The young Northern Ireland dance music duo Bicep have delivered one of the albums of the year already, and it’s only January. It’s utterly irresistible and pulses with rippling keyboards, melancholic melody lines, and heavenly vocals.
This is no hyperbole: a plethora of exciting influences underpin every track here, from the halcyon “reach for the lasers” squiggles and ethereal female vocals in opener Atlas, reminiscent of Future Sound of London in the early 90s, to Hawk, a more fragmentary, elusive and experimental cut.
As with the likes of fellow sonic travellers Bonobo, Adam Betts, Marie Davidson, Gold Panda and Four Tet, they’re at their most exciting when they think globally: Apricots‘ frantic, crunchy house has chopped up Malawian chants, while the blissed-out Fir dips a toe into gorgeous Balearic waters. It can’t be a coincidence that the title isn’t just a nod to Northern Ireland, but to the dancefloors all over the world lying empty, missed by weekend revellers as they wait for vaccinations, hugs and the thrill of shared spaces with strangers. It’s kind of a gentle flip of the bird to the jingoism and parochialism perpetuated by the Brexit mob, a reminder that slogans like “we are all in this together” make sense when applied to the unifying nature of music and culture, as opposed to keeping people in line.
Cazenove‘s chimes provide house with a heart, celestial rave music that would sound equally at home in living rooms as clubs. So for those of us who are old enough to remember the second wave of acid house, it’s enough to bring a warm feeling of nostalgia; but there’s enough euphoria and energy to draw in younger listeners too. Mary Anne Hobbs has the hots for their beautiful beats… It’s likely you will too.