted by the Norwegian singer AURORA. When you get to “Free Yourself”, you understand the path you have walked. The 8th track smells of success, sounds of greatness. Rowlands and Simons give all what they have. Or at least they make us believe so.
The magicians had a last hidden trick. Nobody can imagine a Chem Bros concert without the revolution of tempos with analogue frequencies being pushed to the limit. Listen to “MAH” to understand what we are talking about. It’s not a casualty that The Chemical Brothers abruptly stop the rhythm and serve us on a silver plate the final embrace of “Catch Me I’m Falling”. In total, 5 minutes that allow us to breathe, assimilate and realize that, in fact, we are possibly in front of the best artwork by The Chemical Brothers to date. Or, at least, the most complete one.