Hot Chip can be well and truly put in the alternative section of the dance music genre, with their offbeat charming indie dance songs. For the first time, during the construction of this seventh album, they have taken a helping hand from producers Philippe Zdar (Cat Power, Phoenix) and Rodaidh McDonald (The XX, Sampha). With maybe the most common critique of Hot Chip being that their oddball originality does come with a few imperfections, this addition of accomplished producers sounds intriguing from the outset.
Unfortunately, for this new record, where they gain new sanded-down edges, they lose the familiar charm. That being said, there are some tracks that still boast all the things that make Hot Chip great: those nerdy bangers, with delicate, honest sentiment and peculiar but all-the-better-for-it hooks. Echo and Hungry Child are the “bangerist” of the lot. There is a gorgeous 90s feel to Echo, with tropical synth sounds and a finger-clicking beat. Singer Alexis Taylor’s voice is at its best here. The first chorus comes in disjointed with just the bassline, no drum track and stabbing synths, which is a great touch, blatantly showing you the intricate details in the band’s multi-layered grooves.
It is important when painting the full picture of the album to mention the fillers. Why Does My Mind plods along, too dreamy and airy to grab your attention. There’s a good tribal groove in No God, but that’s about it. The melodies are dull and the lyrics can be found to be a bit unimaginative: “I was starting to run / I was starting to hide / I was starting to turn / Turn and go for a ride.” Throughout the album, there’s nothing much like that nerdy romanticism that Taylor has dished out in the past.
It surely can’t be all the outside producers’ fault, but aside from two or three songs, for the most part A Bath Full of Ecstasy is uninspiring. A common thing that would happen while listening to a Hot Chip album would be that when the hooks weren’t there, the track would be rescued by sentiment, when the grooves weren’t there, the song would be rescued by their innovative sounds. Aside from one or two tracks on this album however, there’s nothing much to get excited about. It seems that while looking to smooth off the edges, they instead sanded off the shine.