In November, I spoke about my hopes for the next record by The Whitest Boy Alive. My dream was of a Fred-Falke produced space-age log cabin vibe. The promos that have started circulating around the web and the description of the recording process and developments on the myspace blog reveal an album that isn't so far from my skewed vision. The album was laid down in a studio the band built themselves in Mexico. Daniel Nentweg has joined permanently on synths and the suitably retro Italian synth Crumar (I think it's the Gaggia of the synth world).
The resulting record has a much greater synth presence, which takes the album away from the recorded-in the-back-of-a-coffee-house-in-Berlin-vibe. I liked that vibe, it had a tremendous amount of warmth and vitality. Rules is a notch up though - it is the sound of a band that have toured the fuck out of their record and are in far greater control of how they want to sound. It's a much smoother ride, the hooks and accessibility of Dreams are still there but expanded upon with the synths playing a far more integral role.
The boy Nentweg is clearly talented (check out this video if you don't believe me). The synthesizers take on a dual role, providing warm atmospherics as well as a delightfully flatulent bass layer. This allows the bass line to do its job of bringing the funk, and the funk is here alright. An electronic music project that developed into a band is clearly going to have a groove, but what keeps The Whitest Boy Alive from avoiding comparison to shit bands (bands that have lukewarm aspirations of residing on Funk Island and never fulfil them) is that everything is very well structured. The beats are crisp and varied, forming part of a rhythm section that you take for granted because it's tighter than a pair of Cheap Mondays. Everything gets repeated and layered to fuck in a manner that makes you want to dance and nod your head. The lyrics are always crystal clear.
Keep a Secret opens the album gently, the atmosphere rising slowly. Øye coyly highlights the difficulty in staying quiet with a resigned honesty. The beauty of the lyrical content lies in the fact that being unable to keep schtum shouldn't be something to be proud of, but Øye's soothing delivery makes it seem like the most natural thing in the world. When the synths kick in after about a minute, the funk should have entered you via every available orifice and will be on the way to getting down. Repetition, subtle layering and interplay then occurs before Øye repeats his mantra: you can't keep it inside. I think he's talking about the funk needs to escape him all the time. Perhaps that is his secret.
The Whitest Boy Alive - Keep A Secret
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The rest of the album has been growing on me like some filter-disco fungus, even though I'd class it more in the vein of Something About Us than the all out stardust provided by les Dafts and Falke and that lot. If Sexuality was the Daft Punk influenced album of last year, this could be 2009's. Vocally, I think Øye pushes his range more than he has done in the past whilst still retaining his very individual style. It doesn't drop off towards the end like Dreams does. Check out Island This stuff is so much sexier than Kings of Convenience. Bring on the remixes. And the tour. Scala in London on April 16th, Manchester at The Ruby Lounge on April 18th. I ran down to Scala today when I heard and snapped me up a few. Album out in March on Dreams / Modular (I assume). More about it in due course.
The previous post dealt with albums of the year. Rules is the first album of 2009. I'll propose others and then come back to them at the end of the year and see if they still stand up to scrutiny. I have chosen to focus on the track itself mostly, because I want people to just download that. I don't really want them to download the album and not pay for it at some point. Buy a ticket or buy a t-shirt or something. As well, the illegal download sites are bad for your computer. shattered satellite does not have any nasty shit inside, so I'm trying to protect you, the blogosphere reader, from the danger. The track will only be up for download for 10 days, then will go streaming. I want to make a new layout but I don't have the time. Are you a designer? Get in touch, I will pay you in love.