REVIEW: Hermitude – HyperParadise
To call this album ‘hotly anticipated’ would be to put it extremely mildly. Here at T.O.P we’ve been positively fiending on it’s arrival, virtually counting the days, as have been their now vast legion of loyal fans. The singles that have been drip fed out, ‘Get In My Life,’ ‘Speak Of The Devil,’ and just recently the title track ‘HyperParadise,’ have kept the jonesing at bay, but it’s finally time for the full dose. And what a dose! The guys have let loose on this album, fully going for it, something they’ve hinted at in the past, going way back to their remix of ‘Gusto’s Theme’ with Spikey Tee, and more recently ‘Cartridge Kings,’ from their last album, Threads. This is Hermitude:Unleashed. They’ve fully shed the the headnod, and gone for the jugular, more of a one arm in the air moshing out kind of affair, in the best possible way. For ample demonstration of my point, just check out their video of their live performance of ‘Get In My Life’ at Woodford, at the bottom of this post. Yup, that’s what I mean.
The opener, ‘Engage’ opens with some heavy drums and synth work, which wouldn’t sound out of place in a metal tune, but unlike the recent DJ Shadow tune ‘Border Crossing’ it doesn’t fully cross over to the dark side, which is quite appropriate given that on their earlier albums they also seemed to do Shadow better than Shadow. The metal analogy doesn’t stop there for me, with a gorgeous bridge with flamenco guitars and piano, which, for me, calls to mind Morbid Angel, a death metal act legendary for their beautiful atmospheric intros before launching headlong into grinding heaviness. Might just be me though! It’s a successful opener, making a statement that it’s Hermitude, but not as we know it, Jim.
The first single, going way back, ‘Get In My Life’ is up next, and boy does it rock hard, I’d have to say I reckon it’s one of their best tunes ever. It just cranks, but you probably already knew that. That lead synth line that kicks off around 1.20 is signature Dubs, a deceptively simple yet utterly effective bit of hook. He’s just got it like that, all the skills in the world, but so good at not over-complicating things, where a more simplistic approach works better. Gusto‘s cuts on it are pretty all time too. “Run the traaaaaaack!”
Up next is my pick of the album, ‘All Of You,’ with it’s killer sample, some blues man singing “hey baby baby, looks so good,” over a dope beat. It’s got bounce. When we put it on the T.O.P soundsystem pretty much everyone jumped up and started doing the zombie dance, all arms straight out, jerking around. As you do. It’s just that type of track, totally infectious. Maybe with the sample it’s tricky to release as a single, but it’d be my pick, maybe run a remix with a dirty south style rap, and it would kill.
Speaking of killer singles, their big one comes next, ‘Speak Of The Devil.’ It’s been a touch divisive, I’ve heard plenty of people deride it as pop, and complain about the vocal. But I don’t mind it at all, it is what it is, and I really like the main sample, apparently a hebrew choir, an unlikely source for a hit song if ever there was one. I’m not a massive fan of the vocal, by Chaos Emerald, (who also did the excellent artwork, along with Lucia Giuffre, Catherine McElhone & DH) but I don’t hate it either, it works in the context of the song. The big thing for me though, is that this tune has finally got the lads a big hit, something they thoroughly deserve, aided by the award winning video.
‘The Hunt’ is quite dark and mysterious-ish, akin to the likes of Mt Kimbie, all sloppy beats with propulsive synths, a cool descending high line, and some spooky sounds coming in and out of the mix, building to a crescendo.
‘Let You Go,’ is straight dope. Built around a re-pitched and stuttering vocal line, repeating the song title, with some really nice synth work, for some reason it calls to mind classic Orbital, an impression helped by the stuttering poly-rhythmical drum-break, which wouldn’t have sounded out of place on their album In-Sides.
The title track, and most recent single pops up next, with it’s semi-tropical sounding marimba, steel drum and hand-clap intro. Then the sub hits. Sub-tropical, if you will. The pitched vocal snatch is used as a melodic counter point, as some footwork sounding drums drop in. And so on. When I posted this originally, I compared it to the work of Rustie‘s recent work, and I stand by that. Only it’s better, much better.
‘The Villain’ drops next, and while this tune is a straight up club smasher, with some fat bass tones, and a cool staccato line that sounds like a distant cousin of Knightrider, it’s probably my least favourite to listen to in a chilled living room type environ. Don’t ask me why, it’s definitely a slick tune that’s gonna rock some floors, but it slightly aggravates me. Does get the head nodding pretty hard though, and there’s a perfectly chopped and placed slice of hiphop vox.
Then comes two more of my favourite tunes, ‘Sloucho Darx,’ and ‘Golden.’ The former utilizes a cool accapella, intoning “It’s the beat, beat, beat, Blare it in your jeep/I hear it in my sleep” in time to the tough as nails slowed down beat. I kinda hear it in my sleep now too. “It’s the real shit, the bad shit.” Certainly is. The latter is more of an up-tempo summery number, with a killer vocoder vocal singing about “Sun shine, in your eyes,” and another re-pitched vocal “Oh!” The thumping bass drives it along, with yet more tasteful lead synth lines. It’s slightly cheesy, in the best way. The middle 8 totally brings Spiderbait‘s classic ‘Glockenpop’ to mind.
The tempo drops back down for ‘Cloud City,’ seemingly their take on futurebeat, at least in the sense of being a good soundtrack tune for a sci-fi movie! It’s like Vangelis, only modern, and again, it brings to mind classic Orbital at the same time. It’s a lovely piece of music, almost classical sounding. Future-classical?
The closer is ‘Flood,’ with it’s “flows so pure, you can’t stay sober.” If beats as dope as these are the drug, I don’t wanna be sober, either.
All in all, it’s yet another quantum leap ahead for the lads, throwing off the shackles of head-nod for the greener pastures of the bass music miasma. To attempt to genre-classify it is completely pointless, just the way I like it. Dubs’ ability to find that perfect simple, yet effective melodic hook, putting his obvious virtuosity aside to serve the song, shows up throughout the record, and Gusto’s perfectly placed snatches of vocals, and obvious attention to the finer details of the sonic patchwork and arrangement, is a perfect mix. If there’s any justice, this album will be the one that finally launches them into the upper stratosphere of producers, both here and abroad. They’ve bloody earned it, and this is a damn fine statement of achievement. Cert IV? Nah, this some post graduate dissertation shit.
Buy it for yourself and see if you agree.
They’ll be touring to support the release in March, so check the dates for that, it’s bound to be killer. Word is they’re fully reconfiguring their already awesome show, so it’s gonna be some serious next level shizzle.
Here’s the tunes that have been released so far…
That one hugely successful vid…
And a few others…