The 20th anniversary of The Chemical Brothers’ first album, Exit Planet Dust recently passed with little fanfare, save for the occasional online article referencing the fact. The Brothers themselves though, have just released their 8th LP Born In the Echoes. Being over two decades in the game and already having 7 records to their name, The Brothers are still striving to push forward and reinvent themselves with each release. Born In the Echoes opens with Sometimes I Feel So Deserted, a track that feels almost like more of an intro; a way to dexterously ease you into the record. The drum beat never quite lands in the song, much like Snow, the opening track from 2010’s Further. Follow up track Go opens firmly with a solid, gripping beat, and the album has well and truly begun in earnest. The record goes in several different sonic directions; from the Beatle’s Tomorrow Never Knows-esque I’ll See You There, (a staple kind of Chemical Brothers song at this point – see Setting Sun, Let Forever Be and the criminally overlooked The Private Psychedelic Reel) to the relatively minimal synths and keyboards throughout the opening few minutes of Reflexion.
Elsewhere, there’s Just Bang, whose beats and synth stabs make it sound like a close relative of something you’d find on Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works 85–92. The one shortcoming on the LP comes with Taste of Honey; the minimalist approach on this track more or less falls flat and feels repetitive. Happily though, the album closes in stunning form, with the double-whammy of Radiate and Wide Open, both of which have an emotional sweetness to them that bring the record to a truly wondrous, utterly satisfying close, thanks partly to Beck’s excellent vocal performance on the latter song.
The Chemical Brothers have dabbled in several forms of music across their career, from big beat to techno, and even from hip hop to house. On Born In the Echoes, after 24 years of making music, The Chemical Brothers can still turn out an eclectic, often breath-taking album, giving us one of the finest records of the year.