Ostensibly, this article is a review of the forthcoming Mumbai Science album ‘Deja Vu‘, although as it will quickly become clear, we’re going to have a talk first about the nature of the album format in the realm of electronic music.
In my opinion there are a number of reasons an electronica / dance music act would put together an album.
Number one: there’s stuff in the material that just wouldn’t work on an EP release, but is absolutely top quality, and deserves to be heard. Perhaps something slower, more melodic, or too leftfield to be accepted in the culture of ‘we want a club hit, with 3 or 4 remixes, and we want it now’.
Number two: all the material on the album just works so damned well as a unit (and has normally been written with this in mind). You can see this on 2 Many DJs’ Radio Soulwax pt. 2, or any album that runs well as a continuous mix (Deadmau5, for example).
Number three: the act that’s putting the album out has the kind of fanbase that demands an album’s worth of material, and are willing to invest time and money in a whole album. A casual fan isn’t going to listen to a whole 10-12 tracks of material (unless it’s out-of-this-world fantastic) and they’re also not going to splash out album money – they’re going to preview the tracks online and cherry-pick the best.
I don’t know where this Mumbai Science album fits into this scheme of things – in regard to the above points, 90% of the material here would work really well on the dancefloor, and the stuff that wouldn’t doesn’t feel like it’d be missed too much if it were excised.
Musically the album’s not really a unit – in fact it pretty much has multiple personality disorder. Despite purportedly having a broad over-arching cultural message about moral decline, in reality this message is delivered by repetitive vocal snippets which don’t really add anything to the mix. In fact, the tracks feel like they’d stand up with more musical integrity if the vocals were cut away, with the exception of ‘Deja Vu‘ and ‘The Call‘.
Finally, the duo aren’t exactly a massive household name – they have around 16,000 Soundcloud fans and 2,500 Spotify followers. It seems apparent, then, that a schedule of EP releases might have worked much better than a singular album release, in the sense that a concerted run of EPs could have been used to really push the act’s profile at this point in their career.
As it stands, all the material on this album is now stuck in a Catch 22 situation. None of these tracks can really stick out individually as they’ve been published en-masse, but even if each album track was to be released subsequently as a single with its own remix package, it’s going to feel stale to the kind of people that buy EPs, as it’s already out there in some form. Mumbai Science have put an awful lot of their material into one basket here, and there’s a good chance it’s going to meet with a fairly good reception then fade away.
As far as the album goes the two tracks previously mentioned, ‘Deja Vu‘ and ‘The Call‘, are definitely the highlights in a mainstream sense, both having big-room appeal and a tight, catchy vocal. You can imagine them all over Radio 1, and getting played by some of the big names over the summer festival season. Both of the tracks don’t really feel like typical Mumbai Science tracks that we’ve heard before, and are symptomatic of what seems to be a conscious move toward a more tonal sound.
‘Hivemind‘ is a great intro reminiscent of some of 2 Many DJs’ more hectic stuff, and ‘Lotus‘ is a fantastically punchy track that pounds on inexorably like runaway machinery. ‘Control‘ is my pick of the album, with slightly more leftfield instrumentation over a really meaty riff, coupled with some lovely natural sounding hats.
The rest of the tracks on the album all stand up well apart from ‘Blame The World‘, which seems like filler, and ‘Tower Of Babel‘, which comes across as a cut rate Baz Luhrmann, which is a shame, as when the arpeggio begins it has great promise.
I’m aware that a lot of this review comes across as negative, and there are a few problems with the album. However, the majority of the material here is very solid, and will stand up really well in the duo’s fantastic live sets. Unfortunately I can’t really recommend this album as a whole, but there are definitely gems in here if you can find the time to run through and pick your favourites.
HBF Rating 3.5/5
Out June 16th on Lektroluv Records.
Pre order the album here: bit.ly/dejavums