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Review: Shadow Dancer ‘Brothers In Arps’

Shadow Dancer’s second album is the culmination of two and half years of work for Manchester based brothers Paul & Alan Farrier, who released their debut album Golden Traxe via Boy’s Noise’s label in 2009. Brothers In Arps sees the Farrier brothers create a hodgepodge of styles ranging from beard-scratching electronica to slow-burning, weirdo techno across some fourteen tracks. So the real question is: can the duo cram all that into one cohesive album?

The album’s opener is a classic IDM affair, you know, ‘Window Licker‘ et al, it’s not particularly revolutionary but if you can replicate the work of a certified electronic genius like ‘Twin, then you’re doing something right. The first real big surprise comes in the form of ‘Manhunter‘; a sc-fi-infused stomper, that packs a real punch as it flips from throbbing electro to flashy italo-disco in an instant.

Matta‘ reverts back to type as the brothers flex their analogue muscles with a track that’s built from the ground up around a looping vocal repeating ‘matter…;energy…;dimension…;or time’, the rest of the track is dressed with the usual ‘Dancer trappings; sketchy acid stabs, off-kilter drums and screeching top lines. The first half of the album is rounded off with another change-up in style and tempo with the reflective electronica of ‘Help Center‘, again, it’s the moments during Brothers In Arps where it goes off the beaten path where you’ll find the most sonically interesting tracks, though, ‘Help Center‘ might be so far from that particular path that the brothers could well just be lost.

Stut‘ is another one of the album’s highlights, as the Farriers recreate a 2006-sounding piece of enthralling electro-clash; think Black Strobe mixed with Vitallic. It’s just a shame it’s about 10 years to late, as it could have started a movement or something. ‘The Light‘ is the album’s showpiece when it comes to feels, in fact, there are so many feels this would almost certainly be the track that gurners would give each other back rubs too as they come up. It’s that good. ‘Black‘ changes the album’s palette back to something akin to bearable – disco-tinged acid to be precise – as the Brothers show-off their lighthearted side again.

The album closes with a flurry of tracks that show-off Shadow Dancer in their best light, ‘Breakable‘, ‘Unspeakable Things‘ and ‘Super Toys‘ are all worth the entry fee alone; ‘Breakable’ is another slice of dystopia electro that wouldn’t have sounded out of place soundtracking that nightclub scene from Blade, whilst ‘Unspeakable Things‘ is another genuinely interesting piece of electronica that blends contorting basslines against strained 8-bit top lines. The album’s closer ‘Supertoys‘ is another one you could put in the ‘challenging listen’ category, but if you stick with it you’re treated to brittle melodies, warming basslines and sense of a climax that rounds off Shadow Dancer’s slightly uneven second album. So back the original question: is Brother In Arps a cohesive album? No. But we wouldn’t have had it any other way.

HBF rating 4/5

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