Simian Mobile Disco turns toward weird techno tracks
As career-killing left turns go, Simian Mobile Disco’s recent third LP, Delicacies, is no Metal Machine Music, but like that infamous Lou Reed album, it does suggest its makers don’t care how many records they sell. In 2007, SMD’s James Ford and Jas Shaw emerged as the hottest electro producers in the U.K., their brash, noisy style ideally suited to the era’s rockers-gone-electronic vibe. Compared to the duo’s earlier records and remixes, Delicacies seems almost avant-garde, as the producers shed vocals and blaring midrange effects for a sound that’s at once more introspective and more hallucinogenic.
“It’s techno, really,” says the lively Shaw, reached at SMD’s studio in London. “From the outside, it may look like a departure, but this is something that’s been bubbling for a while. The previous record, [2009’s] Temporary Pleasure, started out as an experimental record, but it took a massive detour very late in the process and ended up being a more vocal, electro thing. But that whole time, we were listening to weird techno, stuff like James Holden and Carl Craig.”
Those influences emerged more fully in 2010, with the Englishmen deejaying relentlessly on both sides of the Atlantic and releasing 12-inch singles on their own Delicacies label. That approach signalled a return of sorts to the early days of SMD, which began as a side project from Shaw and Ford’s four-piece rock band, Simian.
“When we first started doing this stuff, we’d meet up on the weekend, make a few tunes, play them out the next week, and never look back at them,” recalls Shaw. “There’s an energy you get from that quick turnaround that’s really invigorating.”
Whatever generic space they’re occupying, Shaw and Ford are two of electronic music’s best live performers, shunning computers in favour of a tabletop filled with vintage outboard gear. According to Shaw, it’s a high-risk approach that yields unpredictable results.
“My favourite bands were always the ones where you didn’t know how they were going to be live,” he explains. “With our setup, it’s complicated and it can be a pain and it means things can go horribly wrong. When you come see us, you won’t see a perfect show—but you also won’t be seeing the same show that the people in the next city will see the next night.”