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Clean Bandit - New Eyes (Album Review)

Wednesday, 18 June 2014 Written by Natalie Lam

Already one of the UK's biggest breakthrough dance acts of the year, thanks to the mega hit Rather Be, Clean Bandit's long awaited debut album, 'New Eyes', has arrived and settled in towards the top of the charts.

The band have been doing the rounds for a little while now - A+E, included here, was released as a single over two years ago - but that doesn’t make their rapid growth any less astonishing.

Making their mark in both the dance scene and mainstream charts thanks to their canny incorporation of string instruments and classical elements, Clean Bandit have moulded an image that possesses wide reaching appeal while retaining an air of innovation and daring.

‘New Eyes’ opens with Mozart's House and a spoken introduction that responds to dance haters: "So you think electronic music is boring…" As its title suggests, Mozart's String Quartet No. 21 is sampled here in homage to the group’s upbringing and appreciation of classical music. It’s a controversial choice, but it only serves to reinforce the audacious nature of their sound.

Clean Bandit’s magpie streak doesn’t stop there. Sharna Bass adds ‘90s pop vocal melodies to Extraordinary, while A + E brings together electro-pop, throbbing bass and minor key piano chords. Stylo G's Sean Paul style vocals, meanwhile, meld with elements of reggae and hip hop on Come Over. Hybrid genres are not something particularly new, but the distinctive sound that Clean Bandit manage to produce is.

Cologne, Rather Be and Telephone Banking benefit from fine work by cellist Grace Chatto and violinist Neil Amin-Smith, but any musical intelligence on the latter is undone by Love Ssega's lyrical contribution: "I wear chinos...spent all your cash on cappuccinos." Yeah, good one.

The title track is a personal one, but similarly underwhelming. It pulls in such a variety of different directions that it’s essentially an exercise in fitting as much technique and musical knowledge as possible into four minutes. If that isn't enough, Outro Movement III sounds like a rejected Nintendo 64 game soundtrack.

Clean Bandit are not ones to be held back, though. Their commitment to variety is sometimes questionable, but often it works. Music is an artform to them, and their desire to experiment will serve them well among countless identikit dance-pop outfits.

Clean Bandit Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Sat July 19 2014 - LONDON Somerset House
Sun October 12 2014 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE O2 Academy Newcastle
Wed October 15 2014 - LEEDS O2 Academy Leeds
Thu October 16 2014 - LIVERPOOL O2 Academy Liverpool
Fri October 17 2014 - MANCHESTER Academy
Sat October 18 2014 - SHEFFIELD O2 Academy Sheffield
Mon October 20 2014 - NORWICH UEA
Tue October 21 2014 - NOTTINGHAM Rock City
Wed October 22 2014 - BIRMINGHAM O2 Academy Birmingham
Thu October 23 2014 - BRISTOL O2 Academy Bristol
Sat October 25 2014 - CARDIFF Cardiff University Students Union
Sun October 26 2014 - EXETER University Great Hall
Tue October 28 2014 - BEXHILL ON SEA De La Warr Pavilion
Wed October 29 2014 - LONDON O2 Academy Brixton
Sat November 01 2014 - BELFAST Ulster Hall Belfast

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