Spring

It’s the vernal equinox today, the first day of spring. From this point the days get longer and the nights shorter, winter’s slushy greys being replaced with colour and warmth. Hallelujah.

Bicep celebrated spring on their 2017 debut album, an upbeat tune with a snappy breakbeat, piano and a haunting vocal sample.

Spring

In 1990 St Etienne’s debut album also had a spring song, a sublime marriage of 60s lounge, jazzy vibes and a late 80s house rhythm. In 2009 Richard X reworked all of Foxbase Alpha, adding slightly here and there to bring it up to date. I’ve got to say, I don’t prefer it to Foxbase Alpha, an album that stands on its own two feet just fine, but on its own terms Foxbase Beta works well enough.

Spring (Foxbase Beta Version)

Interestingly, or just coincidentally, both band’s springs are track six on their respective albums.

Opal Shadow Glitter

This time last year two records were released, one of which I missed out from my end of 2018 list which shocks and appals me as it is a stunning piece of work. It is this one, Four Tet’s remix of Bicep’s Opal, an eight minute beauty built around a stuttering riff, bells and happy-sad synths. There wasn’t much that came out last year that topped this.

I also re-found this, a track from Daniel Avery’s Projector e.p., also out in March last year following his Song For Alpha album. There’s a new album out in April, Song For Alpha 2, that pulls together all the remixes and e.p. tracks plus nine new ones (from the hundred or so he recorded that he then created the original album from). The one which grabbed me again recently is Shadow Mountain, a slow moving late night thing with waves, reverb and a snare but which turns towards the strobe part way through and becomes seriously intense.

One of the remixes included in Song For Alpha 2 is Jon Hopkins rework of Glitter. This is a monster, centred on a massive rattling, brooding kick drum and tension that builds in waves around it. At about three minutes Hopkins starts to drip some repeating melodies in that dance around like moths circling a naked flame. Everything drops away five minutes twenty, the kick resurfaces, and then after a few seconds explodes in a burst of light and colour. Magic.

So Right

This came out last August but I only found it recently, a John Talabot remix of Marie Davidson. John Talabot is a Catalan DJ and producer who has remixed the Xx as well as releasing his own album way back in 2012. Marie Davidson is a French- Canadian producer and musician who put out an album last year called Working Class Woman on Ninja Tune (which includes a track called Workaholic Paranoid Bitch). House music from Barcelona and techno from Montreal. Talabot’s remix of Davidson’s So Right is a nine minute dub techno excursion, a deep dive into metronomic drums, moody synths and spectral, echoed voice. I like this a lot.

In 2014 Talabot remixed Bicep. This alternative mix was given away free somewhere- a long, somewhat bleepy version and like a lot of Talabot’s remixes is a mid-tempo, mid-set sort of tune.

Satisfy (Talabot Alt Mix)

Rain

I got in from work yesterday to an email from Bicep promoting the release of a new ep. The first two songs are Rain and an edit of Rain. Rain was on their their debut album from last year but it’s always a treat to hear it- a few minutes of euphoria. Luke Wyatt has produced a new video for it, a mix of film footage, glitches and effects. It is very trippy and in places may/will freak you out.

The ep comes with a new track called Helix- a big kick drum, washes of warmth and modular synth bleeps. Listen on the Bandcamp player and then buy here.

Opal

Bicep’s Opal, a track from last year’s debut album, has been remixed by Four Tet. This isn’t a full scale overhaul or re-working, but more of a subtle job- some tweaks, some filters, the whole thing stretched out with some of the melodies pulled to the fore.

In Yer Face

In 2016 Bicep remixed 808 State’s 1991 In Yer Face, taking the almost ambient two chord synth part and looping it (with that vocal sample slowed down). It gets busier in the second half, an updated version of ’91, fine tuned for modern times with Bicep’s trademark warmth. I can imagine it going down very well in the right places.

I’m not sure 808 State always get their dues when Manchester bands are ranked, rated and discussed. They made records that were as much part of the place as many of the more famous guitar bands and many of them have stood the test of time too. Here’s the original version of In Yer Face from Ex:El.

In Yer Face

Aura

Bicep’s new album, Bicep, is getting a lot of my listening time right now. Bicep, a duo from Belfast but now in London, began as a blog, became a dj pair and then moved into production, inspired by artists like Aphex Twin and Laurent Garnier. This track, out back in June, is a perfect introduction to their sound- starting out sparse and becoming a heady trip, synths buzzing and blipping. The second half takes things down and then back up. If you’ve got any interest in electronic music or dance music and believe in the possibility of techno/house/electro still having somewhere new to go, give it a spin. Out now on Ninja Tune.

Aura (12″ Mix)